National

Cooperation and information sharing key in disaster response, speakers tell Hiroshima workshop

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Given Japan’s vulnerability to natural disasters, and with accelerating climate change widely predicted to increase severe weather patterns, increased cooperation and information sharing is more important than ever to meet the needs of victims.

That was the message delivered Monday in Hiroshima during a workshop on how to deal with meteorological disasters, attended by participants from the private sector and civil society. The workshop was part of the two-day 2018 World Business Conference for World Peace in Hiroshima, a two-day meet that kicked off Monday and is being supported by The Japan Times.

Among the participants is Jacques Attali, a renowned French economic and social theorist, who provided a keynote speech.

Tetsuya Myojo, executive director of Japan Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, spoke on the need for information sharing between different types of nongovernmental organizations in the field and the need for different kinds of expertise. He also touched on specific concerns about the way food in temporary shelters is passed out after a natural disaster.

“The law decides the amount of money to be spent in the shelters per person per day. Things like onigiri and foods that are high in carbohydrates are passed out because many local governments don’t know any other way of doing things,” he noted.

Kumi Imamura is the CEO and founder of Katariba, a career learning program for high school students and the operator of Collabo School, which provides a place for study for children affected by natural disasters. She spoke about the problems faced by children in Mabicho, Okayama Prefecture, whose schools were closed after the town flooded in July following record rainfall.

“There were many issues with students who lived in Mabicho but went to other high schools in the surrounding area, often resulting in concerns in the other schools about how to handle them. These included things like the distance between whatever shelter the students were staying in and the situation with the school they were going to,” Imamura said.

Panelists agreed that there were limitations to what the private sector and NGO and NPO representatives could do, given various laws and bureaucratic regulations covering disaster response. They agreed on the importance of a media strategy that involved more corporate, NGO, and NPO cooperation with reporters to provide accurate information from the front lines of a disaster.

The World Business Conference for World Peace in Hiroshima was previously held in 2013 and 2016. This year’s conference saw about 300 participants discussing a range of issues including contributions to world peace, the power of sports and the role of Japanese third-sector organizations abroad.