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Japan solidarity forum strengthens disaster risk reduction in education

Disasters are unexpected by their very nature and are thus difficult to avoid completely. With this in mind, participants at a forum recently hosted by the Miyagi University of Education concurred that the exchange of solidarity between those who are at risk from natural hazards are a useful vehicle for the sharing of experiences, best practices and lessons learned within the context of natural hazards and disasters, and moreover for building the resilience of communities against the disruption and emotional toll that disasters can inflict.

©Japan Solidarity Project

©Japan Solidarity Project

Public officials, academics and students alike gathered at the Japan forum in Sendai to discuss the themes of Solidarity and Disaster Risk Reduction in Education. The forum was part of the JFIT-funded Regional Asia-Pacific ASPnet Project for Japan Solidarity and Disaster Risk Reduction (“Japan Solidarity Project”), which was coordinated and implemented by UNESCO Bangkok in collaboration with the Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU) and National Commissions for UNESCO. 

The UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) is a global network of more than 9000 primary, secondary, vocational, and teacher-training educational institutions in 180 countries. Founded in 1953, ASPnet supports international understanding, peace, intercultural dialogue, sustainable development and quality education in practice. 

The ASPnet Forum on Solidarity and Disaster Risk Reduction “We are One” provided an opportunity for narratives of the 2011 East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster and the recovery process that followed. It provided a venue to present research on Solidarity and Disaster Risk Reduction in Education that was undertaken as part of the Project and to discuss the outcomes of the Project.

Participants included representatives of the Japanese government, UNESCO, ACCU and the National Commissions of UNESCO from Japan, Thailand and the Philippines, as well as researchers and academics from Kyoto University, the National Institute of Educational Policy Research of Japan, the University of the Sacred Heart, United Nations University, and the Miyagi University of Education. The Forum also honored administrators, teachers and students from the disaster-affected areas of the Tohoku region of Japan.

In a video message during the opening session, UNESCO Bangkok Director Mr. Gwang-Jo Kim stressed the importance of Disaster Risk Reduction education in the Asia-Pacific region, the most at risk from disaster region in the world. “Knowledge is our proven best defense against disasters, and education can enlist young people as leaders in and advocates for DRR in their communities,” he said. “Education also allows us to learn from past disasters to ensure that they will never happen again.” 

The Japan Solidarity Project is one of many UNESCO projects that were launched in support of the recovery process in the aftermath of the 2011 East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami disaster. The project saw disaster risk reduction activities in schools across the Asia-Pacific region, and messages of support and remembrance on behalf of 190,000 students, including paintings, poetry, and even video recordings of songs and performance art, sent to schools that were affected by the disaster.

The Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU) is a non-profit organization that implements cooperative activities in the fields of culture, education and international exchange. It seeks to contribute to the realization of peaceful and sustainable societies in the Asia-Pacific region.

Reflecting upon the project, ASPnet National Coordinator from the Philippines Professor Ronald Mabunga expressed his appreciation for the bonds of friendship and understanding that had been built between his country and Japan as a result of the solidarity exchange, and said that the Japan Solidarity Project had also underscored the importance of Disaster Risk Reduction in Education in his country, which is regularly affected by hydro-meteorological hazards such as typhoons. 

The solidarity messages from all participating countries are available for public viewing on the Japan Solidarity Project website, along with research on the 2011 East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster’s effect on the education sector, and on DRR in education more broadly at: The website will serve as a medium for the ongoing exchange of messages of support within the context of risk reduction and recovery. 


Research that was conducted as part of the Japan Solidarity Project included:    

A narrative of the 2011 East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster, the recovery process, and the Japan Solidarity Project by Suvendrini Kakuchi of the Interpress Service.

A study on lessons learned for the education sector from the 2011 East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster, compiled by Rajib Shaw and Yukiko Takeuchi of Kyoto University, Japan.

A framework to systematize Education for Natural Disaster Preparedness and Reduction in Japan, developed by Masakazu Goto and Yasuhiko Okamoto of the National Institute for Education Policy Research, Japan.

All three publications are available for download on the Japan Solidarity Project website:


By Justin Alick, UNESCO Bangkok