Boosting Collaboration in Recovery Operations – Collaboration Meeting Held by Public and Private Organizations in Iwate Prefecture

Almost five months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. The transfer of evacuees to temporary housing and the removal of debris are under way, but the situation on the ground continues to change. 

While conditions in the disaster zone were initially complicated by cold, survivors are now suffering from humidity and heavy rain. Municipalities and private organizations are trying to deal with the disaster in step with the survivors’ changing needs, but many issues still remain. Ms. Sayako NOGIWA, the head of AAR JAPAN’s Tohoku office, reports on our efforts to collaborate with public and private organizations as we work toward reconstruction.

Why is Collaboration Required?

Iwate Prefecture’s Basic Plan for Reconstruction states that reconstruction should be promoted “through collaboration with NPOs (Nonprofit Organizations), enterprises, and municipalities”. However, while some shelters and facilities were supported extensively, survivors with disabilities who continued to stay in their houses were not receiving enough support. This imbalance may have been caused by poor collaboration between municipalities and NPOs.

August is expected to bring major changes to the disaster zone. A number of evacuees are expected to transfer into temporary housing, and many volunteers are anticipated during the summer vacation. The prefecture and NPOs must collaborate to bring about reconstruction through the timely organization and sharing of information and requests for assistance.  
In July, a collaboration meeting came about in Iwate Prefecture by calls from AAR JAPAN.

Proposal for Collaboration Meetings based on International Experience

In disaster assistance abroad, collaboration meetings, called “Cluster Meetings”, are held a few days after disasters, with the United Nations, the national government, and international and local NGOs invited to attend. I have participated in emergency assistance in Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia, Pakistan, and other countries, where these meetings have promoted holistic approaches through municipalities and private organizations. I believed that such a meeting was desperately needed for the Great East Japan Earthquake, and proposed the idea to the prefecture based on my experience. In early July, the Iwate Prefectural Division of Community Welfare and Services requested concrete designs and plans for the meeting, and after conferences with the people concerned, the first meeting was finally held on July 27th.

First Iwate Collaboration Meeting Held

Around 40 participants, including Ms. Kiyomi TSUJIMOTO, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, Iwate prefectural staff, and delegates of private organizations gathered in the Higashi Nihon Morioka Hotel at 3:00 p.m. on July 27th, 2011 to hold the first Collaboration Meeting for Volunteers for the Great East Japan Earthquake. Each organization reported on their activities and presented their difficulties and proposals.

Mr. Mamoru YAMADA of the Kamaishi Disaster Countermeasures Office said, “This was the first time for me to learn of the reconstruction activities undertaken by these various organizations. Until today, I had not received information as to who was doing which activities where.” Mr. Mitsuru SENDA of the Iwate Prefectural Division of Community Welfare and Services stated, “We would like to offer meticulous support for elderly people living on their own who require assistance in their daily lives.” 

Sayako NOGIWA speaks at the collaboration meeting. Regular collaboration meetings were proposed for each sector.

I attended the meeting on behalf of AAR JAPAN. I proposed deepening the relationship between the prefecture and concerned organizations by having meetings to discuss the overall reconstruction situation and regularly holding collaboration meetings in each sector. I also pointed to the importance of utilizing these meetings for developing policies and practices in the future.

The meeting’s two and half hours passed quickly, and we took a group photo at the end. We united in working together for what we termed “the reconstruction of our hearts and bonds”.  The meeting was open to the mass media, and was covered in the Iwate Nippo, the Mainichi Daily News, and the Morioka Times the next day.

The meeting participants. Front right is Sayako NOGIWA of AAR JAPAN.

Outlook and Challenges for the Future

At the end of May, the first collaboration meeting for the sector caring for the welfare of persons with disabilities was held at the prefectural office in Miyagi Prefecture. Eight private organizations working in the sector participated in the meeting to exchange information with prefectural officials. Collaboration meetings in this sector are planned in Iwate Prefecture as well.

AAR JAPAN would like to continue its projects by developing collaboration in which the nation, prefectures, municipalities, NPOs, NGOs, and survivors share information in order to respond to each individual’s feelings and needs. It may take a long time to fully recover from the disaster, but we would like to achieve it through cooperation with our supporters, including the readers of this report. We beg for your continuous support.

                                                     Sayako NOGIWA, head of the Tohoku office, AAR JAPAN
Worked at AAR JAPAN since April 2005. Engaged in a number of emergency assistance operations, including the Myanmar Cyclone in 2008, the Sumatra Earthquake in 2009, the Pakistan Floods in 2010, and others. Entered the disaster area 2 days after the Great East Japan Earthquake, and has worked as the head of the Tohoku office for the emergency assistance team.