A resolute pledge for universal disaster preparedness


Disaster prevention experts from Japan and abroad will once again gather in the city of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, the biggest city in the Tohoku region devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, to share their knowledge on disaster risk management, process of recovery and response to natural calamities.

The World Bosai Forum (WBF), launched in 2017 in partnership with the International Disaster and Risk Conference (IDRC) in Davos, Switzerland, is set to be held from Nov. 9 to 12 at Sendai International Center and Kawauchi Hagi Hall at Tohoku University.

The biennial forum will look into lessons learned from the calamitous magnitude 9.0 earthquake and giant tsunami of 2011 that took the lives of more than 15,000 people, and the importance of passing down the experiences to future generations. It also aims to come up with practical solutions for reducing disaster risks around the globe.

“We hope the forum will be a place for people to pass on their knowledge and wisdom gained through experiencing natural disasters. We also want this to be a place where we can discuss new issues and ways to solve them,” said Kanayo Kousaka, secretary-general of the World Bosai Forum Foundation.

The second WBF, organized by the World Bosai Forum Local Organizing Committee and World Bosai Forum International Steering Committee, is expected to see around 1,000 general public and disaster prevention specialists from various sectors such as research institutions, government organizations, private sectors and international organizations.

The forum will kick off on Nov. 9 with a pre-WBF festival that includes a Yuriage Taiko performance by Natori City Yuriage Daiko Preservation Society and Soma Bon Odori Dance performance by Soma City Minyo Dokokai and Minyo Shukakai with the Yarimasyou Bon odori executive committee.

A total of 64 sessions are scheduled to be held between Nov. 10 and 12, including a symposium by presidents of three leading universities in Tohoku — Iwate University, Tohoku University and Fukushima University — and several programs to introduce the latest disaster prevention efforts by private sector companies such as Yahoo Japan Corp., Japan Tobacco Inc. and Optage Inc.

Under the slogan “Sharing Bosai wisdom globally — Contributing to the Implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Achievement of the Sendai Targets, in Particular Target E,” this year’s forum is set to promote implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which is a guideline for global disaster prevention efforts adopted by U.N. member states in 2015 at the third U.N. World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction that was also held in Sendai. Among seven targets stipulated in the guideline, Target E aims to “substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020.”

The Japan International Cooperation Agency is set to hold a discussion to find concrete solutions for achieving that target in a session titled “Accelerating Formulation of DRR Plans Toward the Next 10 Years of Their Implementation — How to Achieve Global Target E of the Sendai Framework?”

Meanwhile, the city of Sendai and the Miyagi Prefectural Government are set to hold a separate discussion to look into their disaster experiences in sessions called “Passing Down Disaster Experience — Its True Meaning and Reality” and “‘Moving Hearts’ with Experiences and Lessons — Connecting Stories to Specific Disaster Prevention Measures,” respectively.

The forum is also scheduled to hold sessions to share experiences of other Asian nations in dealing with natural disasters such as the 2018 tsunami in Indonesia and Cyclone Aila in Bangladesh in 2009.

Alongside the dozens of sessions on the program schedule, exhibitions and small presentations introducing works of participating organizations will take place at the Sendai International Center.

Raising awareness for disaster prevention is becoming increasingly important as the world faces the growing threat of climate change. According to the Belgium-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, there were 315 natural disaster events recorded in 2018, affecting 68 million people. The disasters resulted in $131.7 billion in economic losses across the world, it said.

In the case of disaster-prone Japan, thousands of people were affected by a string of catastrophes that hit the archipelago after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, including the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake, last July’s torrential rains and floods that hit western parts of the country, and the recent Typhoon Hagibis that ravaged central and eastern Japan.

Still, there are many unaware of measures they can take to reduce disaster risks such as piling up sandbags to guard against floods, or securing cabinets to the walls to prevent them from falling when an earthquake hits, Kousaka said.

“It’s important to keep questioning people what would they do if a natural disaster happens to them one day. Such questioning could lead them to think about disaster-preparedness,” Kousaka said. “It would be great if this forum results in participants to use the knowledge they’ve learned to make disaster prevention efforts in their daily lives or give them a new business idea.”

Bōsai is a holistic approach to reducing loss during natural disasters. This covers damage prevention, recovery, response and mitigation.

The World Bosai Forum's mascot, Ono-kun, is inspired by sock monkeys made by housewives after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. | © SOCIALIMAGINE
The World Bosai Forum’s mascot, Ono-kun, is inspired by sock monkeys made by housewives after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. | © SOCIALIMAGINE

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