5th International Conference on Flood Management (ICFM5)
27-29 September 2011, Tokyo-Japan

                       Floods: From Risk to Opportunity 

ICFM5: Final Statement









          Events beyond Expectation.   The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 11 March 2011 revealed that events beyond expectation (Soteigai in Japanese), or beyond the realm of assumptions used in disaster management planning do occur. It is a violation of the law of living with nature to establish limits related to extreme events and, thus, neglect the potential occurrence of events that might exceed those limits. 

          Increasing Complexity of Socio-Economic Systems.   It is recognized that the components of socio-economic activities are increasingly dependent upon each other and the impact of local disasters may quickly extend to national, regional and global scales through the market network (e.g., supply chains).  There is a critical need to evaluate, comprehend and address the complexity of existing and future socio-economic systems. As societal vulnerability to disasters increases through economic development and globalization, Asia is a “hot spot” of increasing global disaster risk while local disasters have disrupting consequences anywhere in the world. 

          Increasing Floods. Floods are the most extensive and frequently occurring disaster in the world, resulting in the largest socio-economic impacts to most nations in comparison to all other natural disasters. Flood frequency and severity continue to rise at many places, along with the accompanying socio-economic impacts. It is further recognized that the flood risk is becoming increasingly important in those urban areas that are experiencing expansion and higher densities of population throughout the world.   

          Increasing Flood Risk. Climate change is a serious factor that acts to increase the flood risk. The intensity and frequency of torrential rains have markedly increased, as evidenced in Taiwan in 2009 and in Japan in 2011. The flood risk is further heightened as a consequence of unprecedented urban growth, human encroachment in disaster prone areas, continued poverty rates, poor governance, environmental degradation, water illiteracy, corruption and other related human practices. 



            From Risk to Opportunity. The scientific knowledge of risk, as a combination of hazard and vulnerability, provides an opportunity to improve societies and their ways of life. This era of increased risk presents new opportunities for societies to shift from high risk, unsustainable cycles to low risk, sustainable cycles. Particularly when the scientific basis of a risk becomes known, it serves as an indispensable occasion to make critical societal adjustments. We now have the opportunity to balance desired life styles with enriched ecological environments. We have a unique opportunity to advance science and make wise use of our scientific knowledge. Reducing the disaster risk reduces damages that might otherwise impede continued economic development and environmental sustainability.   

            Management of Flood Disasters under High Levels of Uncertainty.   As a result of increased complexities, shifting populations and climate change the concept of flood management under uncertainty is no longer an abstract concept. The total elimination of the flood risk is impossible and new risk-based tools and techniques are necessary to advance flood management policy, engineering design and operations, along with the disaster management process. 

            Flood Management as Part of IWRM.   Flood management is a critical part of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). More efforts to integrate land and water development with basin-level management are necessary, including the involvement of the industrial, agricultural, environmental and administrative sectors. Integrative practices continue to lag in many nations. In this respect, the UNESCO publication on IWRM guidelines (2009) and the Concept Paper on Integrated Flood Management (2009) by the Associated Program on Flood Management are major contributions and their  recommendations should be more fully promoted. 

            Balance of Structural and Non-Structural Infrastructure.   There is an increased emphasis in modern flood management thinking on non-structural methods, such as land use planning, insurance, education, early warning and evacuation protecting high valued and/or important real estate. While these options are all very important, it cannot be understated that in many nations, many people have no choice but to live in flood prone areas where structural measures are critical for their settlement. Especially for high economic activities, such exercises as evacuation, business discontinuity with or without insurance and strong limitation in land use are not compatible. Continued economic development, therefore, requires a rational balance of structural and non-structural infrastructure.  

            Preparedness beyond Expectation.   It is now necessary to prepare for potential events that exceed expectations. The theoretical maxim of combined multi-hazard effects must be considered in community, national and regional risk management. Extreme floods and landslides beyond expectation that may result from typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, storm surges and other extreme events should be fully incorporated into the field of flood management.  

           Methods of Assessing “unexpected, extreme event” and Cascading Effects. The assessment methodology on the impacts of very rare, difficult to identify the probability of, and extremely high consequent events (black swan events) and cascading events should be more fully focused and developed.  

           Scientific Advancement of Prediction.   Unlike earthquakes, floods are largely predictable and to some extent controllable. Disasters of hydro-meteorological origin can be far better managed through the applied use of science and technology. Research and knowledge-based decision making should be greatly promoted in the flood management field. 

           Floodplain Protection.   A large number of concentrated populations throughout the world are living in floodplain and utilizing seasonal flooding water as a heavenly gift for their agriculture, fishery, transportation, etc. Flood management should not destroy nor neglect, but rather protect such ecological health and lifestyle of living with nature. 


3.  AGREE: 

           Implementation of HLEP/UNSGAB Action Plan.   UNSGAB/HLEP’s Action Plan on Water and Disaster is unique in its commitment to implementation. The national and international organizations that participated in this Conference should make strong commitments to the important items discussed during ICFM5, including early warning systems, preparedness indices, climate change adaptation and mega-delta protection. 

           Spreading the Word.   The participants agree to distribute this statement at other key related international events, such as the 1st Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Conference (Beijing, 2011), the 6th World Water Forum (Marseilles, 2012), Rio+20 (Rio de Janeiro, 2012), Flood risk 2012 Conference in Rotterdam and the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Reduction (Japan, 2015). 

           Sharing Knowledge and Experience.   Information sharing on the local, regional, national and international scales is an essential element of the flood risk management process. 

           Education and Training.  The participants recognize the huge need to enhance education and training related to the field of Integrated Flood Management (IFM). Furthermore, the education needs to be revised to train effective experts in IFM with a strong interdisciplinary background. A system thinking, that considers the different components of the system in relation to each other and tries to understand the whole systems in a holistic way, is pivotal to improve IFM and has to be introduced to students and practitioners. The importance of live long learning in an IFM context is essential.   


4.  INVITE: 

         ICFM6 .   The Ad Hoc Committee will organize a 6th ICFM to continue the exchange of innovative flood management research and practices and national, regional and international policy developments. 




The two plenary and 34 special and parallel technical sessions focused on several flood management themes, including risk management, emergency response, early warning, climatic regimes and cross-cutting themes.  Related discussions took place on how communities, nations and regions can, based on scientific knowledge, reduce levels of flood-related disasters and create resilient societies that are adaptive to global changes and future uncertainties. The outcomes of these discussions are attached in Annex 1.  

The International Forum on Mega-Water-Disasters was organized in conjunction with ICFM5 in order to incorporate recent experiences and lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Sessions of high-level experts and decision makers were convened and the discussions were reflected during the conference. The outcome and message of the Forum (Tokyo Statement) is attached in Annex 2