Countries can save lives and reduce economic losses with better disaster preparedness: World Bank

September 27, 2011

Tokyo, September 27, 2011 – The World Bank says Japan’s systematic and careful investments in seismic safety and tsunami preparedness over several decades saved countless lives during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Speaking at the 5th International Conference on Flood Management (ICFM5), the World Bank’s Sector Director for Sustainable Development in East Asia and Pacific, John Roome, said Japan’s example shows country's should invest in preparedness.

Following Japan’s example, countries around the world need to take steps in reducing risk, by focusing on risk information, financing frameworks, urban planning, early warning systems, and involving communities who are not mere victims of disasters but the first responders during an emergency and critical partners in reconstruction,” said Roome in his keynote address. “The resilience and community spirit demonstrated by the people of Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami stands out as a shining example of strength in the face of tremendous adversity.”

The conference’s theme, "Floods: From Risk to Opportunity", reflects the urgent need to be better prepared for the risks posed by floods and to make use of the opportunities created by these devastating events.

Across the world, floods have caused serious damages this year. In March, Japan was hit by a powerful earthquake which created a devastating tsunami. In January, the state of Queensland in Australia witnessed the worst flooding in decades. In the US, millions of acres of farms were inundated and businesses shut down by flooding along the Mississippi River. In Brazil, a series of floods and mudslides early in the year caused at least 900 deaths.

While risk and potential for failure is vested in every system, not every natural hazard needs to automatically translate into devastating loss of life and property. There are concrete steps governments can make in reducing the underlying and future risks, and Japan’s own excellent track-record in preparedness and risk reduction demonstrates that prevention pays, Roome reiterated.

The World Bank/GFDRR (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery), the European Union, and the Government of Japan have identified the following five specific actions to help make disaster risk reduction and resilience core development priorities:

  1. Systematically integrate social, physical, environmental, and economic resilience to extreme events and climate change into all their development strategies and programs.
  2. Prioritize global disaster and climatic risk hotspots, where building disaster resilience is most urgent.
  3. Coordinate international action and financing based on country priorities to build national and local resilience in disaster hotspots.
  4. Prioritize investments, which offer the highest value for money, namely, weather and climate information systems, strengthening early warning and emergency preparedness, linking these systems to triggers for early action, creating safety nets for vulnerable populations, utilizing disaster risk financing/insurance, promoting sustainable land management, protecting critical infrastructure and most importantly, strengthening national and local institutions.
  5. Support rapid and resilient recovery by coordinating action in post-disaster situations, in order to link and streamline the transition from relief to reconstruction and development.

The 5th Conference on Flood Management, held in Japan on 27-29 September 2011, is organized by the International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management (ICHARM) under the auspices of UNESCO and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) of Japan. The conference was attended by over 3000 delegates, including representatives of governments, international agencies and institutions, regional bodies, civil society groups, flood management practitioners, and researchers. The conference is among the many flagship events on disaster risk management supported by Japan, signaling its strong commitment to the global accord on disaster risk management – the Hyogo Framework of Action, which were launched in 2005 in Kobe.

The World Bank works closely with Japan on sharing and disseminating global knowledge from frontline operations and programs in reducing the risks from natural hazards. Japan is founding member of the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) - a partnership of 38 countries and 7 international organizations - which plays a vital role in providing the financial and technical resources for facilitating this dialog and knowledge exchange on disaster risk management.

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