The Social Cause of Risk: World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai

The third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is underway in Sendai, Japan.  Sendai lies in the Tohoku region that was heavily affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. The conference opened three days after the commemoration of the fourth anniversary of that disaster, and has also offered an opportunity to showcase Sendai’s remarkable recovery.

Among the inter-governmental, multi-stakeholder, and public sessions was a session on “Applying Science and Technology to Disaster Risk Reduction Decision-making” which drew around 350 participants. The session was chaired by Carlos Nobre, Director, Centro Nacional de Monitoramento e Alertas de Desastres Naturais (CEMADEN) and moderated by Flavia Schlegel, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The session gave an overview of the different initatives that together will form the architecture of the post-2015 arrangements for science and technology in disaster risk reduction — primarily initiatives that place the social sciences at the centre of conceptualising risk.

Takashi Onishi, President, Science Council of Japan (SCJ) presented the Tokyo Action Agenda which was adopted at the January Tokyo conference on disaster risk reduction, which Vivi Stavrou of the ISSC took part, and discussed the shifting science policy relationships, whose knowledge counts, and the science and society relationship.



Sendai was also the chance for David Johnston, chair of the IRDR Science Committee, to deliver the official statement of the Science and Technology Major Group. The Science and Technology Major Group, which the ISSC is a co-organising partner along with the International Council for Science, brings together in Sendai nearly 400 delegates from a wide range of organisations and networks active across all disciplines and sectors.

In the statement David Johnston said “the International Council for Science and the International Social Science Council are conducting a review of scientific knowledge available to date to support disaster risk reduction and management.” He continued, “in order to stop the increasing rate of loss of lives and livelihoods we must break down the isolation of scientific knowledge.”