Last week, we invited to join a Japan mission to the UN in preparation of the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, 14-18 March 2015, Sendai City, Japan. The first event was organized by Tohoku University, Rikuzentaka City, Sendai City and the UN Mission of Japan in New York.
The evening began with a few words from Kenichi Suganuma, Ambassador for the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, and Emiko Okuyama, Mayor of Sendai City, and was attended by Fumihiko Imamura, director of the International Research Institute of Disaster Sciences (IRIDeS). Informal conversations continued around a poster display by Akihiro Shibayama, summarizing the evolution of the 2011 triple disaster in the cities of Sendai and Rikuzentakata: Disaster, Reconstruction and Futures.
The second object of our visit was a panel on ‘Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction in Development’. The discussion was moderated by Margareta Walhstrom, SRCG for Disaster Risk Reduction and gathered representatives from the Philippines, Bangladesh, UNDP, and the World Bank. Professor Fumihiko Imamura was invited to speak on behalf of the disaster science institute (IRIRDeS), Tohoku University. Each panelist presented a short summary of his/her experience of the ways in which natural disasters and development are interconnected, and how disaster risk reduction is now vital for the economic development of all nations. Research suggests that the impact of disasters on the GDP is increasing faster in many countries than the GDP itself. In other words, there is a pressing need to convey the public sector that disasters must be an integral part of a country’s socio-economic strategy.
As a social scientist, the broader idea I recall is that natural disasters are no longer to be seen as single events. Long-term strategies at the social and economic levels demand for our societies to increase sharply and rapidly their aptitudes to assess, anticipate and deal with disasters as part of the normal course. This vision resonates with broader concerns about current global warming and environmental changes. For instance, a World Bank Representative at the UN explained to me that one of their initiatives is to anticipate the impact of climate change and natural disasters on small islands of the Pacific. Finally, the panelists initiated a reflexion on how to advise all-sectorial planners and policy makers to implement the UN-DDR’s recommendations during the next conference in Sendai.