Post-Earthquake Rebuilding Support Symposium

In response to the massive earthquake and tsunami which hit Northeastern Japan, the United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP), the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Ministry of the Environment, jointly hosted a symposium to address ways to rebuild, and also explore the possibilities for environmentally friendly sustainable policies. The symposium was held in the presence of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Japan, on Sunday, 22 May 2011, in the U Thant International Conference Hall, United Nations University Headquarters, Tokyo. This event was part of a series of events for the UN Decade on Biodiversity and the International Year of Forests, and was held on the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity 2011.


Professor Shigeatsu Hatakeyama gives his keynote speech. Photo: Stephan Schmidt/UNU.

The event opened with a video titled “Standing Strong Again: Rebuilding the Fishing Community of Kesennuma”, which was jointly produced by the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies Operating Unit Ishikawa/Kanazawa, United Nations University Media Centre, and the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative Secretariat.

The opening remarks were delivered by Mr. Ryu Matsumoto, the Minister of the Environment, and Dr. Konrad Osterwalder, Rector of United Nations University and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The keynote address was given by Professor Shigeatsu Hatakeyama, founder of the NPO “Mori wa Umi no Koibito” The Forest is longing for the sea, the sea is longing for the Forest, which promotes the natural ecological link between forests and the ocean. A professor at Kyoto University, he also and runs marine fisheries, which enables him to combine theory with real world practice. His presentation titled “Post Earthquake Rebuilding: The link between forest and sea”, emphasized the important but often overlooked link between the forest and the sea, human habitats, biodiversity, and the revival of agricultural forestry industries and fisheries.

Following Professor Hatakeyama’s presentation, specialists and policymakers gave presentations which discussed proposals to support the people of the disaster stricken regions. Professor Kazuhiko Takeuchi, the Vice Rector of United Nations University, and the Director of the Japanese Institute of Landscape Architecture, facilitated the panel discussion. In his presentation, Professor Takeuchi spoke about “Post Disaster Rebuilding through Landscape Revitialization”. Next, Dr. Srikantha Herath, Senior Academic Programme Officer of UNU-ISP, gave a talk titled “Tohoku Aftermath- Challenges for Risk Management”. Professor Emeritus Masaru Tanaka from Kyoto University gave a presentation on the creation of the “Kesennuma-Karakuwa Model”. The Director General of the Forest Policy Planning Department of the Forestry Agency, Mr. Hiroyuki Suematsu spoke about the International Year of Forests 2011 and forestry in Japan.The Director General of the Fisheries Infrastructure Department of the Fisheries Agency, Mr. Osamu Hashimoto gave a talk on the “Rebirth of fisheries and recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake”. The Director General of the Nature Conservation Bureau of the Ministry of the Environment, Mr. Tsunao Watanabe spoke about the “Reconstruction of disaster-hit areas, particularly focusing on the New Sanriku Fukko National Park”.

Professor Takeuchi concluded the panel discussion by emphasizing the importance of developing policies for disaster preparation and disaster recovery based on human networks at various levels, the concept of the blessings of nature, and biodiversity. He also mentioned that Japan’s experience of overcoming the disaster and rebuilding could be used by the international community, and will be of particular interest to developing countries.

The concluding remarks were given by Mr. Hideka Morimoto, the Deputy Director-General of the Nature Conservation Bureau of the Ministry of the Environment.

*The presentation slides can be downloaded from the UNU-ISP website.