'Our goal was not just recovery, but a form of creative construction with a focus on the 21st century,' says Governor of Hyogo Prefecture Mr Toshizo Ido.
By Andy McElroy and Yuki Matsuoka
KOBE, 20 January 2015
– Of the many milestones on the “Road to Sendai,” the Kobe earthquake stands out. The learning from the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake remains relevant today as governments from around the world prepare to meet in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March.
The tragedy which claimed 6,434 lives, spurred a further evolution of thinking from reactive approaches that focused on managing disasters as “events” towards a more proactive, preventive strategy that manages and reduces disaster risk.
The lessons from Kobe included a need to: strengthen disaster-resilient infrastructure; reinforce local capacity; use reconstruction as an opportunity to build back better; adopt a people-centred approach to resilience; have strong public-private partnerships; provide accurate, actionable and widely available risk information; enforce stronger zoning and building codes; develop better risk governance; and resource better preparedness.
These are all issues that will underpin the post-2015 framework on disaster risk reduction set to be adopted at the World Conference less than 1,000 kms from here in 50 days.
Ms. Eriko Yamatani, Minister of State for Disaster Management, said the memory and experience of the 1995 earthquake continues to be one of the main drivers of Japan’s domestic and international strategy to reduce disaster risk.
Speaking at the weekend’s memorial service at Hyogo House to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the earthquake, Ms. Yamatani said: “The Hyogo Framework for Action was established here in Kobe as an international disaster risk reduction guideline. This coming March the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will be held in Sendai as an opportunity to further enhance this framework.
“As disasters have become more intense and frequent in recent times, the Government of Japan hereby pledges that it will make every effort to continue the promotion of necessary measures to pass down the experiences and lessons learned from the (Kobe) earthquake and to protect the lives, the properties and lifestyles of citizens.”
The Governor of Hyogo Prefecture Mr Toshizo Ido said ambitions were rightly set high in the wake of the Kobe disaster. He referred to a “wisdom and strength” that overcame many obstacles: “Our goal was not just recovery, but a form of creative construction with a focus on the 21st century.
“During this process we have created advanced initiatives such as the monitoring system for elderly people, emotional care and support for voluntary activities, as well as new frameworks based on the conditions of affected areas, such as the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Reconstruction Foundation, the System of Support for Reconstructing Livelihoods of Disaster Victims, and the Mutual Aid System for Housing Reconstruction.”
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction Margareta Wahlström attended the official commemorations of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, in Kobe. Afterwards she held several discussions with Japanese Government officials on preparations for the World Conference in Sendai from 14-18 March www.wcdrr.org
Seismic risk as part of a multi-hazard approach will be an important feature at Sendai. The Conference is set to adopt a new framework that will update the world’s first comprehensive blueprint to disaster risk reduction, the Hyogo Framework for Action, adopted at the last World Conference, held in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, in January 2005.