2020 International Forum on Telling Live Lessons from Disasters

Disasters claim many lives instantly and devastate daily life of communities that have been built over generations. Harsh experience in disasters leads us to revalue the importance of daily life and significance of living together with nature, which we do not consider as much during ordinary times. It motivates us to apply the knowledge of disaster risk reduction into actual actions. It can be our engine to rebuild disaster-hit areas back better with more resilience. We have painfully realized this through the experiences of the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, and many other disasters elsewhere.

Many people in disaster-hit areas have been making efforts to preserve and pass on the lived experiences and lessons from disasters to other areas and generations (“telling live lessons from disasters” hereafter). Aside from oral story-telling, photographs, audiovisual materials, remaining items, music and pictures, monuments also talk eloquently. Aiming to network individuals and institutions in such activities, we have launched the International Network of Telling Live Lessons from Disaster (TeLL-Net) in 2006, so as to support those in exchanging and cross-learning across boundaries, appealing in one voice for the importance of such conducts of telling live lessons, and contributing to the creation of disaster-resilient societies. In 2010, we successfully organized the 2010 International Forum on Telling Live Lessons from Disaster with 150 participants from 22 disaster-hit areas of different parts of the world.

In 2015, United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction was convened and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 was adopted. The Framework includes some points regarding the telling of live lessons such as “to ensure the use of traditional, indigenous and local knowledge and practices, as appropriate, to complement scientific knowledge in disaster risk assessment”. Against the background of growing demand for complying with SDGs and promoting ESG investment, enterprises are also increasingly required to act with due consideration of the lessons from past disasters.

Despite our hope, however, the Great East Japan Earthquake hit Japan in 2011, claiming over 18 thousand lives. A disaster of this scale has hardly been seen since in the modern history of Japan. In 2013, the super typhoon Yolanda with extraordinarily devastating force hit the Philippines, claiming approximately 8,000 lives. In 2015, a massive earthquake hit Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world causing a death toll larger than 8,500. The world continues to suffer from floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis with the loss of many lives.

Bearing the above in mind, in January 2020, in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, individuals and institutions who are engaged in telling live lessons from disasters in various parts of the world will congregate in Kobe, deepen exchange and partnership, cross-learn new initiatives and trends, appeal in one voice for the importance of telling live lessons, and refresh determination to continue activities while addressing the challenge of the fading of disaster memories, with a view to contributing to the creation of disaster-resilient societies. Through this process, we also aim at re-strengthening TeLL-Net, i.e. a standing mechanism to support such actions. Moreover, the outcome of the discussion in this forum will be published in both Japanese and English as a reference for activities of telling live lessons all over the world.