World Conference on Disaster Reduction

International Conference Center Kobe and Kobe Portopia Hotel, at which the conference was held. Located about 15 minutes from JR Sannomiya Station by Portliner train.

Dr. Sakamoto, Chief Executive of PWRI, explaining the preparatory activities for ICHARM as part of his opening words.

The room with a capacity of about 60 people remained full for two hours, until the end of the meeting.

The United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) was held from Tuesday, January 18 through Saturday, January 22 at the International Conference Center Kobe and its adjoining hotel, Kobe Portopia Hotel. The conference was held exactly a decade after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake occurred in January 17, 1995. In commemoration of the 10th year after the quake, one of the major themes was to learn useful lessons for the future by reflecting on how the restoration has progressed. In December 2004, about a month before the conference, the Sumatra Earthquake and consequent Indian Ocean Tsunami Disaster caused tremendous damage to a number of countries in the region. The disaster called for an urgent meeting to talk about countermeasures and plans to build an international cooperation and coordination system for tsunami disaster prevention, including the establishment of early warning mechanism. Under such circumstances, the conference drew a great deal of media attention throughout the period and was reported as a top news item. The conference was organized by the Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), a Geneva-based organization, with cooperation of related UN agencies and there were a total of more than 4,000 participants from a broad range of international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as governmental organizations from 168 countries, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The conference provided three different types of meetings, and more than ten meetings were held simultaneously at the conference center and hotel. In some meetings, governmental officials of the participating countries got together and worked on consensus documents for every member country to agree upon. Other meetings include theme specific sessions to discuss, and provided additional opinions and information to support the results of the meetings among governmental officials. There were still other meetings, so-called "public forums", where not only experts but also the general public could participate to voice their opinions.

The Public Works Research Institute (PWRI) co-hosted a theme specific session entitled "Research on Floods and Landslides and A New International Initiative for Risk Reduction" (16:30-18:30, January 19) with UNESCO and WMO. In the beginning of the session, chaired by Prof. Ginkel, President of United Nations University, the Chief Executive of PWRI, Dr. Sakamoto, explained the preparatory activities for ICHARM (International Center for Water Hazard and Risk Management under the auspices of UNESCO) as part of his opening words, accompanied by Dr. Matsuura, Secretary-General of UNESCO, Dr. Jeraud, Secretary-General of WMO and Prof. Inoue, Director of the Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University. In the first half of the session, Mr. Terakawa introduced the discussion topic by giving the presentation entitled "Comprehensive Flood Risk Management and the Role of ICHARM" The official launch of the International Flood Initiative (IFI) was also declared in this session. IFI is an international initiative of inter-organ efforts at the global level and is expected to contribute to flood disaster prevention and reduction. ICHARM is scheduled to make an official start in 2005 and is expected to be a global facility contributing to the Initiative. Senior Researcher Yoshitani of the Secretariat for Preparatory Activities of ICHARM is nominated as a member of an IFI task force that is responsible for preparing a draft action plan of the Initiative.

The River Bureau of the Ministry of National Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT) co-hosted a theme specific session entitled "Knowledge Sharing and Comprehensive Flood Risk Management through Educational Training" (17:15-19:15, January 20) with WMO and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). Mr. Terakawa co-chaired the session with Mr. Bruce Stewart, Deputy-Director of BOM. After seven presentations and the discussion following, the session suggested in its proposal that ICHARM should play a role in research and training in order to transfer technologies for flood disaster reduction to developing countries.

On the last day of the conference (January 22), based on the results of each meeting held up to the day before, "The Hyogo Declaration" and "The Hyogo Framework for Action" were concluded as the final achievement of the conference. It was clearly stated in those official announcements that disaster prevention and reduction should be strategically addressed in cooperation with countries throughout the world. Sharing the same understanding that each country is primarily responsible for sustainable development, and the lives and properties of their own people, the participatory countries agreed on five specific actions that should be given priority over the next ten years (2005-2015). Each country should: 1) Ensure that disaster risk reduction is a national and local priority with a strong institutional basis for implementation; 2) Identify, assess and monitor disaster risks and enhance early wanring; 3) Use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels; 4) Reduce the underlying risk factors; 5) Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response. ICHARM especially focuses on the second and third among the five priority actions, and will make concrete contributions to "building disaster-resistant communities and countries" from a global perspective.

Copyright (c) 2009 Public Works Research Institute