Japan is set to share the lessons it has learned from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami when delegates and activists from across the globe gather in Sendai next weekend for a U.N. disaster risk reduction conference.
More than 5,000 participants, including leaders and ministers from national governments, are expected to attend the conference on disaster management from March 14 to 18.
A key outcome of the international gathering in the Tohoku region, which took severe damage, is expected to be a new framework, now under negotiation, to replace the 10-year Hyogo Framework for Action adopted at a previous U.N. conference in 2005. The new framework is expected to reflect calamities that have occurred in the past decade, including in Japan.
Apart from quakes, tsunami and other hazards, the world is also focusing more on nuclear disasters in the wake of the man-made crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant that was triggered by the 2011 quake and tsunami.
“One area that definitely will be of great interest … is how you rehabilitate an area after it’s been exposed to an accident at a nuclear plant,” Margareta Wahlstroem, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for disaster risk reduction, said in a news conference in Tokyo.
“There is a great deal of interest from other countries that also have nuclear plants. They are looking into, if something like this (the Fukushima disaster) happens to us, what it is that we can learn from Japan,” Wahlstroem said.
There will be a working session to discuss nuclear disasters in the context of technical hazards, among other events.
The third U.N. World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will involve many of the world’s leaders as well as private-sector businesses, and is seen as a significant opportunity to bring more attention to the importance of disaster risk reduction in the context of economic growth and development.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said in late February that leaders from about 30 countries and ministers from over 70 are expected to participate. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also attend the meeting and is expected to announce additional support for developing economies in the form of funds and technologies on disaster management, according to government officials.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will also attend Sendai the event.
While many ministerial sessions and other high-level dialogue are being planned, the focus is also on a number of events that will take place outside the meeting rooms, officials in Tokyo said.
On the sidelines of the five-day meeting, more than 25 study tours are being scheduled so participants can visit places across Tohoku affected by the mega-quake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis, and see how people are trying to recover and rebuild their devastated communities.
The tours include one to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 and others to wrecked schools, fishery ports and markets.
“As this conference will take place in the disaster-affected area, I hope that participants will not only engage in discussions inside meeting rooms but also learn first-hand about reconstruction, and deepen their debates in light of what they see,” said Kaoru Saito, director at the disaster management bureau of the Cabinet Office.
The government and the city of Sendai are also planning to hold 10 forums on such topics as disaster prevention measures, medical support and disaster prevention education for children, while some 350 symposiums and seminars will be organized by international nongovernmental organizations and other entities.
Between 2000 and 2012, some 1.2 million people were killed and 2.9 billion affected by natural calamities around the world. The damage is estimated at $1.7 trillion, highlighting the necessity of putting more global efforts into disaster risk reduction to realize sustainable growth, according to the Abe government.
The U.N. conference on disaster management was held in Yokohama in 1994 and in Kobe in 2005.