8 Octobre 2012
When a two-day international conference on disasters and development opens Tuesday in the disaster-hit city of Sendai, Japan will have its moment to shine — relating to the world how it survived last year's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami and sharing lessons about disaster preparedness.
Global leaders, disaster experts and survivors will gather in Sendai for the "Sendai Dialogue," a meeting hosted by the government and the World Bank to focus on ways to reduce the economic impact of natural disasters.
It will draw lessons from the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated vast areas of the Tohoku region, especially in Iwate, Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures.
The dialogue, part of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which also begin Tuesday, will be attended by finance and development ministers as well as top officials from international institutions including World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
Delegates are scheduled to visit sites in the disaster-stricken areas, including an elementary school that was one of the few buildings in Sendai's Arahama coastal district to remain standing after the tsunami.
With devastation by natural disasters a shared reality for developed and developing nations, the Sendai meeting aims to create a global consensus on how to prepare better for disasters and learn from Japan's multiple disasters last year, organizers said.
The Sendai Dialogue will open with a plenary session in which Japan's experiences will be conveyed through speeches by Sendai Mayor Emiko Okuyama and reconstruction minister Tatsuo Hirano as well as stories told by high school students who survived the disasters.
Japanese delegates are expected to stress the need to both enforce disaster prevention measures and pursue urban development for disaster-resilient infrastructure, while discussions will also focus on challenges facing developing nations when drawing up disaster prevention measures, the organizers said.
Finance Minister Koriki Jojima, who says the meeting will be a good chance for Japan to demonstrate how it has recovered from the disasters, will attend a high-level session Wednesday and call for disaster risk management to become a priority in the global development agenda.
Delegates aim to wrap up the meeting with an agreement to boost disaster preparedness and mitigate related economic risks.
The earthquake and ensuing tsunami left about 20,000 people dead or unaccounted for, with damage estimated at about ¥16.9 trillion, far larger than the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake in the Kobe area.
Studies after the disasters have shown that Japan's recovery was faster than expected thanks to its disaster risk management.
Developing countries, however, lack the funds and expertise to reduce the economic consequences of natural disasters, which may become more frequent and costly with rapid urbanization and climate change.
U.N. data show that more than 200 million people are affected by natural hazards every year and annual economic losses exceed $200 billion. Some disaster experts say investing in disaster resilience instead of disaster response systems is more beneficial and cost-effective.
On the sidelines of the dialogue, prominent figures from various fields such as business and the arts from both Japan and overseas are set to meet Wednesday to share stories about resilience and hope in the face of disasters. Among them will be Sendai-born pianist Michie Koyama.