Lessons Learned: Japan’s Contributions to the World Reconstruction Conference 3

June 27, 2017

More than 800 participants from civil society, national and local governments, academia, the private sector and international organizations from around the world gathered in Brussels from 6-8 June 2017 for the Third Edition of the World Reconstruction Conference (WRC3) in Brussels, Belgium. The Japanese delegation played a central role in this conference, headlining several sessions to discuss and share lessons learned from the country’s extensive experience in disaster recovery as well as best practices captured by Knowledge Programs of the World Bank Disaster Risk Management Hub, Tokyo.

Co-organized by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme, and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, the conference sought to promote resilience through post-crisis recovery.

Priority 4 of the 2015 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction states as a goal to “build back better in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction,”[1] which reflects the strong advocacy efforts undertaken by the World Bank Group, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), United Nations Development Programme, European Union and other partners to ensure longer-term disaster resilience. Build Back Better (BBB) provides an important premise for engagement of all national governments, UN system and multilateral agencies to implement recovery in a transformative manner that reduces risks and builds resilience in an increasingly complex world of multiple and colliding risks.

The Japanese delegation contributed insights and lessons learned from their extensive and diverse experience of disaster recovery to more than 800 experts and practitioners who attended WRC3


Given its expertise in the area, the Japanese delegation took center stage on earthquake recovery themes. In a special session, “Post-Earthquake Recovery in Nepal”Kozo Nagami, Senior Representative in the JICA Nepal Office, discussed the importance of identifying underlying risks that hinder a country’s development to fully implement the concept of “Building Back Better.” The 2015 Nepal earthquake discussed caused more than 9,000 fatalities and destroyed over 600,000 structures in Kathmandu. Based on JICA’s experience in rebuilding after the Nepal earthquake, Kozo highlighted the need for supplementing the financial and technical capacity of developing countries and enhancing community-based approaches that reflect the needs of the most vulnerable groups. The recovery methodologies utilized are scalable to other countries, and the lessons learned can – and should – be applied after similar disasters occur.

The inclusion of women in reconstruction programs is critical to ensure comprehensive resilient recovery

Already more vulnerable in developing countries, women and children can fall victim more easily to the effects of natural disasters. The lack of representation of women in disaster recovery-related policymaking and approaches is therefore a significant hindrance to equitable solutions. In the session “Build Back Better with and for Women”, Yumiko Tanaka, a JICA Senior Gender Adviser, shared lessons and challenges around the 2011 Tohoku earthquakes, when some gender-specific issues were not addressed in the response and recovery approaches. Learning from this experience, women were given a stronger voice in policy reforms, and Yumiko shared these new policy guidance notes and manuals, which now reflect a more inclusive set of experiences and best practices. The panelists reiterated the need of rethinking of women as victims to women as leaders of resilient recovery. This could be achieved through an inclusive network of women and men working to ensure the voices of the most vulnerable populations are integrated into all levels of policy planning and implementation.

Robust institutions and knowledge sharing among public and private sectors strengthen recovery

In the plenary session, “Preparing and Planning for Recovery: Strengthening Institutions and Capacities”, Setsuko Saya, Director of Disaster Management Bureau, Cabinet Office of Japan, used the case study of the City of Sendai to explain how proper planning is essential as part of a rapid recovery. After the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the city could quickly and efficiently clean debris because it had already in place a disposal waste management plan. The plenary also highlighted the Japanese government’s efforts in knowledge sharing between municipalities and communities. The government has established municipality partnership agreements that dispatch experts to create practical solutions, facilitate trainings, and convey knowledge between disaster-affected communities. The ultimate goal is for municipalities to share their lessons learned with one another—ultimately strengthening the entire nation.

[1] Build Back Better: The use of the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction phases after a disaster to increase the resilience of nations and communities through integrating disaster risk reduction measures into the restoration of physical infrastructure and societal systems, and into the revitalization of livelihoods, economies, and the environment.

Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management in Developing Countries