From discussion to action in Disaster Risk Reduction at the Asia Parks Congress

A suite of proposed actions resulting from a special workshop held after the first Asia Parks Congress marked the next step in mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into protected area and conservation policy and practice for IUCN and Congress delegates, including the gathering’s host Ministry of the Environment Japan.

The Asia Parks Congress, held from 13 – 17 November in Sendai, the same region where the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami devastated local communities, highlighted protected areas and disaster risk reduction and recovery throughout its five days, concluding with the special workshop. Over 30 experts and participants from countries affected by recent disasters proposed action based on experiences in Asia, including the 2011 Japan catastrophe, and others.

“This event turned discussions at the Asia Park’s Congress into specific actions that will strengthen the contribution of protected areas to Disaster Risk Reduction” said Radhika Murti, Programme Officer for IUCN’s Global Ecosystem Management Programme and Lead on Disaster Risk Reduction. “We need strong messages if we are to influence the development of the new global framework of action on disaster risk reduction, which will be launched in 2015 at UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, also to be held in Sendai.”

The proposed actions coming out of the workshop include: 

  • Further compile the evidence base for the role of protected areas in disaster risk reduction 
  • Seek, develop and promote case studies of successful employment of protected area solutions 
  •  Prepare concerted and targeted policy messages from IUCN and its Members to countries and regional bodies in Asia and beyond 
  • Engage in the ongoing UNISDR (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) development process for the new Sendai Framework of Action beyond 2015 
  • Provide capacity-building for decision-makers, local and regional land-use and development planners and protected area practitioners

The need for natural solutions to disasters is particularly acute in Asia-Pacific, where 75 percent of all deaths due to disasters are from the region. “The prevalence of hydro-meteorological disasters will continue to increase globally, particularly in Asia, due to climate variability caused by climate change,” reported Camille Buyck, Junior Professional at IUCN’s Global Ecosystem Management Programme.

Solutions from Asia are, however, are already being proposed and implemented. In the dedicated working group on Disaster Risk Reduction at the Congress, more than 15 case studies from the Asia region defining the opportunities and challenges to maintain ecosystem integrity before and after disasters were presented.

Kiyotatsu Yamamoto, Associate Professor of Land-use Planning at Iwate University, Japan presented the case of Sanriku Fukko (reconstruction) National Park, a bold commitment from the Government of Japan to build a new protected area along the coast that was devastated in the 2011 disaster. The park represents Japan’s most ambitious “Green Reconstruction” initiative – a protected area that has built-in plans to not only rehabilitate natural areas, but also provide opportunities for local culture, lifestyles and businesses to thrive. Sanriku Fukko’s initial success is emblematic of how protected areas can address some of today’s most pressing challenges, including disaster risk reduction and recovery.

Naoya Furuta, Senior Project Officer for the Global Policy Unit at IUCN’s Japan Project Office, concluded the workshop by stating, “Everyone learned from today’s discussions. The Asia Parks Congress and this event provided an important opportunity to reflect and discuss in detail what we have learned about reducing and recovering from disasters as a conservation community in Japan, Asia and globally, and to propose key priorities to move forward.”

Work area: 
Protected Areas
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