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From March 14–18, the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) was held in Sendai city in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. As a side event, on March 15, a symposium titled “Community based DRR from a faith-based perspective – sharing best practices” was co-organized by ACT Alliance and SGI in cooperation with the Japan Religion Coordinating Project for Disaster Relief (JRPD). The symposium was held at Sendai Civic Auditorium.
In his opening speech, Reverend John Nduna, general secretary of ACT Alliance, stated that the role of faith-based organizations (FBOs) in disaster risk reduction (DRR) is not always recognized and that international frameworks such as the Hyogo Framework for Action(HFA) only have impact when they benefit the people at the grassroots level. Nobuyuki Asai, chair of the Soka Gakkai Youth Peace Conference, spoke on the capacity of FBOs to mobilize existing community networks and to protect the vulnerable in times of emergency.
Presentations were given by Soka Gakkai member Kimio Ohashi, a 71 year-old survivor of the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake, and Rachel Kyozira of the Inter-Church Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), an ACT Alliance member.
Mr. Ohashi shared his experience of employing dialogue to build bonds of community and trust between people living in evacuation centers, temporary housing or the fledging communities of permanent housing built for those displaced by the disaster. Ms. Kyozira gave a talk titled “Realities of Resilience” about her work with faith communities in Ethiopia.
After the presentations there was also a Q & A session.
This was the second symposium on the role of FBOs in DRR organized by SGI and ACT Alliance. The first was at the 6th Asian Ministerial Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) held in June 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand.
On March 16, as an outcome document of the symposium, 13 FBOs issued a statement in which they called on governments to recognize the unique role of Local Faith Communities (LFCS) and FBOs and to prioritize the engagement and collaboration of both in the implementation of the post 2015 framework on DRR.
related article SGI-Philippines’ Relief Efforts for Typhoon Victims in the Philippines On November 8, Super Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda), the most powerful typhoon to ever hit land, wreaked havoc across central Philippines, killing more than 5,000 people and leaving nearly one million people displaced. On March 18, Kimiaki Kawai, Program Director of Peace Affairs for SGI, gave a presentation at the WCDRR’s IGNITE Stage on Soka Gakkai’s relief efforts in Tohoku following the Great East Japan Earthquake. He highlighted the ability of FBOs to utilize their existing networks of communication and their local facilities in disaster response. He emphasized that the strengths and resources of FBOs could complement those of other DRR stakeholders.
SGI also co-organized another side event at the WCDRR, a March 16 panel bringing together civil society representatives from China, South Korea and Japan titled “Strengthening Resilience in Northeast Asia through Cooperation for Disaster Risk Reduction.” The Soka Gakkai Tohoku Youth Peace Conference co-organized a symposium on “The Power and Potential of Youth in Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery” on March 14. Tohoku Soka Gakkai members also organized an exhibition of images and stories of survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami titled “The Light of Humanity” from March 14–17.
[Adapted from reports from the SGI Office of Public Information (SGI-OPI); photos courtesy of Seikyo Shimbun and SGI-OPI]
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