Decentralization and Disaster Demographics: Lessons from De-urbanizing Japan and Taiwan

Helen James

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    The dynamics of responsibility for Disaster Risk Reduction vacillate between decentralization of resources and authority away from central governments towards the regional and local levels in efforts to ensure more effective preparedness, response and recovery when major events impact on vulnerable populations. The results of this approach have been mixed, even in major established democracies such as Japan, and Taiwan. The urbanization phenomenon along the North East Japan coast not only placed significant populations in the path of the March 2011 Tohoku tsunami/earthquake, but also meant that these populations were ill situated to withstand and recover from the disaster despite many years experience and well established early warning and evacuation protocols. This has been a factor of the ageing and depopulation demographic phenomenon in this region. In Taiwan, after Cyclone Morokot (2009) rapid response by central government agencies to provide recovery resources did not meet the requirements of the impacted survivors who turned to alternate sources of assistance in the civil society and volunteer groups to implement effective recovery mechanisms. In both Taiwan and Japan, the particular correlations of ageing populations and gender, mixed with distrust of central governments, and long term depopulation in some areas, especially along the Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima prefecture coasts have meant that both local and central governments have had to re-think public policies for managing disaster preparedness, response and recovery. This paper will explore these issues in relation to the calls for greater decentralization of disaster management resources to the areas of urban conglomerations most likely to require their application at the time of a significant disaster event. The paper asks whether it might be timely to move away from dichotomous intellectual constructs in disaster risk governance to adopt collaborative perspectives where the resources and capacities of the three levels of government (national, regional, local) might be mobilized more effectively in disaster preparedness, response and reconstruction.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    EventDecentralized Disaster Governance in Urbanizing Asia - Singapore
    Duration: 1 Jan 2015 → …


    ConferenceDecentralized Disaster Governance in Urbanizing Asia
    Period1/01/15 → …


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