Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

BBB(Build Back Better)as a guideline for the world’s natural disasters
Keiko Chino / Journalist

April 30, 2021
When I recently heard the news that the Japan Meteorological Agency would in future no longer use the expression “afterquakes” to describe earthquakes that still occur in the area around the epicenter of the massive earthquake off the coast of Tohoku region, which had caused the unprecedented Great East Japan Earthquake 10 years ago, I got nervous for a second.

In general, the word “afterquake” conveys a weaker image than “main quake”. Not using this word means that there can always be “main quakes” from now on. So we will have to be on our toes.

The Meteorological Agency is said to have ceased the use of “afterquakes” to prevent a decline in the awareness of the need for disaster prevention, because the word “afterquake” gives the impression that big earthquakes will no longer occur. In that sense, my reaction may have been exactly what the agency had aimed for.

Earthquakes cannot be avoided as long as one lives in an earthquake-prone archipelago like Japan, where volcano belts run through the whole country with active fault lines traversing all over the islands. We have no choice but to work on disaster prevention and mitigation. Still, earthquakes do happen, so post-disaster reconstruction is no less important. Thus, in recent years, the concept of Build Back Better (BBB) has come to draw a lot of attention.

Reconstruction once was a synonym for rehabilitation and “put it back to the original state, and we’re done” was the main idea. At the time of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995, Masaharu Gotoda, the Special Advisor of the Committee for Reconstruction of the Hanshin-Awaji Area stated that “Getting richer after a fire won’t be tolerated”. This stoic admonition, coming from a senior politician and former top bureaucrat, was termed as the “Gotoda Doctrine” and was accepted as the norm governing the policy of the central government offices towards the affected areas. However, rehabilitation was not what Hyogo, one of the affected prefectures, wanted. What Hyogo had in mind was proactive renaissance as in the proverb “to turn misfortune into good fortune” and creative recovery to build something better than before the disaster. (The above is based on “Comprehensive Verification ‘Recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake’”, published last February as a reappraisal of the disaster and reconstruction 10 years after the event).

Today no one thinks that rehabilitation by itself is sufficient. It can be said that post-disaster efforts have made steady progress from rehabilitation to proactive reconstruction, then to creative reconstruction, and furthermore to BBB, which is a more concrete expression and easier to understand.

Although BBB may not yet be a familiar expression to the general public, it is in fact a concept that originated from Japan. At the third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai in 2015, Japan raised the importance of BBB and it was taken into “the Sendai Framework of Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030” which was adopted at the conference.

It was drawn from the reconstruction experience from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, the earthquake in the Indian Ocean off Sumatra which caused the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and the Great East Japan Earthquake. Taking advantage of disasters to establish a stronger society against disasters before a disaster, that is to say, aiming to construct a more disaster-resilient society and spreading this all over the world: these are BBB’s characteristics.

BBB is also applied to reconstruction assistance. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which provided official assistance for reconstruction after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda in Tagalog) hit Leyte Island in Central Philippines in November 2013, and the top government officials of the Philippines including the Vice President agreed to reflect BBB in the principles of the reconstruction plan. Emphasis was also placed on a reconstruction plan befitting the circumstances of the country.

Come to think of it, the need for BBB is not limited to earthquakes. Today, due to climate change, natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more intense. The number of victims from natural disasters around the globe is estimated to be 200 million annually. Since the number of patients of Covid-19 is 150 million (as of April 30), the number of disaster victims is far greater. And disasters occur every year. It is hoped that Japan will further expand its philosophy through actions so that BBB will become established as a global natural disaster guideline.

Chino Keiko is a freelance journalist and a Guest Columnist of the Sankei Shimbun

The English-Speaking Union of Japan

千野 境子 / ジャーナリスト

2021年 4月 30日



火山帯が走り、至る所に活断層があり、地震列島のような日本に住んでいる以上、地震は避けられない。防災・減災に努めるしかない。それでも地震は起きるから、災後の復興が勝るとも劣らず重要になる。そこで近年、注目されてきたのが「より良い復興(Build Back Better =BBB)」という考え方だ。




一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > BBB(Build Back Better)as a guideline for the world’s natural disasters