May 17, 2013
- Japanese NGOs attend the UNISDR conference in Geneva, Switzerland -
The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) is hosting the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction (GPDRR) in Geneva, Switzerland on May 19th – 23rd. NGOs with extensive on-the-ground experience with relief and reconstruction efforts in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake will be participating in the conference in order to share their experiences and knowledge with the wider international community.
The UNISDR serves as the focal point in the United Nations system for the coordination of disaster risk reduction and has held the GPDRR biennially, where representatives of over 160 countries, civil society groups and researchers come together to build partnerships and exchange information about pressing disaster-related issues. The conference in Geneva is the 4th conference of this initiative and is also a major step in preparations for the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction, which is to be held in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture in 2015.
The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), which is widely regarded as the international standard for disaster risk reduction, was adopted in 2005 at the 2nd UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction. The framework spans from 2005 to 2015, with five main objectives to be attained over the course of the decade by 2015. The framework was symbolically introduced in Kobe city, which was devastated by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, on the 10th anniversary of the disaster.
Despite participation in these initiatives, the reality is that civil society groups still play a relatively minor role in Japan and the role of volunteers in the framework itself is still vastly under-represented and unclear. However, immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, there was a powerful response from civil society, where volunteers played (and continue to play) a major part in the relief and reconstruction efforts of the Tohoku region.
The experiences and lessons that these groups learnt have not been adequately shared and have not gained sufficient attention from the international community. In addition, the knowledge gained from the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster has also yet to be fully disseminated, given the grave consequences of the on-going situation. The period leading up to the 2015 UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction is extremely important to ensure that the experiences from Tohoku, where so many perished and so many lives were disrupted, can reach the global community and contribute to the global disaster risk reduction knowledgebase.
The Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC), Church World Service Japan/Asia Pacific and Peace Boat Disaster Relief Volunteer Center will be three of the NGOs in attendance from Japan.
Prior to the conference in Geneva, representatives from over 20 civil society groups gathered in Tokyo to discuss the most crucial lessons that can be shared with the international community. These opinions and recommendations were condensed into one document which will be presented at the conference. Ichio Muto, a farmer from Fukushima prefecture, is also scheduled to attend the conference in order to give a first-hand account of his experiences after the nuclear disaster and will be actively involved in the workshops and events that will be taking place.
May 15, 2013
On May 9th, representatives of over 20 NGOs attended the “Post-Hyogo Framework for Action Civil Society Recommendation Proposal Workshop”.
PBV, JANIC and Church World Service (CWS) Japan organized the event in order to gather the experiences and lessons learnt from Japanese civil society groups post-3.11 and present a unified message at the Global Network of Civil Society for Disaster Reduction (GNDR) conference being held in Geneva this month.
Given that most of the organizations involved in the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake were not able to attend the GNDR conference in the Hague in March, it is crucial that their voices be heard this time, given their collective wealth of knowledge in disaster-related matters stemming from their extensive on-the-ground experiences.
The NPO law was introduced in the wake of the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995 to encourage the formation and participation of civil society groups. However, even 10 years later in 2005, a clear role and set of responsibilities had still not been set out for NGOs/NPOs at a national and institutional level.
However, the impact of civil society groups was clearly felt after 3.11, when volunteers played (and continue to play) a crucial role in the relief and reconstruction efforts of the Tohoku. The UN-sponsored World Conference on Disaster Reduction will be held in March 2015 in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture.
This workshop is part of the extensive preparations being made for this conference, where Japanese civil society must stand up and have their voices heard.
The objective of this workshop was to present a set of proposals to the UNISDR (United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction) from Japanese civil society at the GNDR conference in Geneva in May
JANIC’s Makoto Tajima, the Chief Coordinator of the Taskforce for Disaster Response, gave a brief account of the previous GNDR meeting which took place in the Hague.
This workshop provided a platform for NGOs to incorporate their own experiences and lessons learnt into the proposal.
The FAJ (Facilitators Association of Japan) ran the workshop and split the participants into 3 groups in order to systematically and methodically process the vast amounts of information that emerged from the lively discussions. The ultimate goal of this process was to condense all of the information into one document.
CWS Japan’s Yoko Ito played an active role in organizing the event (pictured above)
The recommendations which Japanese Civil Society Organizations wished to bring to the table, especially those appropriate for a global audience, gradually began to emerge as the afternoon progressed and eventually, all parties had a chance to have their say.
After all of this information has been condensed into one document, it will be reviewed by all relevant parties, edited and then translated into English before being presented to the GNDR.
The purpose of the conference taking place in Geneva is to gather the recommendations and proposals from Civil Society Organizations from all around the world.
PBV’s director Takashi Yamamoto will be attending this conference and will be helping to present the results of this workshop to the international community.
April 11, 2013
PBV’s Takashi Yamamoto attended the GNDR (Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction) conference organised by the United Nations in the Hague, Netherlands on March 20th and 21st.
There were 130 individuals in attendance, including special representatives of the ISDR (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction).
One of PBV’s main goals at this conference was to share the experiences and lessons learned in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake with members of the international community, creating a stronger knowledge base for future disaster reduction strategies.
There were 4 representatives from 3 Japan-based organisations in attendance; Church World Service Asia-Pacific, JANIC and PBV.
This conference served as an opportunity for PBV’s Yamamoto to make a presentation about the crucial relationship between communities resilient to disasters and the role of disaster relief volunteers.
As natural disasters are so frequent in Japan, the overall system of coordinating and dispatching volunteers has been through many stages of trial-and-error, resulting in the formation of a unique system.
This is highlighted by the relationship between NPOs/NGOs and the state-run social welfare councils (or shakyo) in disaster relief volunteerism, which may be unfamiliar to the wider international community.
In 2005, 10 years after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) was announced and the HAP (Humanitarian Accountability Partnership) Standards for humanitarian aid workers emerged in the same period. However, the role of disaster relief volunteers is still vastly under-represented in these documents.
With PBV’s experience in the field as well as the efforts of the thousands of volunteers who have volunteered with the organization, it is a high priority that we share our knowledge and experiences with the rest of the world.
*1 Hyogo Framework for Action
The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) is the first plan to explain, describe and detail the work that is required from all different sectors and actors to reduce disaster losses. It was developed and agreed on by many partners needed to reduce disaster risk – governments, international agencies, disaster experts and many others – bringing them into a common system of coordination. The HFA outlines five priorities for action, and offers guiding principles and practical means for achieving disaster resilience. Its goal is to substantially reduce disaster losses by the year 2015. The strategy relies upon building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters. This means reducing the loss of human life, as well as social, economic, and environmental assets when disasters strike.
The word resilience, in this context, refers to the ability to evade and/or mitigate the damage caused by disasters. This includes not only physically preventative measures and methods of disaster risk reduction, but also comprehensive education and training of communities in non-disaster times to raise awareness and encourage preparedness.
TAGS: Disaster Relief • Hague • Hyogo Framework for Action • United Nations • Yamamoto Takashi
April 1, 2013
PBV held an overnight Disaster Prevention Training Camp on March 23rd and 24th near the scenic town of Nagataro, Saitama prefecture.
The training program was presented as a joint effort by multiple groups, each with their own expertise and knowledge, which helped to create a truly in-depth and comprehensive course. The Chichibu Fire Station Kitabun precinct, WMA (Wilderness Medical Associates) Japan, Montbell and speakers from Ishinomaki city were amongst the many parties involved.
There were 28 participants, most of whom were based in the Kanto area. The group included not only past PBV volunteers, but students, office workers, and even some eager individuals from as far afield as Osaka.
The main purposes of the Disaster Prevention Training Camp are as follows:
The course started with a simulation exercise, in which participants are given a scenario where there has just been a major earthquake. In this case there were fires and many casualties. Participants were trained to conduct preliminary assessments, provide CPR, use an AED, and also practiced extinguishing fires.
After having learned the basics, advanced classes were held in the field. It is presumed that at the time of a disaster, those in need of medical support may be outside wearing winter clothes. Two representatives of WMA Japan, Ohta and Yokohiro, conducted workshops in giving medical treatment in the wilderness with only basic equipment.
After lunch, participants learned about evacuation centers. Using a map (in a simulated situation), the participants thought about what would be necessary for each shelter to function. They were presented with different situations and had to think about how they could assess the problem as effectively as possible, exercising their decision-making skills.
This also served as an opportunity to learn about the Sphere Standards on humanitarian aid, making it possible to compare the differences between Japan and other countries from a humanitarian standpoint.
At night, the participants made a special dinner. To simulate a disaster situation, water could not be used to cook. So that day’s meal was prepared using the ‘plastic bag’ technique. This method is gaining popularity as a healthy way to cook, not needing any oil, but it is also very useful in an emergency for it does not need a bowl and only a minimal amount of water.
At night Yoshinobu Bandai from Ishinomaki city came to give a talk. Mr. Bandai’s life changed dramatically after 3.11 as he had lived in the area most of his life and was directly affected by the disaster. He spoke about his experiences in Northern Kyushu as a volunteer after the region was hit by heavy rainfall. He also spoke of his time in New York, where he took part in relief activities post-Hurricane Sandy in late 2012.
At the end of the day, they slept in a large room, using sleeping bags. This was also a part of the shelter experience. Men were separated from the women, which would be a luxury in a real situation, but snoring continued throughout the night.
The second day started off with an optional activity.
Those who decided to join in were taken to the portable toilet and washing areas. They were taught crucial skills such as pulling water to the portable toilets, setting up lights and handling equipment. It’s easy to miss, but these seemingly simple tasks are indispensable in an emergency situation.
Next, the focus was on how to light kerosene burners and use generators. After breakfast, Handa from Montbell came and held a practical outdoor class. Since the Niigata Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake, Montbell has been present at many disaster-affected areas to provide support, applying their knowledge of the outdoors and survival techniques to the disaster relief scene.
The final lesson centered around cooking. The trainer for this lesson was PBV staff member Kazumi Kitamura, who was one of the main coordinators in providing food for those affected by 3.11.
Even for a person who cooks at home on a regular basis, cooking for people during a disaster is a totally different experience and requires a different skill set. The group was split up into teams in order to take on the tasks of managing the cooking utensils, preparing food and condiments, the cooking itself, distributing food and cleaning up afterwards.
*A portion of the ingredients used to make this meal was provided by Marubeni-Itochu Steel Inc.
After the program had concluded we gathered feedback during the debriefing. One of the participants remarked that they would like to do something in their local area to protect their family and friends. Another expressed his wish to have an overnight training program in more inconvenient and severe circumstances.
This being the first ‘Disaster Prevention Training Camp’, the staff that took part in preparing and conducting the program were also able to learn. As we are constantly looking to improve our trainings, we will be using the feedback we received to create an even better experience for future participants.
If you were not able to join us this time, we look forward to hosting you in the future!
To conclude, here are some words from Mr. Bandai.
‘You have to live first. To make sure you do not burden others, make sure you live.’
The following is an excerpt from Mr. Bandai’s letter of thanks:
An unbelievable tremor and tsunami! At nature’s will, there was nothing we could do but just stand there feeling hopeless.
When we had lost our path and felt only worries, there were those that came to us stretching out a hand of hope and joy asking if we were alright.
Those were the ones who saw what had happened on TV and felt the need to do something and decided to volunteer their time and energy to help out.
The volunteers came to an unknown place to help people they had never met.
They brought their own water, food and tents when coming, without being able to use a bath, drink alcohol or enjoy entertainment, they kept on working so hard to make the city clean, battling the piles of rubble and muck day after day.
Seeing these volunteers strive day in and day out, I and the people around me were able to truly live.
If you do not call what the volunteers showed towards us the ‘kindness of man’, then what would you call it? If not the ‘warmth of man’ then what else could it be?
I would like to show again my gratitude to all the volunteers that gave love, courage, and spirit towards the restoration of our home, to us that had lost everything.
Finally we would like to thank everyone that worked with us to conduct the ‘Disaster Prevention Training Camp’.
[Host] PBV Center
[Organizations involved] Chichibu Fire Station Kitabun precinct, Montbell Ltd., WMA Japan, Marubeni-Itochu Steel Inc.
[Support] Church World Service-Asia/Pacific
March 27, 2013
On March 3rd, PBV held an event called “Introduction to Disaster Volunteer Training: Training for Foreigners Living/Working in the Shinjuku Area” in Totsuka, near where PBV’s Tokyo office is located. The course was taken by 12 participants from 6 countries, including Burma, many of whom live in the Totsuka area.
This training session was organized in cooperation with the NPO Japan Association for Refugees (JAR). Both of our organizations have offices in Shinjuku and have been active in providing disaster relief to the Tohoku disaster areas.
Another unique trait that PBV and JAR share is that both organizations have involved many non-Japanese volunteers in our relief activities.
JAR has created its own “Disaster Handbook,” outlining what to do in the aftermath of a disaster. The book has been translated in to Simple Japanese, English, Burmese, Turkish, and Amharic.
JAR’s main focus is providing support for refugees who are residing in Japan.
When the earthquake and tsunami occurred, they immediately went to work dispatching volunteers to Tohoku. In 2011 alone, they coordinated international volunteers (including 200 refugees) for over 2,800 work days around Rikuzentakata in Iwate prefecture.
The JAR bureau chief, Ms. Ishikawa, gave a brief history of the organisation and introduced their activities.
As previously mentioned, PBV has sent groups of English speakers and Japanese/English bilingual volunteers to help with the relief effort in Onagawacho, Ishinomaki city in Miyagi prefecture.
So far, we have dispatched international volunteers from 56 countries around the world, totaling over 3,500 work days.
This training session also included several of our past international volunteers.
For foreigners who can’t easily read or write Japanese, the lack of information in the event of an emergency makes them disadvantaged during disasters. Foreigners comprise approximately 10% of the population in Shinjuku, and we wanted to change that way of thinking about them as people who are “disadvantaged” in a disaster, to “people who need support” in a disaster.
In that sense, they could be added to the same category as persons with disabilities, the elderly living alone, or infants and nursing mothers. Then, as “people who need support,” those 70,000 people would become part of the group that actually receives support.
*The above calculations are based on the number of registered residents; the current number of people who have applied as persons in need of support during a disaster is a little over 2,000 people.
Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done, but the experiences and successes of JAR and PBV prove that if we can just fill in the information gap caused by language differences, then it will be much easier to serve the foreigners who live and work in our community.
In other words, if we can only improve the methods of providing information in multiple languages, it will be possible to reduce the number of “disaster victims receiving support” and increase the number of “allies able to provide support.”
This photo shows several of our Burmese participants taking the training course with the help of simultaneous interpretation. Providing this kind of interpreting service and distributing emails and flyers in multiple languages is rather time-consuming at the start. But once you get used it, it is a relatively smooth process.
We also made some adjustments to the Japanese version of the training that is usually delivered.
For example, explaining that those in need of assistance should call “119″ for both emergency first aid and in the fire department; this may seem obvious to someone who has lived in Japan for a long time, but this may not be so well known among the foreign communities.
When cultural differences come into play, people may think about a subject differently even if the language of communication is the same. So we try to use photos to show the volunteers what kinds of tools they would need, and have the actual objects on display whenever possible.
In the workshop, we used a “Disaster Management Cycle” chart to illustrate what to do in the event of an earthquake in the city and how to be as prepared as possible.
This was the first time we held a class on disaster volunteering geared towards non-Japanese participants.
Many people had never heard about items like “disaster-prevention goods” and had no idea where to buy them. After the workshop, many told us that they had gained extremely useful information, and they would be sure to pick up some emergency-related gear in the near future.
Even better, several said that they would be interested in volunteering as well.
In Japan right now, the low birthrate and aging population is leading to an ever-decreasing number of youngsters. Even if we try to involve young people and engage them in volunteerism, as we did after the Hanshin and Tohoku earthquakes, this will not suffice in the event of a major disaster.
Disaster volunteerism will always play an important role after any disaster. However, we must also be able to mobilize enough people.
We believe this is the perfect time to expand the disaster volunteerism framework to include volunteers from all countries, regardless of their mother tongue.