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Sendai, Mar 17, 2015: In support of the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) being held in Sendai from March 14 to 18, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) co-organized a side event on March 16 highlighting the potential for increased collaboration in disaster management in Northeast Asia despite political tensions.
The panel “Strengthening resilience in Northeast Asia through cooperation for disaster risk reduction” brought together civil society speakers from China, South Korea and Japan.
Chen Feng, Deputy Secretary-General of the intergovernmental Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat, gave an introductory overview of efforts to strengthen ties between the three countries in the area of disaster management. He stated that, as close neighbors, the three governments share the view that a disaster in one country will also cause pain to the other two countries.
Young-Jin Park, Secretary-General of Hope Bridge in Korea, described initiatives there to improve response to disasters and stressed the importance of utilizing existing networks for collaboration within the Asia Pacific region.
related article SGI President Meets UN Under-Secretary-General, Issues Proposal SGI President Daisaku Ikeda met today with UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Anwarul K. Chowdhury. Huang Haoming, Vice Chairman of the China Association for NGO Cooperation (CANGO), then summed up the challenges of coordination of disaster response within China and put forward ideas for increased collaboration within the region, including exchanges of professionals and volunteers, holding specialist meetings and eventually establishing a formal civil society alliance for disaster risk reduction.
Aoi Horiuchi, representing the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC) and the Japan CSO Coalition for 2015 WCDRR, commented that this was the only side event of the conference focusing on Northeast Asia. He outlined initiatives supported by JANIC including production of a booklet to help people in other countries, including China and Korea, learn from the Fukushima nuclear accident. He stressed the importance of exchange visits, saying that when we have close friends in other countries, it is easier to imagine their suffering after a disaster.
Daisuke Namaki, Representative of Next Stage Tohoku, then described efforts to protect Chinese interns working in the marine products industry in the coastal area of Miyagi Prefecture at the time of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami disaster, and current initiatives aimed at continuing such international cooperation on the ground in the affected area.
Hirotsugu Terasaki, Director of Peace Affairs for SGI, summed up the event, commenting, “Our three countries face numerous challenges in the field of political exchange, but precisely for this reason it is crucial for civil society organizations to take the initiative to conduct dialogue and establish cooperative ties that link people at the grassroots.”
Co-organizers of the event were the Korea NGO Council for Overseas Development Cooperation (KCOC), CANGO and Next Stage Tohoku, and it was supported by the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC) and the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS).
Later in the day, an official opening ceremony was held for an exhibition created by Tohoku Soka Gakkai of stories and images of resilience and rejuvenation in the region following the March 11, 2011, disaster, titled “The Light of Humanity” at the Event Hall Shoei in Sendai. The exhibition runs until March 18.
The Soka Gakkai International (SGI) lay Buddhist association has a long track record of involvement in post-disaster relief activities throughout Asia, and its extensive network of local members and community centers in the Tohoku region was active in relief efforts following the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake.
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