The Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) took place in Thailand from June 24 to 26, 2014. Our three representatives from Tohoku, who were elected by the children at the preparatory workshop for the 6th AMCDRR held in March, participated in its Children and Youth Forum. Let’s find out what message they delivered about better disaster risk reduction on a global scale on behalf of the children in Tohoku.
■ Video Message from the Representatives ■
Prior to the 6th AMCDRR, many Asian countries took part in a preparatory workshop to discuss disaster risk reduction. Over 1,000 children participated in total all over Asia, and each country chose its representatives for the 6thAMCDRR. Initially, those representatives were supposed to attend the 6th AMCDRR in Thailand, however, it was decided that they should participate through the Internet instead of physically attending the conference in Thailand, a country at the time in political turmoil. In the last minutes, each country participating through the Internet agreed on creating a video message that was aired during the actual conference, and our representatives from Tohoku got together in June in order to create a video that summarizes the voices of children in Tohoku who participated in the preparatory workshop.
■ Participation in the Children and Youth Forum through the Internet ■
On June 24, the very first day of the 6th AMCDRR, the Children and Youth Forum was held in Thailand. While youth representatives (over 18 years old) from Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, and Philippines were there, our three child representatives from Tohoku participated through the Internet. They made a presentation under the theme of, “What if I were a Prime Minister?” It was based upon their actual experiences of the disaster and life during the recovery since. They spoke out about what they want from governments, giving their presentation in both Japanese and English.
Voice of the Representative of Iwate Prefecture
“I will establish a global children’s organization on disaster risk reduction. This global children’s organization will provide opportunities for children across Japan and across the world to engage with each other a number of times throughout the year.
Through such exchanges, children will be interested in problems of poverty and the disasters of other countries and gain knowledge that cannot be learned in classrooms.
This will enable children to think of disasters from much wider perspectives and to respond more quickly and flexibly to disasters, including their secondary effects.
For children who lack opportunities to talk about their disaster experiences, we can provide forums where they can interact freely.
Once we feel confident of ourselves and collectively raise our voices, I believe there will be increased opportunities to talk with one another.”
(High School Sophomore, Female, Yamada-town, Iwate Prefecture)
Voice of the Representative of Miyagi Prefecture
“I would deploy counselors to all disaster affected areas to hear the voices of children.
After the disaster, those close to me listened to me a great deal. I told them that I’m now scared of the ocean and aftershocks. I told them that my acquaintance was washed up to shore after the tsunami, and I cried. After I talked about my experience and thoughts, I felt refreshed. My school provides counseling, but only by telephone, so it takes much courage to call them. If there is somebody to listen to us, we don’t have to carry our pain and more children will feel refreshed, like me.
Now, there is a space where we can talk to each other that an NGO provided. At first, it took courage to talk even in this space, but talking heals our pain. There are not enough counselors in Japan overall. What I can do now is go to the spaces provided by NGOs to share my thoughts with my peers.”
(Junior High School Senior, Female, Iwanuma-town, Miyagi Prefecture)
Voice of the Representative of Fukushima
“I promise to dismantle nuclear power plants and to prioritize above all, the mental and physical health of children. Due to the nuclear power plant accident, we children of Fukushima live with many uncertainties due to the radiation, including possible diseases and the unknown duration and impact on future generations. A complete recovery of the affected communities will not be possible without securing the healthy lives of children.
We should no longer build nuclear power plants given their damaging potential on many people’s lives. I will promote recuperation retreat programs that provide the affected children with opportunities to play outside and to release their anxieties. I also propose to include education programs so that children can learn about new types of clean energies and share their opinions on building back more resilient communities.
We cannot make ourselves understood unless we speak out first. I will keep communicating my thoughts to others with confidence.”
(High School Senior Female, Iwaki-city, Fukushima Prefecture)
“What if I were a Prime Minister?”
Summary of the voices of 37 children who participated in the preparatory workshop
■ Speaking Out From Tohoku: Better Disaster Risk Reduction on a Global Scale ■
Our representatives took advantage of this huge opportunity to speak out at an international conference and successfully conveyed their messages via the Internet!
They said, “Children are vulnerable, especially in times of disaster. However, as citizens and members of our community who have to bear the responsibility of the future, our voices are very valuable. There should be more opportunities where children can take initiative in discussing disasters and disaster prevention. I want to speak and discuss with many people including adults and children. Please hear our voices, and more importantly, utilize them!”
In 2015, the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) will take place in Sendai. An international action plan to protect our lives in future disasters will be adopted to follow the Hyogo Framework for Action. Based on our own experience, Save the Children will work closely with the children in order for them to speak out and participate, and to improve disaster risk reduction on a global scale.
In the next report, you will find out how our representatives prepared for and participated in the Children and Youth Forum through the Internet. You will see how vigorous the children were!