[by Terry Gibson | 3rd WCDRR Sendai | 14 March 2015 | Day 1]
Our good friend Buh arrived today from Cameroon to share in the warm Sendai sunshine. He arrived after the pomp and ceremony of the World Conference opening ceremony. The dividing lines between powerful and powerless are no more clearly drawn than here, where roads are closed, barriers thrown up, VIPs sweep up to the entrance in their black limousines whilst the more ordinary file in by the clogged high security queues and civil society representatives have very few seats at the table. I report second hand as i didn't attend. I had a working session which clashed, though to be honest I wouldn't have chosen to go anyway. A UNISDR person at the working session told me she had to leave the ceremony before its conclusion because she found it so at odds with the values she holds.
Buh Gaston, a long time GNDR member, devotes his technical skills in GIS mapping to providing information which might protect the environment in the coastal area where he lives. He gives his time as member of a CSO in the region to strengthening the communities they work with. He's come to Sendai to share his experience in two events; one showing how the technical physical science of GIS mapping and the social science of Frontline drawing out community knowledge are equally important in strengthening resilience of communities in the region: the other presenting the ways the Frontline programme applies community knowledge locally, nationally and globally.
Where Buh lives and works, the dividing lines between powerful and powerless are less clearly drawn than at this conference but fundamental in defining people's exposure to disasters. The divide pushes people to live on steep unstable slopes of volcanic ash which shift and slip away in the heavy seasonal rains, damaging and destroying their homes. Today, in Sendai, the sun shines equally on the VIPs and the rest, while the protocols and procedures of the UN system replicate the dividing lines which shape the lives of those most vulnerable to disasters in Cameroon and many other places... maybe that irony explains why the UNISDR official had to leave the opening event. Sendai sunshine, Sendai snow, rains and the great Eastern earthquake that shook the city come to us all, but those dividing lines of power and powerlessness, which are a mere nuisance at this conference, are what shape the consequences of climate change and other threats for billions worldwide.