In commemoration of the third anniversary of the 2009 Typhoon Morakot disaster, the Morakot Post-Disaster Reconstruction Council of the Executive Yuan is holding an international symposium from May 3 to May 4 at the Kaohsiung Ambassador Hotel to share its reconstruction experiences and results with the world community.
The Reconstruction Council has held such an event every year since 2010. Over that time, many foreign experts that visited Taiwan to study post-Morakot reconstruction have come away impressed with the projects, which have been conducted in stages with an emphasis on land conservation, disaster prevention and disaster aversion. A range of flexible and efficient methods was also used to deal with uncontrollable environmental forces and complex social systems.
The projects have already yielded tangible results and valuable experiences, thanks to the cooperation of NGOs, private companies, and central and local governments. Take permanent houses for instance—3,191 permanent units in 35 locations have so far been built, benefiting more than 10,000 people, an uncommon example of success to share with the international community.
This year’s symposium, the largest of its kind in recent years, is being held in conjunction with the Society for Social Management Systems (SSMS). Over 400 representatives from 18 countries (Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, mainland China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Korea, Nepal, Egypt, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and the Philippines) are in attendance, and 166 academic papers will be presented. President Ma Ying-jeou and Japan’s Kochi University of Technology President Hajime Okamura were invited to deliver opening remarks. Special-topic lectures will be given by such field experts as Liu Chao-han, academician of Academia Sinica; Gordon McBean, elected president of the International Council for Science; Akira Omoto, professor of the Tokyo University of Technology; Nobuo Shuto, professor of the Disaster Control Research Center at Japan’s Tohoku University; Idwan Suhardi, deputy minister of Indonesia’s Ministry of Research and Technology; Richard Anthes, president emeritus of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research of the U.S.; and Chern Jenn-chuan, CEO of the Morakot Post-Disaster Reconstruction Council.
Prior to the conference, President Ma received special guests from abroad and expressed his gratitude to representatives of reconstruction aid agencies in Taiwan. In his address, President Ma said he had attended Morakot symposiums every year and hopes the event can serve as a platform for incorporating the views of the world community, thereby enabling Taiwan to better carry out its international cooperation and disaster relief work. This model of public-private cooperation for building permanent homes for Morakot survivors is the first such instance in the nation’s history, said President Ma, and is worth sharing with the international community. “When we extend aid to other countries, we become a provider of humanitarian assistance,” he remarked.
President Ma also credited the success of the reconstruction efforts to three key factors—cooperation between the administration and the Legislature, between the public and private sectors, and between the central and local governments. Throughout the rebuilding process, the government maintained close communication with the victims and honored their opinions and wishes. For residents of Xiaolin Village, as an example, permanent homes were constructed on three different sites and a memorial park built, fulfilling the president’s promise to restore Xiaolin during his term of office. He further stressed that the completion of permanent homes only represented the commencement of a new stage. As displaced residents settle into their new homes and communities, the government will continue to help rebuild their lives and provide safe, comfortable living environments.
The Reconstruction Council’s CEO Chern Jenn-chuan, who also doubles as president of SSMS, said Taiwan is honored to host SSMS’ symposium this year. Focusing on disaster management systems for modern challenges, the symposium invited industry, government and academic experts in natural disasters from numerous countries to exchange their experiences and scientific research. Participants will discuss ways to engage the public in disaster mitigation and how to build social management systems with disaster prevention and reconstruction capabilities. Emphasis will also be placed on promoting a mechanism for mutual international assistance that will reduce risks and damage associated with “mega disasters.”
Following his opening remarks, the president visited sales stands offering indigenous products from reconstructed areas, including goods made by the Yitewu Workshop of Da Ai Community and the Yuan Shang Workshop of Laiyi Township. After purchasing a cross-stitch bamboo lamp, a shellflower-leaf bound journal, and organic coffee gift boxes from Taiwu Township, he urged the people of Taiwan to support the newly reconstructed communities through practical ways that will help them get back on their feet.
A press conference was also held by Chern and Kochi University of Technology President Hajime Okamura at 10 a.m. on May 3. Okamura, who visited reconstructed communities in Pingtung County the previous day, gave high marks for Taiwan’s restoration efforts. He said he was particularly impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of young students at Taiwu Elementary School, as well as by the warm welcomes given to Chern by local community leaders.
“This demonstrates the trust that residents have in the government and is a lesson the Japanese government and other countries can learn from,” Okamura noted.
Symposium organizers said the ROC government, NGOs, private companies and charities have been working together since Morakot to rebuild and restore communities to a sense of well-being, adding that the SSMS shares their goal of enabling people to pursue happiness.
The two-day symposium kicked off with special-topic lectures and presentations of papers. On May 5, after the conference concludes, the organizers will arrange visits to rehabilitated communities in Kaohsiung and Pingtung and allow conference participants to see the fruits of Taiwan’s reconstruction work first-hand.
More than 400 representatives from 18 countries are attending the Morakot Post-Disaster Reconstruction Council's third annual international symposium at the Kaohsiung Ambassador Hotel May 3 and 4.
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