Asian Journal of Environment and Disaster Management (AJEDM)

Volume 2 Number 3 (2010)

Asian Journal of Environment and Disaster Management 2010 2 3

doi: 10.3850/S1793924011000435


Kenzo Oshima
Senior Vice-President, Japan International Cooperation Agency, (Former UN Under-General-for Humanitarian Affairs)

Our region of the world — the Asia-Pacific—is the most disaster affected with 40 % of the world's major disasters taking place during the past decade. Furthermore, emerging trends such as rapid urbanization, the rise of megacities, and climate change are creating new vulnerabilities and risks, with the potential to exacerbate the damages caused and posing serious threats to sustainable development of countries as well as to human security—freedom from fear and freedom from want—of people.

Japan is one country highly prone to natural disasters. Throughout its long history it has suffered from diverse calamities such as floods, tsunami, landslides, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. And in coping with each of them as they strike, it has accumulated a wealth of experiences, lessons and technologies that can be shared through international assistance and cooperation with other countries facing similar predicaments in the region and beyond.

Disaster management has thus been one of the priority areas of Japan's official development assistance (ODA), as articulated in its official "ODA Charter". Japan's technical assistance and financial support in disaster management and other related areas started already in the early 1970s, and has gradually expanded in coverage, from the Himalayan countries to small island countries in the Pacific.

Recently Japan has been providing an average of some USD700 million annually in technical and financial assistance for disaster management—the highest level of such spending on the world scale. These efforts have contributed substantially in preventing and mitigating disaster risks and damages in affected countries; the estimated eight million lives protected from floods by artificial structures put in place in the Philippines, is but one example.

In addition, Japan has been active in international endeavors dedicated to disaster management, such as hosting world conferences on disaster reduction—Yokohama in 1995 and Kobe in 2005. The Hyogo Framework for Action, the main outcome from the Kobe Conference, is the centerpiece for policy and action by the international community on disaster risks reduction for the decade 2005–2015. Japan also led the way in organizing a High-Level Expert Panel on Water and Disaster, which was established in 2007 following the recommendation of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation in 2006. The panel's final report presents a comprehensive action plan for minimizing the loss of human lives and destruction by increasing numbers of water-related disasters.

To address the multi-faceted and increasingly serious challenges posed by natural disasters in all their shapes, and to find ways to better plan, prepare, and cope with them, it is critically important to assemble, review and analyze the relevant facts, the past experiences and practices, and to distill from them lessons and good practices for future application in national and international action, assistance and cooperation. This special issue represents such an attempt and offers a comprehensible overview of Japan's past international assistance and cooperation in disaster management and related activities, covering those under governmental initiatives, ODA projects, NGO works, and research works by academia.

I sincerely hope this special issue will make a useful contribution in improving the understanding of and support for disaster management and further enhancing international cooperation in this vital area.