Rebuilding after 3/11: Vulnerability and Empowerment

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  • DATE / TIME:
    2012•11•30    14:00 - 17:30

    Natural disasters represent ruptures in the functioning of society, both literally and figuratively. These are crises that can cause unfathomable loss and damage to societies. Such catastrophes do not impact people equally, with the most vulnerable individuals and groups almost always suffering disproportionately, leaving them in an even more marginalized position.

    Within such terrible events there still remains the possibility for beneficial change, however. A fundamental part of the rebuilding process must be identifying opportunities to reform existing societal structures to build resilience and empower people.

    This UNU-ISP symposium considers these issues in the context of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. More than 1.5 years after the “triple disasters” of 11 March 2011, it is now possible to begin taking stock. As Japan goes through the difficult process of rebuilding, it is necessary to identify what vulnerabilities have been created or exacerbated, and what positive developments and improvements there have been. In addition to the many issues related to the earthquake and tsunami, the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant has also given rise to a series of difficult questions related to Japan’s future energy policy and the way its democracy functions.

    Some of the questions this symposium seeks to consider include:

    • What vulnerabilities have been addressed, and what vulnerabilities remain?
    • How have issues related to gender been addressed in rebuilding from the disasters?
    • What can be done to enable affected people to have a more active role in decisions concerning recovery and rebuilding, and how can communities be empowered?
    • What impact has the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant had on Japanese democracy and politics?
    • How can Japan rebuild in a way that will make it a more resilient society?

    The first of two sessions will feature presentations by Dr. Daniel Aldrich (Purdue University) on the role of social capital in building resilience, by Prof. Akiko Nakajima (Wayo Women’s University) on how gender issues have been addressed during rebuilding, and by Dr. David Slater (Sophia University) on community reconstruction.

    The second session will include presentations by Dr. Jun Shigemura (Waseda University) on mental health consequences for Fukushima plant workers, and by Prof. Andrew DeWit (Rikkyo University) and Prof. Yasunori Sone (Keio University), both focusing on Japanese energy policy and democracy.

    Click on the RELATED FILES tab to download the full event programme.

    To register to attend, please click on the REGISTER button above. If you cannot attend in person, note that this symposium will be webcast live (and archived) on the UNU video portal. This event will be held in English only (no simultaneous translation will be provided).

    This is the latest in a series of events related to the UNU-ISP Human Security and Natural Disasters project, which examines the relevance and significance of a human security framework in preparing for, reacting to and understanding the impacts of natural disasters on people.


    United Nations University Headquarters Building