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The Great East Japan Earthquake resulted in a complex disaster, namely, seismic damage, a massive tsunami catastrophe, and a nuclear incident. One aspect of the earthquake disaster, which has emerged anew, is a loss of government administrative functions due to devastating damage to city and town halls and the civil servant workforce.
Summarizing disaster damage-including that of past events-to government administration capabilities and the realities of wide-area support efforts, this paper discusses how wide-area cooperation systems were developed by various governments and played a role in past seismic disasters, and how cooperation agreements are currently made between an increasing number of local governments. It is also revealed that conventional support systems are not sufficient to deal with an unexpected, complex mega-disaster affecting a wide area not only in terms of the scale of damage that they can handle, but also institutions guaranteeing rapidity and certainty in administering emergency measures and supporting disaster victims.
The paper then examines measures for strengthening cooperation between local governments, referring to progressive cases and comparing them with the national government’s review of its disaster control measures which involves an amendment to the law. The result shows that two major factors in strengthening wide-area cooperation involve the creation of a vertical coordination system involving the national, prefectural, and municipal governments and a horizontal complementary system for mutual cooperation between local governments, and that it is desirable to adopt a well-balanced institutional design incorporating both the advantages and disadvantages of the two systems. The paper also summarizes efforts contributing to mutual cooperation between local governments at four different stages. More specifically, the paper summarizes the significance and effectiveness of the following: (1) in normal times, clarifying the details and purpose of cooperation, holding joint seminars on disaster prevention and joint disaster drills, clarifying cost burden, and promoting communication among various entities at diverse levels; (2) during the early phases of a disaster, providing swift support for material supply and securing attention quickly; (3) in short-term support efforts, dispatching staff specialized in emergency measures and securing an adequate number of support personnel based on a team system; and (4) routinely ensuring local meetings and communication based on anticipated evacuation sites and systems of support provided by specialized staff in medium-term support.
It is our hope that the visualization of Kizuna, the bonds of friendship, which exist both tangibly and intangibly between regional communities and which represent commonalities and complementarities in their history, culture, local topography, and other characteristics, will be achieved by, for example, an agreement for mutual cooperation at the time of disaster, and that such visualization will lead to a reduction in the scale of a potential disaster caused by the next wide-area mega-earthquake.