At 2:46 pm on Friday, March 11, 2011, Japan’s Tohoku region faced the force of the six-minute 9.0-magnitude earthquake that we now call the Great East Japan Earthquake. Its devastating effects, including the massive tsunami it triggered, are remembered and even felt to this day, but another legacy of March 11 has also emerged: a call to mainstream disaster risk management (DRM) in development planning and investment.

Even while working to recover and rebuild, the Government of Japan established its global leadership on DRM for sustainable development in October 2012. Japan’s Ministry of Finance and World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Yong Kim jointly issued the Sendai Statement, calling for “increasing technical assistance and financial support to vulnerable developing countries for building resilience to disasters in vulnerable countries, including the usage of Japanese know-how and expertise, and extending knowledge and partnerships to support DRM policies and programs.”

Technical Assistance and Financial Support to Meet the Need

In 2014, the Ministry of Finance and the World Bank launched the DRM Hub, Tokyo through the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) to begin leveraging the technical and financial support needed to answer this call to action. Now entering its third year, the Hub has committed $38 million for technical assistance and knowledge development to support countries enhancing their resilience to natural hazards.

Through 22 projects, the DRM Hub is helping 32 countries address key risk drivers, engage partners, and catalyze large-scale investment.

  • In Peru, a World Bank team supported by the Hub assisted the Ministry of Education to conduct a nationwide seismic risk assessment of schools. This has led to a US$24 million government investment in a multi-year program to retrofit 350 of the country’s most vulnerable schools. The government plans to retrofit more than 12,000 schools in total, using the assessment.
  • In South Asia, the Hub has supported concrete solutions to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure, including roads in Bhutan, irrigation in Afghanistan, waterworks in Bangladesh, and hydro-power dams in India and Nepal.
  • In Nepal, the Hub has supported to develop disaster-linked social protection system, responding to the devastating earthquake in 2015. The system will play a fundamental function of post-disaster assistance delivery and also serve as long term preparedness. This support the government led housing reconstruction program, supported by World Bank.

The Hub serves as an access point for developing countries to engage Japanese expertise and centers of excellence, while also promoting knowledge exchange between peers.

  • Working with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Bureau of Waterworks, the Hub facilitated a knowledge exchange session with Bangladesh’s Chittagong Water Supply and Sewerage Authority and the Philippines’ Manila Water Company. Drawing on Tokyo’s experience, the session focused on the concrete steps that utilities can take to ensure contingency planning adds operational value.
  • The Japan Water Agency has provided technical inputs and hosted knowledge exchange events for water officials from India, looking to prepare for the risks that earthquakes can pose to dams.
  • In Ghana, a project is benefiting from a new methodology for discharge measurement of the Black Volta River developed by a research group from Kobe University under a research project called “Enhancing Resilience to Climate and Ecosystem Changes in Semi-Arid Africa: An Integrated Approach (CECAR-Africa)”, funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). The World Bank project team facilitated the data access and linking scientists from Kobe and Kyoto Universities to test the methodology. The project is also benefitting from a training opportunity in Japan provided by two universities.