? Yokota san (Mr. Toshiyuki YOKOTA), Director General for International Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan,
? ITO san (Mr. Yukimoto ITO), Vice-mayor of Sendai City,
? Distinguished delegates ladies and gentlemen,
Please allow me to propose a moment of silence in memory all those who lost their lives during the 11 March 2011 earthquake and Tsunami.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we gather here today, one year after the earthquake of 9.0 on the Richter scale and a 38.9 meter Tsunami that hit Japan, and particularly this region, on 11 March 2011, I would like renew our very deep condolences to the Government and the People of Japan. I salute the people of Japan for their strength: today, the world is seeing rapid reconstruction and recovery.
This symposium is timely and very important for us all. It has brought people from all over the world to share experiences on how we could use technology to prepare, alert and respond to disasters.
We all agree that disasters are one of the biggest challenges of our time. The year 2011 has been recorded as one of the costliest year. The world lost more than US$380 billion. Earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, as well as floods in Thailand and other countries account for the high cost.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Traditionally, the emphasis of many actors – local, national, bilateral and multilateral – involved in disaster relief and mitigation has been on providing humanitarian relief and reconstruction. Although this is critical, it is not enough. Post-disaster activity and assistance, on its own, is just too late! We must instead look at the root causes of these disasters and avoid the temptation of simply concentrating on symptoms.
Technology can help us predict, monitor and detect disasters and hazards. We must put emphasis on improved early warning preparedness as a way of reducing loss to human life and damage to infrastructure. This should now be easier to achieve than it was in the past due to advances in science and technology in communications, satellite imagery, construction techniques and increased understanding of ecology.
Having observed Japanese companies for some time and visited some yesterday in Tokyo, I can confirm that Japan continues to be in the fore-front of developing the latest technologies in many areas including those for disaster mitigation and management.
Japan has developed some of the latest hi-tech solutions for early warning that they could share with all of us. There is a lot to learn from Japan; Japan is ready to share its experience. As the Director of Telecommunications Development Bureau at the ITU, I am committed to facilitating partnerships.
For my part, I will soon be launching a new initiative aimed at promoting sustainable development. The objective of this initiative is to create a natural linkage between ICT for development (ICT4D) and ICT for Disaster Management (ICT4DM). In so doing we hope to ensure the optimal use of technology, avoid duplication and improve the efficiency of ICT investment since the same ICT infrastructure used to support rural development would also be used for public safety when disaster strikes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As demonstrated by Japan, the best way to achieve effective disaster risk reduction and disaster management is through information sharing. I recall that in 2005, Japan hosted one of the biggest United Nations Conferences on disaster risk reduction in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture.
The approach applied by the Government of Japan this time to bring Rapporteur Group meetings on topics related to disaster mitigation to be discussed back to back with a Symposium on the same subject is a very good one. We may want to consider this approach in the future with the aim of bringing more meaning to the discussions in our Study Groups. In this regard, let me assure you that ITU is ready to support countries in their efforts to share information. This could be done through the publication of case studies, guidelines, online tools as well as meetings such as this symposium.
I would like to conclude by expressing my gratitude to the government of Japan for its generosity and support, without which many of the delegates present would not have been able to participate.
I wish you a very successful symposium.
I thank you.
Sendai, Japan 3/16/2012