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Risk After Fukushima: Crises, Disasters and Governance

On September 17 and 18, an international conference titled as “Risk After Fukushima: Crises, Disasters and Governance” was held by IDDRI at CERI, 56 Rue Jacob. This conference invited interdisciplinary scholars, policy makers, photographers, publishers to discuss the academic and policy-oriented implications of the Fukushima disaster hitting Japan on 11 March, 2011.

poster-Risk_After_Fukushima.jpgThe conference is organized by the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI-Sciences Po), in the framework of the DEVAST and Sustainable RIO projects. In the first day, the conference was focused on presenting the disaster in perspective and post-disaster management. In the second day, more efforts were put on discussing the meaning of the disaster to perception such as safe society, risk, nuclear safety and democracy.

Most of those presentations were very interesting for us to know the profound influence of the disaster on Japan and other industrialized countries, especially how to better conduct risk management in the future. An example is the report of Olivier Isnard. He was deployed as the French Embassy in Tokyo during the Fukushima Nuclear Accident from March 13 to technically assist the Ambassador and explain the situation and the risks to the French population living in Japan. In his report, he described how his team used mobile technology to disclose information about the condition to ease public panic of French people both in Japan and in France. Listening to his speech, I was totally shocked by their exquisite measures to make all levels of information public. Facing such a calamity, how to reduce public panic is always a big threat to decision-makers. In many places around the world, it’s always not the disaster itself that makes following social “disaster”, but lack of information results in the public’s wrong collective behavior. According to his speech and practice in Japan, we could clearly know the best way is actually the easiest way: credible institutions disclose consistent information rather than hide facts.

IMG_6500.JPGThis conference also provided a great opportunity to elaborate deep meaning of risk and governance. In the report of Gabrielle Hecht who is Professor of History at the University of Michigan, she discussed the long-term risk in Japanese nuclear power industry. In the face of growing demand of energy, a big challenge is how to reduce high risk in energy industry. It’s not just a technological problem, but a social and organizational problem. Our Sciences Po intellectuals will and must play an important role in solving this ongoing problem.

My deeper reflection from this conference is about its implication for developing countries, such as my own home country China. Though the Fukushima accident happened in Japan, an industrialized country, its social significance could be applied to all countries, that is every country is vulnerable. Whiling dealing with natural and social disasters, better attitude for governments is not to avoid facts, but to in advance build a networked robust system to defend the vulnerability.

This conference is just a start. More reflection is needed for a better sustainable world.

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