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Speeches & Transcripts

Transcript: Sendai Dialogue Press Conference

October 11, 2012

World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Yong Kim and Japanese Finance Minister Koriki Jojima Sendai, Japan


MODERATOR:  [Interpreted from Japanese.]  We'd like to start the press conference of Dr. Kim and Minister Jojima. As to how we proceed at the outset, Dr. Kim and Minister Jojima will speak and then we will entertain questions.  For those who have questions, please raise your hand and I will call on you.

So, after you have received the microphone, please state your name and affiliation and indicate to whom the question is directed before you ask your question.

So, Minister Jojima, please.

MINISTER JOJIMA:  [Interpreted from Japanese.] Well, thank you.

Well, this time Sendai dialogue meeting which lasted for two days had been completed successfully.  I would like to thank speakers and the members on the panel as well as people who had contributed to the joint study, as well as attendants and the delegates coming from various different countries and organizations.  And also, I would like to thank all those who have been involved in setting up the conference.

And I also would like to thank President Kim of the World Bank and the World Bank staff who are co-organizers for Sendai Dialogue.  Thank you so much.

Based on the discussion of the Sendai dialogue, as the outcome of this conference, we have decided to issue a joint statement called "Sendai Statement," together with President Kim of the World Bank.  You have the copy of the full text in front of you.  So, I would like to emphasize the following points in particular, which President Kim and I feel strongly about.

Once a large-scale natural disaster occurs, all the efforts which have gone into development over a long period of time are wiped away in an instant.  We need to understand the risk that disaster brings and come up with comprehensive disaster risk management measures. We also need to urge aid agencies and developing countries to mainstream disaster risk management in every aspect of the development.

And today's discussion will be carried over into the Development Committee meeting to be held on the 13th, and in-depth discussions will be held there as well, so that we could reinforce our assistance to developing countries in terms of disaster risk management.

About a year-and-a-half had passed and we had on-site visit prior to the concluding session so that we could assess the current situation.  President Kim and Madam Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, as well as other speakers of the conference had gone with us to see the affected area, near the coast of Sendai.  We have visited the elementary school to see what kind of role public facilities played during the disaster, and looked at a field of debris and saw how it was recycled and disposed.

At the outset of the concluding session, I have introduced the lessons we learned from the Japanese earthquake and the importance of disaster response management in carrying out development in developing countries.  Of course, great earthquake had brought about lots of calamity, but we had made a video film depicting the reconstruction hence in a resilient manner, and the same video footage will be shown at the Tokyo venue as well.  We would really like to create a society which is resilient against the disaster.  Together with World Bank, we really hope to share our knowledge and technology and expertise and human resources so that we can contribute to the international community in DRM.

Thank you so much.

MODERATOR:  Dr. Kim, please.

DR. KIM:  First of all, let me thank Minister Jojima for hosting this meeting here in Sendai and also the Annual Meetings in Tokyo.

I went to see the site.  We visited Arahama Elementary School today, and among the many things that were so striking to me, one was that out of this disaster, out of the untold suffering that occurred because of this disaster, the Japanese government decided that the most important thing was for it to hold this meeting so that we could learn the lessons from Sendai, learn the lessons from the great East Japan earthquake and tsunami, and share them with other countries, especially the poorer countries.

This act of great generosity in the face of great tragedy is a mark of a great country, and I want to thank the Minister and all of the people of Japan for hosting us here today in Sendai.

At the school that we visited, we saw so many signs that Japan had prepared for this disaster.  Of course, there was great devastation, but the fact that that school was still standing was the result of it having been built to withstand earthquakes. We know that everyone learned lessons from this event, but the most important one is that it's possible to decrease vulnerability to disasters.

As discussed in the panel today, the most important thing is we need to foster a culture of prevention. It’s so much more cost-effective to invest in the prevention of damage from disasters than it is to invest in--is to wait and then have to pay the cost of reconstruction. We learned that lesson here very clearly, and it's a lesson that we're going to take to the entire the entire world.

More than two-thirds of the World Bank's country partnership strategies now have begun to incorporate disaster risk management and our goal is to take that number to 100 percent.

So, let me conclude my opening statements by thanking the Japanese people. It was only a few months after March 11th that the Japanese government agreed to host this meeting, and I really want to say to all the Japanese people, on behalf of the World Bank and our partners at the IMF, that we're very grateful for your generosity in doing it, and we're especially grateful for your commitment to sharing the lessons of the great East Japan earthquake with the entire world.

Thank you very much.

MODERATOR:  Now for the questions. If you have a question, please raise your hand. The person over there, please.

QUESTION:  Mr. Minister, a question about the overall conference here that you're hosting in Japan throughout the week.

This is obviously a time for great importance for cooperation and coordination among countries, and one of the issues that has come up this week is the dispute between China and Japan over the islands, and several Chinese officials have pulled out of this event.

What are your thoughts on what the implications are for this and for this event this week?

And, Dr. Kim, we welcome any thoughts or guidance you have on this conflict and the implications, given the importance of the World Bank and what it tries to do in bringing together all of the countries of the world.

MINISTER JOJIMA: [Interpreted from Japanese.]  Can I answer first, please?

As you had said in your question with regard to the attendees from China, Minister Xie and also Governor Zhou of the People's Bank of China, they have confirmed that they are not coming.

But of course, Annual Meeting is a very important meeting, and the very fact that the authorities of the important organizations are not attending is regrettable, but the delegations will be there. Anyway, between Japan and China, when it comes to economic exchanges, it is very important. So, from the broad perspective, we will continue to have good communication with China. Thank you.

DR. KIM:  Let me just add just a quick thought.

As an Asian-American, having grown up in the United States, I watched with great admiration the economic rise of, first, Japan and then Korea and then China, and I took great pride that these countries were able to overcome obstacles and grow economically in the way that they did.

And so, the more I learn about the integrated economies of this region, it strikes me that there is much more that the countries of this region have in common than they have in conflict and that separate them.  And so, I have great faith that the countries of this Region will find a way to increase their cooperation because, in my view, it's clearly in the interest of all the countries of this Region to find ways to cooperate ever more fully in the future.

QUESTION:  Elaine Kirtenbach [ph], Associated Press. One of the topics that came up in yesterday's seminar on disaster risk management was the issue of governance and transparency in how reconstruction and disaster management is handled, and there have been some questions about how Japan's reconstruction funds have been handled, for example, and about how the mechanics of the reconstruction have worked given the difficulties between the central government and--not "difficulties," but coordination between the central level and the local level, and I'd like to hear a little bit especially from Finance Minister Jojima, please, about what Japan is trying to do to handle that problem and improve the situation. Thank you.

MINISTER JOJIMA:  [Interpreted from Japanese.]  Yes, with regard to your point, I was not there at the meeting myself, but I think you have just to mention something that I have also felt.

Well, with regard to the reconstruction work when it comes to the central government, in an intensive way, we had designated five-year period as a concentrated intensive reconstruction period to which 19 trillion yen, approximately, are to be channeled into that broad framework.

And with regard to this quake, we had learned a great lesson:  it is not only a matter for the affected area, per se, but this is entire nationwide challenge that we need to come up with more recognition about the disaster risk management and so forth.  That is, for--apart from the affected areas, per se, we have looked at entire Japan and have looked at how to use the budget in that way.

So, I'm talking about the concrete theme for a certain project.  We needed to think about whether that given theme really fits into the reconstruction agenda, and I know there have been discussions about this.  But minister in charge of reconstruction was saying that the other day--that, apart from affected area, for non-affected areas, disaster risk management responses also need to be made, but maybe a certain stage to consider a broad framework has passed already.  So, from now on the intensive effort should focus in the affected areas particularly so that reconstruction can really take place and budget can be allocated and budget can be executed with accent on the affected areas' needs, emphasis on the affected area, per se.

So, particularly looking at the affected areas, those on the ground, the heads of the municipalities and the prefectures, those are the people we need to keep close contact with.  Thank you.

MODERATOR: [Interpreted from Japanese.]  Next question, please.

QUESTION:  [Interpreted from Japanese.]  Kahoku Shimpo [ph], local newspaper. I would like to address questions to Dr. Kim.  Firstly, you have actually visited the site of the disaster.  I would like to hear about your impressions of your visit. 

And secondly, when you made the visit, you met with the principal of Arahama Primary School.  What questions did you pose to the principal?

And the third question:  As President of the World Bank going forward, to assist the stricken areas, how do you expect to involve yourselves and the World Bank in assisting the stricken site?

DR. KIM:  Thank you very much for the question.

Yes, the visitation of the site was just, quite simply, devastating.  We all saw the pictures on the video on March 11th.  And to see an area that was so densely populated be completely flattened was really very, very moving, and we saw also the pictures of the children on the roof of the Arahama school.  And then, to see the shell sitting there was--it was a very emotional experience.

And I asked two questions of the principal.  The first one was, will you build back on this site?  And his answer was he wasn't quite sure.

The second question and--as you may know, I'm a physician--I asked him about the children.  I said, "These kinds of devastating events can have a profound effect on the mental health even of children."

And he said that the thing that was most striking for him was that the children had lost hope.  They didn't know if they'd have a future.  They never, ever wanted to be in the face of a tsunami again, but they kept asking the question, "Why should I go to school?  What's in my future?  What do I have to look forward to?"  And he said that one of the primary things that he was focusing on was to give hope back to the children.

Now, this is profound, and as someone who has worked in some of the poorest countries in the world over the past 20-plus years, I know exactly what that means to try to look into a child's eyes and say, "No, there is hope.  No, you need to go to school.  There are things that you can do."

And to have it happen in this, one of the most developed countries in the world, is an indication of the devastation of this event.

The World Bank is going to be involved in many aspects of disaster relief, and I think the important point is that we're going to be involved both in prevention--everything from moving projects and cities out of flood plain areas to improving the building standards.  So many of the buildings, the Presidential Palace in Haiti crumbled during that earthquake--the preventive measures.

And then, also, we know that we're not going to get to 100 percent in terms of being able to do the kind of prevention that was done here in Japan.  So, we also are setting up different mechanisms for providing financing once disasters happen.

Let me tell you that the image of visiting that school will never leave my mind.  The image of listening to the principal tell us his story will never leave my mind and it will, I hope, inspire me and the entire World Bank Group to do ever more effective work in disaster risk management in other parts of the world.

MODERATOR:  [Interpreted from Japanese.]  Please.

QUESTION:  [Interpreted from Japanese.]  Saito, from Asahi Shimbun [ph].  I have one question to Minister Jojima and one question to Dr. Kim.

The Sendai Statement, under Item seven, to leverage Japan's know-how and to strengthen financial assistance and to use the Internet and so forth.  Do you envisage specific measures in this connection?

To Dr. Kim, repeatedly since yesterday, a theme has appeared:  short-term development needs and the long-term development needs, how do you intend to make both of these consistent?  What is your thinking on this, to make the short-term and long-term consistent?

MINISTER JOJIMA:  [Interpreted from Japanese.]  Yes, that is true that that point is contained in the statement and this is precisely what we are thinking because earthquake had hit Japan and in various different aspects we learned lots of lessons.  That is why we are really willing to share our experiences and knowledge with the rest of the world, so inclusive human resources and expertise that we have, we are willing to share with them, together working with World Bank.

And concretely, when it comes to the planning--of course, concrete planning will be formulated later based on the intensive discussion and consultation going forward.  Thank you.

DR. KIM:  There are many ways where we are making efforts to address both the short-term and the long-term.  Let me give you a couple of examples.

There's been a lot of concern lately about food prices.  And so, the World Bank participates--or is responding to this problem in several ways.  But first and foremost, we are responding to prevent food shortages, and we are also trying to ensure that families, especially poor families in poor countries, are not forced to make a choice between feeding their children or sending them to school.

So, we provide direct support so that countries can respond to those short-term needs.

But the bigger question is about the sustainability of agriculture in those countries so that we can put together medium- and long-term strategies focused on food security, but there are many other issues, as well:  investments in educational systems, in health care systems are responding to the direct needs of a people, but it's also a long-term strategy.  These are essential inputs to lay the foundation for economic growth in the future.

So, this is part of our job.  We will always be helping countries respond to short-term crises, but in everything we do, we try to have the long-term view so that the foundations are being put in place for the kind of economic growth, especially in the private sector, that we know needs to happen to create good jobs for people.

Our World Development Report 2013 is about jobs.  Ninety percent of all jobs are created in the private sector and there are things that countries, governments, can do to make it easier for small- and medium-sized enterprises specifically to grow and to create those kinds of good jobs that, in the long run, create both economic growth and stability for countries.

MODERATOR:  [Interpreted from Japanese.]  The next person, please. No further questions?

Thank you very much.  This will conclude the joint press conference.  As mentioned earlier, the press requested to remain seated.  Remain here, please.