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Tsukasa Katsube, Consultant, Emergency Response Team, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)

Noriyuki Shiina, former General Manager
of Japan Platform (NGO)



Geary W. Sikich, Principal, Logical Management Systems, Corp. (Local Expert)


Generoso D.G. Calonge, Consul General of the Philippines in Chicago


Marvin A. Brustin, Honorary Consul General
of Nepal in Chicago



Toshiyuki Iwado, Consul General of Japan in Chicago
Lessons Learned: “Natural Disasters, Emergency Response and Global Partnership”


• A panel discussion “Natural Disasters, Emergency Response and Global Partnerships” was held on March 14 at Japan Information Center, the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago. The purpose of the discussion was sharing real-life experiences in natural disasters and lessons learned from them and encouraging ongoing dialogue of how to create a safer and more efficient response to disasters.
• In the discussion, the moderator was Harley Jones, Regional Disaster Officer Chicago and North Illinois, American Red Cross, and the panelists were Generoso D.G. Calonge, Consul General of the Philippines in Chicago; Marvin A. Brustin, Honorary Consul General of Nepal in Chicago; Tsukasa Katsube, Consultant, Emergency Response Team, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Noriyuki Shiina, former General Manager of Japan Platform (NGO); Geary W. Sikich, Principal, Logical Management Systems, Corp. (Local Expert); and Toshiyuki Iwado, Consul General of Japan in Chicago.

• Tsukasa Katsube spoke about the structure of Japan’s emergency response system. The Japan Disaster Relief Team (JDR) is led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and implemented by its agency JAICA. JDR team is mainly deployed to help with natural disasters except floods. The team also helps with technical disasters such as building collapses, explosions, and infectious diseases. Its deployments are regulated based on JDR Law.
• The response service includes dispatching Medical Teams, USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) Teams, Expert Teams, and sending relief goods. For an earthquake disaster, a USAT Team is deployed within 10 hours from a dispatch order. The team is consisted of 90 members and four dogs, and its duration is 10 days. About 1,000 members are on standby.

• In the case of conflict area or a massive disaster, Self Defense Force Units are deployed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs consulting with the Minister of Defense. Their operations are logistics, emergency medical work, and vector control.

• There have been 493 humanitarian assistance disaster relief actions by the Japanese government in the period of 1987 to November, 2015.
• Emergency relief supplies such as tents, blankets, and plastic sheets are stored in warehouses in Miami, Ghana, Dubai, and Singapore.

• Katsube works as a coordinator in JAICA. He also holds the job in the United Nation Disaster Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) team. He said that coordination was one of the biggest responsibilities for them. “What we can do is assess the situation, help the local government and coordinate every incoming team from around the world,” he said.

• Noriyuki Shiina worked as General Manager of Japan Platform when the great earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku region occurred in 2011. He spoke about the difficulty to coordinate groups who were eager and ready to help the victims.
• The Japan Platform is a consortium of Japanese government, 46 Japanese NGOs, and the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren). Its main functions are diverting resources to organizations and providing financial support to Japanese NGOs, which work internationally outside of Japan.
• The disaster in Tohoku was massive; thus, Japanese NGOs international entered Tohoku to help. Beside them, Japanese NGOs domestic, International NGOs which had Japanese branches, and foreign NGOs which had no Japanese branches but capable staff and financial resources came into the disaster area. Moreover, the victims started to make their own NGOs
• The coordinating job was extremely difficult and frustrating. Japanese NGOs international and domestic began to compete with each other, and coordination didn’t work.

• The painful experience brought Shiina lessons. He spoke about them through two episodes.
• A member of a Japanese NGO international said that working in Japan was more difficult than other countries despite his many experiences helping people abroad. Shiina realized that the difficulty stemmed from limited communication and accountability for the local people.
• For the Japanese NGOs international, it was the first time to be recipients of the International Humanitarian Support. They started to understand how recipient countries felt receiving international assistance. The bottom-up approach was missing there.

• Shiina said that improving communication, building trust, paying respect, and recognizing different perceptions were all classical lessons to start over again.

• Geary W. Sikich said, “Communication is still the number one issue that we face,” and spoke about “building an effective crisis management team.”
• His six perspectives were:
• Strategy: what are we committed to?
• Concept of Operations: How will we fulfill these commitments?
• Structure: Do we have an organization that serves our needs?
• Resource Management: How will we manage or resources?
• Core Competencies: What skills do we expect from our organization?
• Pragmatic Leadership: How will we optimize authority, decision-making, workflow, and information sharing?

• At the end of his speech, Sikich emphasized the importance of “seamless communications” in any case such as planning, management, operations, logistics, finance, and internal/external relations. Seamless communication means that all terminology that being used is understood. “This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges. We say something, we mean certain things, but they may not be interpreted that way,” he said.

• Consul General of the Philippines Generoso D.G. Calonge shared Philippines’ experience of typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013. The hardest hit area was City of Tacloban, which was located in the center of the country. About 6,000 were killed, 1,000 are still missing, 20,000 were injured, and 1.2 million houses were damaged, including 520,000 destroyed. About 3 million families or 16 million people were affected by Haiyan.
• The Philippines’ economic growth rate was about 7 % during 2000 to 2013; however, the disaster slowed it to 5.7 % in the first quarter of 2014.
• The next day after the typhoon hit, the country had humanitarian assistance from the U.N. followed by International Red Cross, the U.S., Japan, Australia, Israel, Indonesia, South Korea, the U.A.E. and the U.K.
• Calonge said that the lessons learned from the disaster were preparedness such as positioning food supplies, emergency procedures, and operating capability of the first responders. Others were investing in weather forecasting capabilities and improving warning systems. In Leyte Island, which included Tacloban City, only a few residents understood the danger of the approaching typhoon.

• Honorary Consul General of Nepal Marvin A. Brustin spoke about the destructive earthquake, which hit the old city of Kathmandu on April 25, 2015. About 9,000 were killed, and 18,000 were seriously injured.
• Brustin, who entered the disaster area, saw many relief teams come to help the victims. He said that they were ingenious and tenacious people and immediately started rebuilding, but in a wrong way. The design of the shelters did not take into account the victims’ tradition and customs that were hard to change. However, he said that those people were overwhelmingly kind in that situation.
• The relief money was donated by 50 different countries; however, the Nepal government was not prepared to accept the money. The government also had a problem to allocate the money properly. Burstin said that the most of it was used for medical aid, not for rebuilding and restoring things. The victims tried to rebuild schools, but both monetary and material resources were dried up.
• Another challenge was Kathmandu’s rugged terrain, which was less accessible and made it hard to transport supplies. The infrastructure was also poor.
• Burstin said that Nepal was a wonderful country with wonderful people, ethics, religion, and a warm welcoming atmosphere, “but they live in tough environment and don’t have many resources. So we thank the world for stepping forward to help us a little bit, help us a lot.”
• As a member of the Chicago Consular Corps and named as an Illinois “Superlawyer”, Burstin has worked on fundraising for Nepal and committed to build a dozen schools there.

• Consul General of Japan Toshiyuki Iwado said that the most important lesson learned from the disaster of March 11, 2011 would be that the international community was very warm and supportive, and the people of Japan should not forget the sense of gratitude to the world.
• He said that no one was able to prepare 100 % for the next natural disaster, but the best preparation was one’s own experience. He spoke about two things to consider.
• The first was one’s role when he or she faced a disaster. As Minister at the Embassy of Japan in Finland, he reserved a space and deployed officers to Helsinki Airport to brief about the great earthquake and tsunami that happened just after Japanese travelers departed Japan to Helsinki. The briefing helped to avoid panic among the travelers.
• Another was preparing to respond to relief offers from around the world. Finland offered a long list of aid; however, Japan was unable to respond to it. Iwado said, “No one knows what is happening, and everybody wants to support it. We need to think about how we can manage things, how we can evaluate the situation in a very short period of time. This is a real challenge we will face. Let’s do our best to prepare for the future disaster


Damages by typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013 in the Philippines


The destructive earthquake of April 25, 2015 in Napal


The earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 in Tohoku, Japan