The 3rd World Bosai Forum, an international conference on disaster risk reduction, was held in Sendai from March 10 - 12, after an absence of more than three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also the first time that the forum was held during the anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.
Approximately 5,400 people from 32 countries and regions participated in the three-day forum. More than 30 open sessions were held, with discussions ranging from the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, to the role of women in disaster management, and even an anti-disaster picture book project.
The opening ceremony saw speeches from Tohoku University President Hideo Ohno, Sendai Mayor Kazuko Kohri, other local and national government officials and various stakeholders.
"Because disasters destroy assets and take away resources that have been accumulated over the years, sustainable development can really only be achieved if the damage caused by disasters is minimized," said President Ohno. "I believe that Tohoku University, which is located in a disaster-stricken area, should include disaster risk reduction among its list of sustainable development goals, and work towards building resilience in our community and also in communities around the world."
The first two sessions of the forum were hosted by Tohoku University's Core Research Cluster on Disaster Science, addressing "International and Multidisciplinary Collaboration for a Resilient Society" and "World-Class Disaster Science Research for Disaster Risk Reduction."
Four research projects corresponding to the "time phase of a disaster cycle" were introduced. Specifically:
- Long-term assessment of hazard risk and adaptation measures
- Optimal response through real-time forecasting and sensing
- Safe and secure physical and mental recovery and human development
- Town planning in consideration of natural environment and historical culture
Tohoku University's cross-appointed faculty members from the University of London (UCL), Harvard University and the University of Washington (UW) then shared updates on their collaborative research activities. These include works on the convergence of brain science and disaster science, developing Japan's disaster archives, and machine learning for a tsunami forecasting system.
APRU Chief Executive Thomas Schneider and Professor John Rundle (UC Davis) of the IRIDeS-APRU multi-hazard programme, also provided activity reports.
Over the forum's three days, Tohoku University's International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS) hosted several sessions including a special panel on the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck southern Turkey and Syria on February 6.
Tohoku University alumnus and current associate professor at Istanbul Technical University, Fatih Sutcu, gave a keynote speech describing his on-site survey of the devastation.
Various faculty members of IRIDeS shared their analyses of the situation and discussed prospects for recovery and reconstruction. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) experts from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) added information about the national response.
At "Science Agora in Sendai" on the forum's third day, the focus was on the significance and impact of women's participation in DRR activities. An international panel of women spoke on social issues related to gender, and how disaster prevention can and should be made more accessible.
Punam Yadav, Associate Professor and Co-director of Gender and Disaster at UCL's Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, said that she was inspired by the lively session.
"The aim of DRR is to save and protect people. By putting gender at the beginning of the conversation, it helps us understand how different people are impacted differently in disasters, and what appropriate interventions are needed," she said. "Resilience is not just about having good infrastructure or being economically sound. Resilience is about emotions, it's about people and relationships."
As the forum came to an end, a midterm report on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was presented to Mami Mizutori, chief of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and special representative of the U.N. Secretary-general for Disaster Risk Reduction. The Sendai Framework is an international action plan adopted at the UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction in 2015. The midterm report will be discussed at the UN conference in May.
Mizutori also took the opportunity on the last day to visit Tohoku University, to meet with President Ohno, Executive Vice President Toshiya Ueki, IRIDeS Director Fumihiko Imamura and other executives.
They discussed the importance of Tohoku University's academic contributions to disaster research, the challenges of collecting and analysing disaster-related data, and ways to further strengthen collaboration in the future.
Founder, World Bosai Forum
Professor, International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS), Tohoku University
Tel: +81 22 752-2098