UNITED NATIONS – A prominent Japanese political figure appealed to U.N. member states Tuesday to implement guidelines approved in Japan last year aimed at saving lives and minimizing the economic impact of tsunamis, earthquakes and other natural and man-made disasters.
Toshihiro Nikai, chairman of the Liberal Democratic party's general council and Japan's former economy and trade minister, said the ideas of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction approved on March 18 last year must now be made real.
"Now we need to think about how much we can do," Nikai said at a reception at the U.N.
The Sendai Framework was adopted at a U.N. conference in Sendai, Japan, as a 15-year international blueprint for dealing with disasters. It was incorporated into the U.N.'s 2030 development goals with the idea that disaster risk reduction is an important aspect of social and economic development.
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck northeastern Japan, killing more than 18,000 people. The natural catastrophe also led to nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The most heavily damaged communities have yet to be rebuilt and about 180,000 people are still displaced, including those reluctant to return to homes in Fukushima.
Investment in early warning systems, modernization of building codes and the construction of shelters are some of the objectives of the framework. U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who also attended the reception, said prevention and risk reduction are key.
"We must now continue the work that started in Sendai," he said.
Earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held up Japan's disaster preparedness effort as a model to the world. The unprecedented disaster, he said, taught the world a great deal about "the changing nature of exposure to risk and disaster."
"After Fukushima, it became clear that we are in a new era in which technology and natural disasters can combine to create danger of a previously unimaginable scale," he said.
The U.N. General Assembly last year adopted a resolution to mark Nov. 5 as World Tsunami Awareness Day.