Remarks by Angel Gurría
16 April 2019 - Tokyo, Japan
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Ministers, Ambassadors, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is always a great pleasure to be back in Tokyo, particularly during the beautiful spring season. I would like to thank the Governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Mr. Masao Uchibori, the Mayor of Hirono Town of Fukushima, Mr. Satoshi Endo, and the Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry – and also for Reconstruction, Mr. Akimasa Ishikawa, for joining us in this very important dialogue on the future of Fukushima.
In March 2011, Japan suffered one of the most devastating disasters of its recent history. I refer to the magnitude-9 Great East Japan Earthquake, which was followed by a tsunami that caused vast damage across northern Japan and took the lives of thousands of people. If these disasters had not caused enough damage already, they also provoked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
I visited Japan soon after this triple shock, to offer in person the OECD’s support and commitment to Japan’s recovery and reconstruction. In this spirit, we launched the OECD Tohoku School project, aimed at helping high-school and junior high-school students in the Tohoku area overcome their losses through a practical, project-based education. The initiative helped them to develop valuable competencies, new types of knowledge, skills and resilience for the future. This project also gave OECD member countries an impetus to re-think the purpose of education for the future, resulting in a new OECD project, the Future of Education and Skills 2030.
The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) also supported Japan in the immediate aftermath of the accident, and continues its support in areas where there is ongoing stakeholder engagement as well as concerns for food safety. In particular, it has supported the evaluation of the damaged reactor cores’ condition and the development of long-term radioactive waste management strategies.
In fact, only last month the NEA held in Paris an international symposium on decommissioning and food safety concerns in collaboration with the Japanese government. This symposium helped demonstrate the quality of the food produced in Fukushima, which will in turn help pave the way to rebuilding communities, and the resumption of normal economic activities in the area.
After eight years, Fukushima has made a remarkable recovery. The exports of agricultural and fisheries products from Fukushima reached a record high in 2017, to well above 210,000 kg, from only 2,403 kg after the disaster in 2012. And reconstruction of infrastructure (river, coast, roads, ports, etc.) has begun for 99% of the planned facilities, and 94% has already been completed.
Looking ahead, however, the goal is not just to recover, but to build better and to come back stronger. That is why the OECD has committed its support to a broader regional development perspective.
For example, maximising Fukushima’s economic potential will depend upon the implementation of a ‘place-based’ approach. This means working with local communities to identify assets and priorities for investments, and will require the effective coordination of stakeholders across different industries and policy areas.
Agriculture is an example of such successful coordination. Innovative technologies in agriculture have accelerated the sector’s recovery, and have opened the door to new opportunities and collaborations with other local industries. A forthcoming OECD review of innovation in the Japanese agriculture sector, which we will present in May, highlights the large opportunities resulting from the integration of agriculture and other economic sectors.
Moreover, three years ago, I launched the Territorial Review of Japan, which focussed on policy options for an ageing and declining population in rural areas. Among others, it recommended fostering urban-rural partnerships, and supporting community development based on local assets.
In the same spirit, this year, the OECD and the NEA will support local efforts in developing the ‘decommissioning industry’ clusters located along the Fukushima coastal region, through a series of policy dialogues.
Last but not least, this summer, the NEA will help organise an international mentoring workshop for female junior and high school students from Fukushima, to encourage them to explore STEM careers and to build better, brighter futures for themselves and all the people of the Fukushima Prefecture.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The history of Fukushima may be unique, but many of its current challenges and efforts are common and shared. Many regions and cities around the world struggle to recover from natural disasters or economic turbulence. Working with communities is essential in restoring inclusive and sustainable growth, and the younger generation will play a key role in doing this.
As you all know, Japan will soon enter a new imperial era. “Reiwa” is the name of the upcoming era. I have been told that this, among other things, means that culture is born and grows as people come together and care for each other beautifully. This message is fully in line with the OECD’s priorities and with my message for you today. Let’s keep working together to build a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future for Fukushima and for Japan.
The OECD stands with you, and is committed to continue supporting these endeavours. Thank you.
OECD work on Regional, Urban and Rural Development