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The LKI, in collaboration with the Embassy of Japan in Sri Lanka, hosted a seminar and panel discussion titled ‘Disaster Risk Management and Japan’s Role in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).’ Hon. Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon, M.P., State Minister of Defence of Sri Lanka, and Hon. Komura Masahiro, M.P, Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, were the Guests of Honor. The event was attended by a representative gathering of diplomats, policy practitioners from the related foreign and defence, and related ministries, academics, civil society, and students, with experts from Japan and Sri Lanka in the area of natural and manmade disaster risk management.
LKI’s Executive Director, Amb. Ravinatha Aryasinha, in welcome remarks appreciated the collaboration by the Japanese Embassy with LKI in organization the event, and the Sri Lankan State Minister of Defence and the Japanese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs for gracing the occasion. He also thanked Japan for their continued support to Sri Lanka as the country builds disaster resilience through investments and capacity building. The Executive Director announced that as Sri Lanka assumes the Chair of the IORA, this event was the first of a series of IORA-related conferences and panel discussions being hosted by the LKI, which will bring together the foreign policy-concerned community to discuss several key issues on the IORA agenda. These will include – Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction, with the European Union; Blue Economy: The Way Forward, with the UNDP; and Maritime Safety and Security in the Indian Ocean Region, with the UNODC.
Hon. Komura Masahiro, M.P., Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, acknowledged the vulnerability of Indian Ocean Rim Association countries to natural and manmade disasters, emphasising the importance of climate change mitigation and adaptation to address the risks associated with water pollution, extreme weather, and rising sea levels. He reiterated Japan’s commitment to supporting Sri Lanka and other Indian Ocean nations in their efforts to improve disaster prevention and response capabilities.
Hon. Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon, M.P., State Minister of Defence of Sri Lanka, in his remarks recognised the importance of Sri Lanka’s relationship with Japan, the cultural parallels between the nations such as their resilience and discipline, and acknowledged the disaster relief that Sri Lanka has received from Japan in the past. He further outlined Sri Lanka’s crucial role in maritime safety and security in the region as chair of IORA, both in disaster risk management and other crucial sectors. At a bilateral meeting with the Japanese Vice Minister earlier appreciated the support of Japan Coast Guard (JCG) for Sri Lanka Coast Guard (SLCG) and urged for greater support to the upgrading of the facilities at the Metrological Department. He also remembered with gratitude Japan’s support during the 2004 Tsunami disaster.
The discussion that was to follow was moderated by Dr. Harinda Vidanage, Director of International Relations; and Founding Director, Centre for Strategic Assessment of General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University. Dr. Vidanage opened the discussion by highlighting the importance of Sri Lanka and Japan’s bilateral friendship and how it is a pragmatic time to connect the two island nations and enhance research and analysis in this area.
Professor. Nagami Kozo, Specially Appointed Professor, International Research Institute of Disaster Science, Green Goals Initiative, Tohoku University, examined the factors affecting disaster risk and the multi-dimensional consequences of natural and manmade disasters. Professor Kozo also discussed the extrinsic and intrinsic factors of disaster risk and emphasised the fundamental role of government in disaster risk management, and how the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) blueprint can be employed in small island states to prevent and reduce the risk of disasters.
Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, Director General of Disaster Management Centre, Sri Lanka, emphasised the need for disaster prevention and how proactive actions minimise the need for a costly reactive process. He also discussed previous partnerships and collaborations with the centre’s Japanese counterparts, drawing from the National Disaster Management Plan and the 6 ongoing disaster risk management projects with JICA. Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe also reiterated the need for resilience in development policy through government sector capacity building, including in local governance, tourism, healthcare and infrastructure development.
Mr. Yamada Tetsuya, Chief Representative of Japan International Coordination Agency (JICA) in Sri Lanka, discussed JICA’s vision and mission, with particular reference to human security and inclusive economic growth, and underlined JICA’s basic approaches to disaster risk management. Three key approaches – structural measures; DRM governance, including non-structural measures; and ‘build back better’ policies – are delivered in accordance with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. He then presented 6 case studies that demonstrated Japan’s previous support for disaster risk management in Sri Lanka and emphasised the goal of more collaboration in the future.
Mr. A.J.M. Gunasekera, General Manager (Actg.) of Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), focussed on the recent increase in ship-based maritime disasters and how this should receive greater attention from policymakers and the general public. Sri Lanka’s sea lanes are economically and environmentally sensitive areas. Mr. Gunasekera emphasised the need for a more robust response mechanism on maritime disasters and how there must be clear procedures and chains of command, which can be achieved through greater investments and private sector participation in disaster risk mitigation. He closed by underlining the challenges facing Sri Lanka, such as limited equipment and financial resources, and how these will limit the country’s capability to develop regional mechanisms without international support.
In the question and answer session a wide range of topics were addressed by the audience and panellists, including project-specific discussions, financial arrangements, and the impacts of climate change. Mr Yamada Tetsuya, answering a question on the effects of climate change on disaster risk management, argued that developed countries are not doing enough to support developing countries and ought to create an agreement on subsidies and credit mechanisms that can offset their historical contribution to climate change. Mr. Gunasekera discussed MEPA’s role as one of the lead agencies in oceanic disasters and described Sri Lanka’s several agencies that must be involved in the development of contingency planning. This must draw from each institution’s unique access to resources and balance the responsibilities of different authorities to ensure a collaborative and efficient allocation of marine resources to mitigate disaster risk.