The Soka Gakkai Josei Toda International Centre, Tokyo / Elena Landi, Flickr Creative Commons 
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The unique roles of faith based organizations in disaster risk reduction

Faith based organizations (FBOs) have unique roles in disaster risk reduction (DRR). Unfortunately, they have not been sufficiently reflected in DRR policies in Japan.  After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, direct talks between local governments and FBOs are frequently being conducted across Japan. FBOs’ roles are gradually being recognised through such dialogues.

 

Case study

The unique roles of faith based organizations in disaster risk reduction.

HFA Priority

Priority Action 4: Reduce the underlying risk factors

Priority Action 5: Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels.

Context

We made it our original principle to prepare for disasters and provide our facilities in case of emergencies. Through daily activities rooted in local communities, local organizations of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) and members have been aware of vulnerable neighbors and have supported them. The public sector, however, did not recognize the benefits and the unique role of FBOs were not shared with society at large.

Location

Japan

How was the problem addressed?

We have promoted coordination with the public sectors in addition to our own efforts.

Our staff and local members jointly lead the initiative. In the case of the Great East Japan earthquake, daily efforts by individual members enabled smooth and effective relief activities. Our facilities accommodated thousands of evacuees in the stricken area.

Local governments, meanwhile, prioritized publicly designated shelters for providing relief materials, while some of our facilities were neglected regardless of existence of numerous evacuees. We renewed our understanding of the importance of advanced collaboration and coordination with local governments. After the earthquake, we are proactively promoting discussion with local governments on such issues.

In Japan the public sector sometimes hesitates to have direct contact with FBOs due to the separation of church and state. One step we are taking to fill this gap is to be open-minded at our end. Another is to join a platform that multiple FBOs attend and maintain a neutral position in talks with local governments.

Results

When the big earthquake hit eastern Japan our facilities functioned as shelters, and several members, who were rooted in local communities as ordinary citizens, devoted themselves to helping vulnerable neighbours during the emergency.

Through our talks with the public sector after the earthquake, both sides now recognize the unique roles of each other and we have clarified how to cooperate for DRR.

As a result, some official agreements have been established with local governments in respective areas, which we believe will work in emergencies in the future. In particular, FBOs and their members try to take care of individuals both in emergency and restoration phases. If information acquired through such efforts is appropriately provided to the public sectors, it will be beneficial.

Tohoku region is currently at the restoration stage. We are promoting activities to support mental recovery. This issue is not yet sufficiently covered in the DRR framework. We would like to propose this be incorporated in a future framework and are making the necessary preparations in cooperation with other sectors including local governments.

Measuring success

What were the key elements of success?

The dedication of members and their knowledge of local communities acquired through daily activities. I

Direct talks between public sectors and FBOs are a good opportunity for public sectors to expand DRR networks, and for FBOs to identify their own roles in DRR.

Was the success/impact measured?

Is so, what indicators were used to measure?

The number of DRR-related agreements between local government and our local facilities has exceeded 100 in Japan. It will increase more in the near future. In the case of the 2011 earthquake the number of evacuees our facilities accommodated was around 5,000. The agreements will help increase that number if a similar disaster hits.

Relevance to HFA

How have the results contributed to HFA progress in the country?

The results mentioned above proved the importance of cooperation and coordination among various sectors, which is stated in the HFA.

Did HFA OR Making Cities Resilient Campaign play a role in enabling this initiative?

If yes, how / If no, what needs to be done in HFA2 to enable such initiatives?

Before the 2011 earthquake, the HFA was not well known by ordinary people. The HFA2 should be shared among various sectors that have roles in DRR.

Potential for replication

Can this initiative be replicated? Or has it already been replicated? If so, where.

The devotion and knowledge derives from our daily religious activity. It might be difficult to replicate this process in different situations. Academic research already shows that local governments across Japan are proactive in discussions with FBOs to enhance resilience. Such dialogues can be replicated.

Contribution by

Nobuyuki Asai, Programme Coordinator of Soka Gakkai International (SGI)

n-asai@soka.jp