By Yuki Matsuoka
SENDAI, 24 October 2011 - Four student representatives from Kobe University, Bukkyo University and Tohuku University announced a ‘Youth Declaration’ during United Nations Day celebrations in Sendai City to highlight the commitment and active participation of youth in building disaster resilient communities.
The students said the declaration came out of a strong “kizuna” or bond that was created within Japan and with the rest of the world following the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunamis. It is their hope to contribute to the restoration and revitalization of Tohoku region and to make their experiences a useful reference for the world.
The declaration was given by Ms. Haruka Nonami (Kobe University), Mr. Takuya Nasu (Bukkyo University), Mr. Keisuke Motoyama (Tohoku University), and Ms. Asako Saito (Tohoku University) on behalf of the students and young people who lived-through the 11 March disaster and students who experienced the Great Hanshin Earthquake sixteen years ago.
The four key points of the declaration focuses on youth taking action rather than being victims from the disaster. They include coexisting with nature, showing that youth have a unique benefit in reconstruction, volunteering for the needs of the people, and showing the world how Tohoku and Japan will be transformed.
Hosted by Tohoku University and organized by UNISDR, the UN Information Centres, UN Volunteers and other UN offices in Japan, over 700 people participated in the UN Day event which also celebrated the International Day for Disaster Reduction with the focus on children and young people as partners for disaster risk reduction.
Under the theme ‘Recovery and Regeneration from the Great East Japan Earthquake: Message from Tohoku to the World’, the event started with welcome messages by the rectors of Tohoku University and Kobe University, and the Mayor of Sendai City, followed by the UN Secretary-General’s video message.
In the morning session, Tohoku University, Kobe University, and the private sector representatives reported on their efforts and activities for disaster relief, reconstruction and risk reduction. In the afternoon, non-government, governmental and UN representatives in Japan discussed the significance of partnering for disaster relief and recovery.
Ms. Yuki Matsuoka, the head of the UNISDR’s office in Japan acted as master of ceremonies during the afternoon session, where she also interviewed junior-high school student, Mr. Shugo Takahashi, from Kesennuma City in Miyagi Prefecture. Mr. Takahashi shared his March 11th experience and expressed his appreciation to the rescue activities conducted in the region by the Japan Self-Defense Force. He also thanked the volunteers who helped in the relief efforts for Kesennuma City.
During the interview, he also shared a story of his summer camp experience to Switzerland with students from around the world. The camp provided Shugo with an opportunity to visit a church to thank them for the donations collected for Japan, and to recognize the solidarity from the international community thinking about the future of his city. At the end of the interview, he reiterated the importance in coexisting with people and nature, and his commitment to contribute to a safer community.
Given the number of challenges following the Great East Japan Earthquake that could be relevant to other countries, the event provided an opportunity to examine them by academia, the private sector, civil society, and international organizations. The objectives were to share experiences and knowledge to the world from Tohoku, to understand the disaster from a broader context, and to support future disaster prevention and relief efforts at the international level.
(Photos by Tohoku University)