July 23, 2014
JICA Research Institute, Tokyo, Japan
Ms. Valerie Amos, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Friends and Colleagues,
It is my great privilege and honor to welcome you here today to this symposium. This event is jointly organized by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to mark the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between our two organizations.
In this uncertain world, where humanitarian crises keep occurring, we have to thank Ms. Amos for her tireless work in many parts of the world. Therefore, I am extremely pleased to have Ms. Amos with us here today, and to have been able to sign the MOU to forge stronger cooperation and collaboration between JICA and OCHA.
The main purpose of Ms. Amos' visit to Japan is to co-chair the Regional Consultation Meeting for the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS). The main summit will be held in 2016, in Istanbul, Turkey, and I believe it will be a historic turning point for global humanitarian action. It will be the first ever global humanitarian summit, where key stakeholders will try and find new ways to effectively address humanitarian needs in our fast changing world. I heard that in the preparatory meeting today, participating governments, including the Government of Japan, engaged in active discussions on a new agenda for global humanitarian action. It was in this spirit that OCHA, a humanitarian organization, and JICA, a development agency, signed the MOU today. We truly hope that we can lead the way in initiating a paradigm shift and creating a new international humanitarian system.
Next year will be a very important year for both humanitarian and development actors, as we have pledged to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. We need to evaluate how far we have come, and how much more we should do. There has already been intensive discussion on the post-2015 development agenda. We have been actively participating in such discussion. We believe that the concept of human security is an important guiding principle for such discussion. And therefore, we are arguing that disaster risk reduction, for example, should be clearly incorporated into the new framework beyond 2015.
Fittingly, in March 2015, the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will be held in Sendai, Japan. A post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction will be adopted at that time, building on the experiences gained through the implementation of the Hyogo Framework of Action 2005-2015. Implications of climate change are also important. COP21, to be held in Paris, is expected to reach anagreement on the post-2020 framework convention on climate change.
Throughout this process of goal-setting in the international community, we now realize that humanitarian issues and development issues are not two different silos. No humanitarian goals are secured without necessary development and no development goals are pursued without resolving humanitarian crises. This is the reason we have to discuss the nexus between humanitarian and development assistance.
As JICA is responsible for managing the Japan Disaster Relief Team, in addition to wide-ranging development assistance programs, we put great importance on providing ‘seamless support,' from humanitarian emergencies to various developmental phases. This concept of "seamless support" is especially relevant in response to natural disasters. We provide emergency supplies and responses to affected countries and communities, to be followed seamlessly by development assistance for recovery. Within JICA, the Secretariat for the Japan Disaster Relief Team, or what we call the ‘JDR,' takes the lead and provides emergency relief items and/or deploys medical or rescue teams during the emergency phase. While emergency response activities are going on, we try our best to start disaster impact and needs assessment in order for us to prepare a recovery and reconstruction plan that mitigates future disaster risks. This step seeks to avoid a situation where the pressure to respond quickly results in support, well-intentioned, but that does not take future disaster risks into consideration and that, as a result, increases the vulnerability of the affected communities. Based on such assessments, we provide cross-sectorial assistance to reconstruct infrastructure, re-establish public health systems, and strengthen coping mechanisms by improving disaster risk reduction capacities. In short, we strive to provide a comprehensive package of assistance in order to help those affected not only get back to their normal lives but also to enhance their resilience. In a single phrase, "build back better" is our motto.
JICA's response to the disaster created in the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda is one good example of our efforts to achieve seamless assistance. Before the typhoon hit the island of Leyte, we sent our staff on November 6, 2013, to join the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team. At the request of the Philippines, the Government of Japan decided to send JDR medical teams through JICA. Over the six weeks of its operation, our medical team provided various services such as mobile clinic and public health services, adapting to the changing needs of the people as appropriate. During these early stages of the disaster, we also sent recovery and reconstruction experts and conducted assessments to understand the impacts of the disaster and the needs for recovery. We recommended the importance of the concept of ‘Build back better' to the Government of the Philippines. As a result, the concept has been clearly reflected and articulated in the Typhoon Yolanda Reconstruction Support Plan of the Government of the Philippines.
Now, along with quick-impact projects such as repairing public facilities, we are working closely with the government of the Philippines to develop a disaster risk-sensitive reconstruction plan that serves as a basis for mid-term structural and non-structural measures for the areas affected by the typhoon to gain resiliency. These projects are based on an urgent development needs assessment. Also, in order to share lessons learnt from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, we asked one of the disaster-affected cities of Tohoku, Higashimatsushima city, to join our efforts by sharing their experiences with the people of the Philippines, especially their experiences with debris disposal.
Natural disasters are not the only causes of humanitarian crises; conflicts cause crises in many parts of the world. Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, the humanitarian situation there has continued to deteriorate. More than 6.8 million people are internally displaced and 2.8 million have been forced to flee the country as refugees.
Over the last weekend, I visited Jordan, which hosts almost 600,000 Syrian refugees. As Jordan's population is 6.3 million, one resident in ten in the country is a Syrian refugee. Out of the massive number of refugees, almost 80% stay in host communities while the rest stay in refugee camps. We are collaborating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide assistance to Syrian refugees by utilizing all available aid modalities. In early 2013, we distributed urgent relief supplies in Za'atari refugee camp, which was flooded by heavy rain in freezing temperatures. Also, we are providing medical and educational equipment to improve the harsh conditions within hospitals and schools in host communities. These hospitals and schools are clearly exceeding their capacity by accepting Syrian refugees.
It is important not just to provide supplies, but also to care for people's mental health. In children's facilities, both inside and outside of the camp, Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) are providing psychological comfort to children affected by civil war and the hardships of refugee life.
Along with such grassroots support, large-scale interventions are needed to improve the economic and fiscal conditions of the host country. To help reduce the fiscal burden, JICA extended to Jordan a Japanese ODA loan of 12.2 billion yen in 2012. This was followed by another 12 billion yen loan in 2014. In addition, JICA is providing both technical and physical assistance for vital social infrastructure, especially water and sewer facilities. While in Jordan, I promised that JICA will continue to share the burden of the refugee crisis.
As you know, Japan is a disaster-prone country that has seen events ranging from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to typhoons, rain-induced flooding and snowstorms. As a result of these difficult experiences, however, Japan has also become a leading nation in disaster response. Indeed, Japan has developed advanced disaster-related technologies in partnership with industry, academia, and different government agencies.
JICA has been involved in sharing these Japanese solutions and expertise with developing countries. By partnering with OCHA, I believe that we can envisage more strategic action plans on how Japan's strengths can further be utilized to mitigate disaster risks. This, in turn, would reduce economic loss and human suffering. Through OCHA's international coordination system, Japan can bring our experience to international fora and better disseminate our knowledge to those who need it the most.
The signing of the MOU with OCHA is very important for us. It is crucial that humanitarian and development actors join forces. As I have said a number of times today, sequencing from humanitarian to development work is critical. Both responses have to be planned simultaneously and they should be implemented seamlessly. Collaboration between OCHA and JICA will make the humanitarian and development nexus stronger and more effective.
Through the Memorandum of Understanding that we signed today, I see new opportunities and possibilities for our collaboration in the following areas:
First, I believe we can advance our collaboration further in terms of information sharing and management. Information is key, especially at the time of disasters, to avoid gaps and overlap in our responses and to ensure that assistance goes where it is needed.
OCHA's Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP), as a medium- to long-term coordination system, and its cluster meetings are critical mechanisms. We would like to join such coordination mechanisms more actively and to plan our assistance in order to avoid gaps and overlap and to maximize the benefit of international assistance to those that need it. We would like to rely on OCHA, with its worldwide network of knowledge and expertise, for understanding trends in disaster responses and other relevant issues discussed at international fora.
Contribution of human resources is another area of cooperation. At the moment, the contribution of human resources from JICA to OCHA is limited to disaster response experts. JICA also has a wealth of expertise and knowledge in recovery and reconstruction, which takes place after the emergency phase. We have a number of seasoned experts in infrastructure, health, and livelihood recovery in agriculture and fisheries, as well as in disaster risk reduction. I believe they would add great value if they collaborated with OCHA and other actors.
JICA, an agency with the most comprehensive tools of humanitarian and development cooperation, is a natural partner of OCHA, especially when we emphasize the importance of the nexus between humanitarian and development assistance. We are looking forward to working together more closely and effectively.