Recommendations to prepare for future mega-disasters in Japan - Study Group on the Great East Japan Earthquake & International Humanitarian Assistance (February 2015) [EN/JA]


The Great East Japan Earthquake taught us many lessons.

We recommend the followings to prepare for future mega-disasters in Japan;

  1. To receive international assistance in an efficient manner in order to maximise the good-will of international community;

  2. To establish national minimum standards in humanitarian assistance based on the international norms and standards in order to protect rights of affected population, and 3. To train, register and mobilise disaster relief professionals both in national and international level.

Study Group on the Great East Japan Earthquake & International Humanitarian Assistance

Executive Summary

The following eight recommendations are presented, specifically with regard to the system for receiving international assistance, which is now common practice when a large scale disaster occurs.

Part I: System for Receiving International Assistance

1-1. A clear basic policy on receiving international assistance during disasters As it is expected that international community will offer assistance when a large scale natural disaster hits Japan, the Government of Japan should pre‐establish its basic policy clarifying the criteria and procedures for receiving ‐ or declining ‐ offers of international assistance. Putting in place such a policy will help not only promote diplomatic relations but also compliment domestic response efforts. The basic policy and overall procedures for accepting international assistance should be translated into foreign languages and shared with the international community during the pre‐disaster phase

1-2. Enhancing the role of the Government for acceptance of international assistance A comprehensive disaster management body within the (central) Government of Japan should make centralised and proactive decisions on the acceptance of incoming international assistance. This body will need to be strengthened in a way that can bear full responsibility in terms of quick and smooth acceptance of assistance, including transport of relief goods and personnel to disaster affected areas, temporary storage of relief items.

1-3. Development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for accepting international assistance In order to support quick and smooth acceptance of international assistance with centralised and proactive decisions by the comprehensive disaster management body in the Government, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) needs to be developed for the officials of the respective Ministries. Joint exercises testing such SOPs with the involvement of multiple stakeholders need to be conducted once a year. The SOPs need to be developed by taking into consideration existing international guidelines.

1-4. Legal arrangements and administrative orders Legal arrangements and administrative orders on liability for damages and indemnification need to be put in place for handling any damages caused by international responders as well as any accidents or incidents that may occur to international responders. Based on the lessons learned of receiving international assistance in the past and in light of the existing international guidelines such as the International Disaster Relief Laws (IDRL), exceptional legal measures and administrative orders need to be put in place before a disaster strikes.

1-5. Concluding partnership agreements Legal frameworks with foreign countries, from where the likelihood of receiving international assistance is high, should be established in advance, so that legal problems related to accidents/damages associated with relief operations can be avoided.

1-6. Securing and developing human resources A system needs to be developed that allow pre‐registration and deployment of human ii resources those who have experiences related to international disaster relief from outside the Government structures. The (central) Government of Japan should nurture ‘disaster response professionals’ who have sufficient knowledge and experience to lead effective coordination in the acceptance of domestic and international assistance.

1-7. Ensuring accountability The (central) Government of Japan should bear full responsibility to monitor the utilization of international assistance and to explain the results and impacts of such assistance to the international community with the use of standard reporting formats.

1-8. Timely dissemination of accurate information to the international community The Government of Japan should develop a system by which it can communicate well with the international community from the on‐set of large scale disasters. The messaging should include damages caused, response activities and specific needs for international assistance, and the Government’s communications efforts need to be more proactive, timely as well as be conducted in English.