The First Session of the 2022 International Symposium of Asia Japan Research, “Asia Japan Research Beyond Borders: Global Sharing of Local Wisdom towards Human Longevity” was held on February 22, organized by Asia-Japan Research Institute, Ritsumeika

On Tuesday, February 22, 2022, the first session of the 2022 International Symposium of Asia Japan Research under the title “Asia Japan Research Beyond Borders: Global Sharing of Local Wisdom towards Human Longevity”. The first session was entitled “Local Knowledge as the Basis of Disaster Management in Asia”.
The participants were as follows:

Moderator: Prof. Miwa Hirono, College of Global Liberal Arts, Ritsumeikan University Speakers:
Prof. Takeyuki Okubo, College of Science and Engineering, Ritsumeikan University & Director, Institute of Disaster Mitigation for Urban Cultural Heritage, Ritsumeikan University (R-DMUCH)
Title: “Temples and Shrines as Evacuation Base in Tohoku”
Dr. Maria Tanyag, Oral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University
Title: “Gender, Knowledge and ‘Forgotten Crises’ in Southeast Asia”
Prof. D. Moritz, Marutschke College of Global Liberal Arts, Ritsumeikan University
Title: “AI-Based Language Models to Support Survey Analysis in Disaster Management”
Dr. Muhammad Riza Nurdin, Asia-Japan Research Institute, Ritsumeikan University
Title: “Faith-Based Organizations and Social Capital in Post-Disaster Indonesia”
Marjorie Resuello, Asia-Japan Research Institute, Ritsumeikan University
Title: “Businesses as Local Partners in Disaster Relief and Recovery in the Philippines”
Dr. Manu, Gupta Founder of SEEDS India
Title: “Leveraging Local Community Networks for Building Disaster Resilience”

In the six years since the World Humanitarian Summit progress has been very slow, and the reason is that institutions and bureaucracy are all getting in our way. This decade is so critical for humanity. The 1.5 degree Celsius tipping point is going to hit us sooner than we expect. The number of people who are affected by emergencies is already rising exponentially, We must act now, and ensure that our efforts are locally driven and empowering to people for whom it matters.

Asia has been responding to disasters for thousands of years, and Asians have accumulated a rich knowledge and experience in disaster responses. The international policy discourse discusses how much funding should go directly to local NGO's, and how local actors can be part of the coordination of disaster responses, and so on, but none of these policies seriously acknowledge the existence of local knowledge and recognize it as an important capacity that local actors already possess.

To take advantage of this important asset, first we need academic evidence to demonstrate how critically important local knowledge is to disaster responses and how it saves lives and mitigates disasters, and the existing local knowledge should be the starting point. Consequently, the ultimate aim of this project is to demonstrate the capacity of local knowledge to save lives and mitigate disasters.

Why does local knowledge matter? Each of the speakers was asked to give their perspectives and offer some insights into the importance of local knowledge. In the context of this symposium local knowledge is not about ancient traditions but is an evolving process of tradition and modernity consisting of factual knowledge, skills, and capabilities. One important aspect is social capital. Networks which have grown from connections between individuals increase trust, cooperation, and mutual support while decreasing social interaction costs, improving improves information sharing, and allowing for collective action problems to be solved more easily.

Dr. Manu Gupta, Founder of SEEDS India, stressed five points to consider. The first is empowered local leadership by leaders who are in the midst of the community by whom they have been trusted. The second point is understanding the risks and vulnerabilities from within the communities themselves. Those that have experienced past crises will seek ways of reducing future risks and vulnerabilities. How can other communities learn from their experience? The third point is about the agency of people. There is a natural tendency to manage crises using a top down approach you can manage. We can send in rescue forces and hopefully save lives, but in the process we take away the agency of the local people, we take away their rights, and that is counterproductive to this whole localization paradigm that we are trying to bring about. The fourth point is about resources. We just provide them when they are needed, but if we don't provide sufficient resources communities cannot be flexible to the changing needs. Making resources available and accessible and allowing communities to make their own decisions on employing those resources is paramount. The last point is ensuring nobody gets left behind. We must have programs that are gender sensitive, that are inclusive, that take care of the most vulnerable, the elderly.

Next, four researchers gave enlightened reports of the situations on the ground from their fieldwork, including utilizing the resources of faith-based organizations and social capital in Indonesia, exploring the potential of temples and shrines as evacuation bases in Japan, utilizing businesses as local partners in disaster relief and recovery in the Philippines, the added stresses to women in crises resulting from gender inequality in SE Asia, and the application of technical advances in AI language models to support survey analysis in disaster management.