Aftermath of Japanese tsunami offers learning opportunities for disaster preparedness

As Japan continues to recover from the worst earthquake and tsunami in its history, experts and policy makers from Japan and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region gathered in Tokyo to discuss lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

The meeting, held from 16 to 18 December, was jointly organized by ESCAP and the Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Asian Disaster Reduction Centre and the International Recovery Platform. This meeting was a follow up to the first gathering of experts that took place earlier this year in May 2011. Attendees examined the pre-disaster measures, both structural and non-structural, that were in place before the tsunami and what worked, what didn’t and why, with the goal of aiding countries in enhancing preparedness for and resiliency against future disasters. During the three-day meeting experts also examined policy changes that have been undertaken since the disaster in an effort to share best practices and the lessons learned from the tsunami at the regional and international levels. In addition, participants traveled to tsunami-affected areas in Iwate prefecture, as well as discussed the findings from the report of the technical committee that was set up by the Government of Japan’s Central Disaster Management Council.

Discussion sessions on early warning systems, public awareness and education, infrastructure resilience, and response and recovery provided an opportunity to share the Japanese experience with international disaster risk management experts and policy makers. The outcomes of the meeting will be summarized in a report and shared with countries that are prone to tsunami and other natural hazards.

The 11 March earthquake and tsunami that hit the Tohoku region along the Pacific coast of Japan was the fourth largest earthquake in the world and the largest in Japan’s history. The subsequent tsunami washed away many medium and small-sized towns and communities along the seashore, resulting in a record number of human casualties.
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the regional development arm of the United Nations, playing a unique role as the only intergovernmental forum for all countries and territories of the Asian and Pacific region. Established in 1947, ESCAP today has 53 members and 9 associate members covering over 60 per cent of the world’s population, or 4.1 billion people.