"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Reduction in Tohoku ~Joint Endeavors for Solutions: Wisdom of the World to the Disaster-Affected Areas,Lessons of the Disaster-Affected Areas to the World~ Welcoming Remarks by Mr. Koichiro Gemba, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan Opening Ceremony

[Place] Sendai City
[Date] July 3rd, 2012
[Source] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
[Full text]

Distinguished representatives of Governments and international organizations,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am Koichiro Gemba, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan. I extend my sincerest gratitude for you all, gathering for the "World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Reduction in Tohoku" from all over the world. My home town is this Tohoku region and I am particularly pleased to welcome every one of you.

At the outset, I would like to take a moment to remember the Great East Japan Earthquake which rampaged on this land last March. The disaster claimed the lives of 15,866 people and 2,946 people are still missing. Among them are a number of foreign nationals. I would like to join you once again in offering our sincerest condolences to the victims.

Natural disasters can occur anywhere on this planet. Every year, about 200 million people are affected by disasters across the globe. Economic losses amount to an average of more than 100 billion dollars per year. Furthermore, citizens of developing countries account for 90% of victims of natural disasters. The earthquake in Haiti, which I am sure you remember, brought economic damage 1.2 times the size of its GDP.

Natural disasters are not someone else's business. The Great East Japan Earthquake and severe flooding in Thailand seriously undermined the world economy including by severing global supply chains. There is another interesting figure. One dollar in investment in disaster reduction can save 7 dollars of damage. In that sense, disaster reduction is an effective investment with 7 fold returns.

Natural disasters have a dreadful force of instantly washing away the achievements of long-term efforts for development, city building and rural development and therefore pose threats to sustainable development. Last month, I attended the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20). In Rio, I pressed every nation to take disaster reduction as an urgent matter. Let us deepen this trend through discussions of today and tomorrow. The slogan of this Conference is "Joint Endeavors for Solutions: Wisdom of the World to the Disaster-Affected Areas, Lessons of the Disaster-Affected Areas to the World." Under this slogan, the international community should mainstream disaster reduction in development and international cooperation and build resilient societies across the globe. What is necessary to that end? This is the question I would like to discuss together with you.

In this Conference, we are going to discuss measures to mainstream disaster reduction before and after disasters. Furthermore, our deliberations will go on to emerging disaster risks such as the concentration of advanced industries, urbanization and climate change. Such risks include complex disasters. In Fukushima, we experienced nuclear accidents. As for nuclear safety, the Government of Japan will hold the International Conference on Nuclear Safety together with the IAEA in Fukushima prefecture this December. This Conference you are attending will not directly deal with nuclear accidents, but with complex disasters in which nuclear accidents are included. Through plenary meetings and tomorrow's breakout sessions, I hope that you take a comprehensive look at challenges for disaster reduction and dig into their deep essence through the discussions.

As Prime Minister Noda mentioned earlier, I would like to underscore the philosophy of human security as the foundation of realizing resilient societies. We would like to give thought to the philosophy on which resilient societies are to be built and which respects dignity of each person and protect the weak and the vulnerable.

We need "full-cast" forces for boosting the integrated capacity for disaster reduction. In the Great East Japan Earthquake, for instance, there were cases where official functions of local governments in the disaster-affected areas were greatly impaired. However, private companies temporarily supplemented the public sector and NGOs and volunteer workers exhibited a great force. More than anything, as Prime Minister Noda said, countries, organizations and people from every corner of the world extended the warmest assistance to our country. We received literally a "full-cast2 support.

In this Conference, a number of side events are held which exhibit "full-cast" efforts. I hope you will have an opportunity to see them.

As the climax of this Conference, I wish that we can show what the future direction of disaster reduction should be in the international community. The Hyogo Framework for Action, which serves as international guidelines for disaster reduction, and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which serve as the international navigation compass in development, will both come to the end of their terms in year 2015. This milestone year provides a greatest opportunity for the international community to mainstream disaster reduction in development and international cooperation. This is one of the objectives of this Conference.

The damage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake was beyond imagination. But that was the moment when we reaffirmed the "kizuna" or bonds with the international community. Japan will certainly recover. Aiming at the concept of "turning the table" or transforming challenges into opportunities, we will carry through our reconstruction efforts.

Japan is determined to lead international efforts to build resilient societies by making the most of our expertise and technologies on disaster reduction. With that, I would like to conclude my remarks on behalf of the co-hosts. Thank you very much.