Responses to Natural Disasters

A growing interest and demand for disaster management and leadership in times of duress has led Harvard University to respond with programs to address this need.

The Harvard Asia Center, in collaboration with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Crisis Leadership (PCL), presents a university-wide seminar series addressing disaster management in Asia. The seminars focus on regional impacts of disasters and policy strategies aimed at minimizing disaster loss.

In May 2012, the Harvard Asia Center and Harvard Kennedy School’s PCL co-sponsored the Asia Public Policy Forum: Disaster Management in Asia international conference that took place in Singapore, with organizational help from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore and Harvard Kennedy School's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Academics, government officials, and business and NGO community members addressed disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

Harvard Kennedy School’s PCL, in collaboration with Beijing Normal University and the School of Social Policy and Management, is conducting a recovery assessment from China’s 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. The initiative includes the study of government operations, mobilization of community and volunteer resources, and repopulation dynamics.

In 2011, the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies mobilized several responses to Japan's 3.11 disasters. Initially, the Institute supported direct relief efforts by establishing Harvard for Japan and the ongoing Sanriku Project. These efforts collected and funneled relief funds and supplies to the survivors of the disasters. They also supported sustained efforts toward revitalization of the most devastated communities.

The Reischauer Institute also created the Japan Disasters Digital Archive, an advanced search engine for digital materials from all over the web, individuals’ testimonials, tweets, and electronic content from international partners who are building digital repositories about the disasters.

Finally, the Reischauer Institute and the Weatherhead Center Program on U.S.-Japan Relations jointly developed a speaker series, and subsequent webcast series, on the topic of Japan's 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters. The panels and talks, focused mainly on the Fukushima nuclear disaster, included “Losing Containment: Filming in the Nuclear Waste Zone”; "The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ): Leadership, Structures, and Information Challenges During the Crisis”; “Panel: Three Years After the 3.11 Disasters: Lessons and Reflections”; “Touching the Grass: Citizen Science in Fukushima.” These talks are now available in webcasts.