UN Disaster Risk Reduction Conference: Logo
Dear Family and Friends,
The alarming rate of worldwide disasters, both natural and human-made, are becoming more common, sadly almost everywhere. And most are far more dramatic than any movie, no matter how violent, could ever present. Real human beings are experiencing these actual tragedies. And out of their shattered lives survivors have to struggle to find ways to move forward, even if only one day at a time. So what can we do to stem this destructive tide?
The United Nations is acutely aware of the emergency situations caused by disasters. So it provides conferences, conventions, workshops, and seminars for delegates and ordinary citizens in order to discuss and instruct what measures can be taken to relieve our beloved world in distress.
This year, from March 14-18, Sendai is honored to be the host city for the Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. Obviously, Sendai is a very appropriate locale because it is still struggling to find solid footing after the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Enormous progress has been made, however, and Sendai citizens are proud to show that to the world.
Of course, Sendai has spent many months, in fact well over a year, preparing for this significant event. In this letter and others to follow I will share some aspects of the preparation for this important happening. But for now allow me to explain about the symbolism of this conference’s logo.
In 2005 in Hyogo, Japan, there was also a conference concerning natural disaster risk reduction. At that time this five-colored logo was created. It was designed for the following conference, the one to be held in Sendai this March. It shows five cupped figures of harmoniously blending colors, similar to a rainbow. These figures are symbols of people, from all walks of life, reaching out to one another to form a chain of support. They seem to be holding hands, which adds to their strength and resiliency. In addition, they symbolize the five priority actions for the global community to consider when dealing with disaster situations.
1. Disaster reduction must be a top priority of all countries and communities. In order for this to be implemented, there should be a strong institutional support. This action is the foundation on which all the others stand
2. When dealing with the risks of disaster, three key points should be followed in order to provide early warning: Specify, Observe, Assess. That is, clearly specify the disaster. Observe the situation closely. And assess the most appropriate actions to be taken
3. All levels of expertise should be considered in order to create a “Culture of Prevention”. These areas include Knowledge, Technology, and Education
4. Anticipate danger. Do everything possible to reduce risks before they occur
5. Focus on preparation for effective responses in times of emergency
Here is one very small example of these five points in action. In Sendai approximately every thirty years there is a major earthquake. (The recent 03/11 disaster in Tohoku was born from a different fault line, one that had a 1000 year build-up. Its magnitude far exceeded a “normal” earthquake in this region.) City officials are ceaselessly vigilant in planning for the next emergency.
About five years before March 2011, Sendai City changed its official rubbish bags. Over several weeks, citizens could exchange their old style bags for the new variety. As I was making my exchange, I asked the woman why the city wanted to collect the bags that we could no longer use. “For the next earthquake,” she explained.” You see, we will fill these with sand and use them as walls or to block tidal waves from coming too far.” I was extremely impressed by the farsightedness of this community. And sure enough, five years later, I saw that preparedness in action, and was a fortunate recipient of it myself.