Sphere in Japan: Making a difference in preparedness and response

23 February 2018 | Sphere

Photo credit: JQAN

Japan is one of the world's most disaster-prone countries, with risks of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. In such a context, local actors' training and preparedness play a key role in limiting the potential impact of these natural hazards, and in meeting the needs of people in the aftermath of crisis.

Founded in 2015, the Japan Quality and Accountability Network (JQAN) works to ensure that local training needs are fully met. "We started JQAN to promote Sphere and the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) with NGOs and other stakeholders involved in disaster response", says Takeshi Komino, General Secretary of Church World Service in Japan. "We focused on crisis management units within the local governments. In the Tokushima Prefecture, in the West of Japan, they learned about Sphere and decided that every staff member in the crisis management unit should be trained on Sphere standards. We think it's great."

JQAN works closely with the Japanese government in developing and delivering training. Recently, the government has also financially supported the translation of Sphere Training of Trainers materials, to make them more accessible. "Certified trainers have customized training materials to geographical conditions, culture, and resources, together with local government officers", adds Nahoko Harada, JQAN trainer and professor in the University of Miyazaki's Health Crisis department. "The prefecture also planned the refinement of the materials, periodical training, and drills until the disaster onset."

When a magnitude-7 earthquake struck the prefecture of Kumamoto in 2016, the impact of this training and cooperation was clear. Breaking with its established disaster response approaches, the government contracted local NGOs to manage the evacuation centers in the aftermath of the catastrophe. "It is really rare for the government to hand over this responsibility to non-governmental organizations, and yet we are starting to see that", explains Takeshi Komino. "There is an increasing recognition that agencies which adhere to international standards are trustworthy in crisis management situations. An interest is growing among local governments to have their staff trained on international standards, and we think this is a very good example to be set."

Download the Japanese version of the Sphere Handbook

Listen to Takeshi Komino as he explains Japan's government and civil society efforts to promote humanitarian quality and accountability in his country.