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When painting the bus, the Value Books employees also left space where children could add to its livery by drawing on it themselves with chalk. The Book Bus visits locations nationwide to sell books, usually at the weekend. More than half of the used books bought by the firm cannot be sold, either because the company has too many copies of the same book in stock or because they are not in pristine condition. On Thursday a huge crowd of people gathered around the bus at a shelter in the Mabicho district of Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture.

Insurance companies refused to pay out in the majority of cases because few people at that time had cover specifically for earthquakes. This is another powerful book written by many different contributors. I contributed a chapter that focuses on the advantages of empowering affected house owners to solve humanitarian challenges.

Broadly, Building Back Better argues the case for changing the power structure relating to reconstruction.

The people with resources — that is, governments and aid organisations, are in total control of reconstruction programmes. On the other hand, those that are directly affected by the disaster are also capable of managing their own recovery and often have their own ideas about how to do so. The only thing they lack is money.

The affected people and powerful people must work together more closely and become involved in participatory, democratic planning.


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The recovery system is complex due to donor reporting rules and there is an apprehension that the media may accuse such organisations of constructing poor quality buildings. And some are of the belief that if money is given directly to those affected, they are likely to spend it on drink and that they will construct low quality buildings. But there are many real life examples where local people have been trained and assisted by governments and aid workers, who facilitate the process rather than controlling it. More often than not, the quality of these buildings was superior to those built by large contractors, who build houses in a uniform style without considering many things that may be important to a particular community.

Once, while visiting a reconstruction project in Myanmar, I asked the local people which house they would be moving into. There was no involvement with the local people whatsoever. When I spoke to those involved in the reconstruction project, I was told that there was a terrible deadline from the donor. The whole system is not designed in a helpful way. Furthermore, when participatory planning took place, the community benefited because the money was invested back into the local economy. Sadly, such practices are rare in comparison to the number of disasters that have occurred — perhaps one in every hundred reconstruction projects.

Building Back Better argues that there is no reason why owner-driven reconstruction cannot be done in large-scale disasters.

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It was published during a world conference on disaster reduction in in Japan and it is regarded as the global document on disaster reduction. Know Risk is a large book — it contains almost articles, which were written by highly qualified professionals. As well as describing their experiences in disaster recovery, the book also contains many arguments about how to increase the effectiveness of disaster reduction policies.

It is unfortunate that on the whole, government policy-makers tend to regard death by military means as more significant than death by a natural disaster, yet both involve the same concept of human security. Globally, a vast amount of money is spent on building military capacity, and the amount that is spent on preventing disasters is peanuts in comparison. Governments throughout the world must acknowledge that human security should not simply be understood from a political perspective.

The state ought to protect the health and life of its citizens from both military attacks and natural disasters. It is within our rights to demand this be done.

The Great Bookstore Disaster of '08

Of all the disaster reconstruction projects you have been involved in over the last 12 years, which disaster do you regard as the most severe? The disaster that I found the most complex and the one that touched me the most was the tsunami — specifically in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. I went in by military plane and saw a truly terrible situation. There are hundreds of books available here, in all sorts of interesting genres, and all of them are completely free. Students have to pay a huge sum to get quality textbooks. My library You must enable JavaScript in order to use this site.

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