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A new set of presentation abstracts is now available below. Abstracts prepared by other speakers for ANJeL's Anniversary Conference on Socio-legal Norms in Preventing and Managing Disasters in Japan: Asia-Pacific and Interdisciplinary Perspectives", to be presented on 1-2 March 2012, can be found here and here.

The purpose of this conference is to compare the preparedness for large-scale disasters and subsequent responses in Japan, focusing on the earthquake and tsunami that devastated north-east Japan on 11 March 2011 and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant radiation leaks.

For more information and registrations please visit this page.

[7] “Insolvency law responses to a national crisis: Great East Japan Earthquake and Guidelines for Individual Debtor Out-of-Court Workouts”
(Stacey Steele, Melbourne University & Associate Professor Jin Chun, Daito Bunka University)

This paper will present the first detailed English-language discussion of the Guidelines for Individual Debtor Out-of-Court Workouts (個人版私的整理). The Guidelines commenced on 22 August 2011 and are part of the Japanese government’s response to the so-called ‘double loan crisis’ arising out of the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake and its aftermath. Disaster victims have been struck by the double hardship of having to pay out existing loans on assets which may no longer even exist, whilst seeking new finance to rebuild lives, businesses and homes. Other ‘debt problems’ are also plaguing disaster victims which may require a broader solution. The paper examines the drivers and stakeholders which led to the Guideline’s creation, and argues that their limited success is not just a failure in public relations. It also argues that these types of informal mechanisms have an important role to play in a functioning insolvency regime and considers lessons learned from other jurisdictions with informal mechanisms designed to alleviate mass financial hardship, particularly in the area of home ownership. The lack of current use may indicate the need for amendment of the Guidelines, but it does not mean they are a waste of time and resources.

* Jin Chun is Associate Professor, Faculty of Law at the Daito Bunka University in Japan. Born in China, Jin Chun graduated with a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Law, Ren Min University in China. Jin Chun also holds a Masters and Doctorate in law from Kyoto University in Japan. She specializes in insolvency law. She is fluent in Chinese, Japanese and Korean and has numerous publications on Japanese and Chinese insolvency law. Jin Chun is also a Director and Secretary of the East Asian Association of Insolvency & Restructuring.

[8] The Perspective of Disaster Sociology
(Associate Professor Anxin Zhu, Nanjing University)

The conceptualization, that is, the conceptual operationalization, of urgent social systems serves as an important academic work on considering the relief and revival process in response to a disaster. Urgent social systems can be considered as the relation between various agents at the time of a disaster. In urgent social systems, various agents play roles which are different from their usual functions. The first agent includes the individual, the family and relatives. The second agent is the community. The third agent is administration. The fourth agent includes NGOs both within and outside the nation. The fifth agent includes foreign governments or semi-governmental organizations, and other international organizations. In order to achieve better understanding of urgent social systems, it is important to pay attention to the correlation and cooperation between these agents during the process of revival. In Japan, the importance of mutual help between neighbors or help from independent disaster prevention organizations was emphasized after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, the March 11 Tōhoku earthquake and in measures against the predicted Tōkai Earthquake. In addition to considering this phenomenon in Japan, this report will also illustrate the feature of community development in present-day China.

[9] The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011: How is it working?
(Professor Elizabeth Toomey, University of Canterbury)

This paper addresses the aftermath of the devastating Christchurch earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.
It studies the genesis of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 ( the “ER Act”) and then reflects on the success or otherwise of its implementation thus far. The paper investigates the Act’s effect on normal resource management processes under the Resource Management Act 1991. The ER Act provides an expansive suite of powers to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (“CERA”). These powers include the ability to: streamline resource consent processes to enable temporary activities, including housing, depots and storage facilities; eliminate notification of resource consent applications for land remediation, council infrastructure and flood protection work; and accelerate or eliminate the usual processes under the Resource Management Act 1991 for public notification, hearings and appeals, especially in respect of fast-tracking new subdivisions.

The paper will illustrate instances where these powers have been used and what effect these actions have had on the community. Examples include the red-zoning of properties where land remediation is either too expensive or impossible; eviction powers on citizens who refuse to move from properties tagged “too dangerous”; demolition orders of heritage buildings; fast-track subdivisions; and the overriding of Christchurch International Airport Limited’s noise protection zone.

A fine balance must always be exercised when this type of legislation has passed. This paper investigates whether that balance is being met.

[10] Technology Regulation for Disaster Management: The Potential of Nanotechnology for Energy Security and Regulatory Challenges
(Dr Hitoshi Nasu, Australian National University)

Disasters in Fukushima since 11 March 2011 reminded us of the fragility of technological safety measures and the danger of a lax implementation of the safety regulation. The loss of confidence in the reliability of nuclear energy has quickly spread all around the world, raising the concern for the potential impact for energy security. The rapid development of nanotechnology and its application in a wide range of products such as solar cells are expected to help alleviating energy security concerns on a global scale. However, the inadequate regulation for the deployment of this new technology to industries, businesses, and households, may pose equally significant security threats to the environment, resources, and the global climate. This presentation will address those challenges to the regulation of nanotechnology, drawing on the experience and impacts of nanotechnology regulation in Europe and the United States. It will be argued that Japan should be more pre-emptive in developing the regulatory framework and regimes to direct relevant nanotechnology research and development towards more targeted and focused areas to address urgent energy security concerns, while mitigating the potential adverse impacts on other competing security issues arising on a global scale.

[11] Fiscal Planning for Chaos

(Micah Burch, University of Sydney)

Recent history has confirmed that disasters, both natural and man-made, are what one notorious harbinger of disaster himself might call “known unknowns”. In the face of such recognized uncertainty, an important question regarding disaster management and regulation is: who is going to pay for it and how?

This paper analyzes the (scant) literature on fiscal planning for disaster and considers a number of recent disasters (in Japan, Australasia, and the United States) in order to shed light on a fundamental theoretical problem of tax policy: identifying and weighing the appropriate tax policy objectives.

Disasters both magnify and alter the emphasis on traditional tax policy objectives and so, together with inherently extenuating financial and social circumstances, the problems of public finance under such conditions are even more fundamental and raw than during ‘normal’ times. An analysis of the tax policy issues raised by disasters is useful on its own terms, but also because of the insights it offers into the tax policy debate more generally.

This paper draws on, inter alia, a series of documents produced by the United States government regarding the development of a financial plan for a devastated post-nuclear attack economy. (The paper’s working title is taken from one such Cold War era Treasury Department memorandum outlining proposals for an emergency tax plan in the event of “all out war”.) While nuclear war clearly presents a different set of issues for the socio-legal order than do natural disasters, the tax policy considerations largely overlap and can constructively be compared and evaluated.

[12] Public Health Principles for Reconstructing Post-Disaster Tohoku

(Professor Michael Reich, Harvard School of Public Health)

Japan is now in the midst of major reflection on the triple disasters that devastated Tohoku on March 11, 2011. It is a time for reflection both on how things could have been done better in addressing the multiple catastrophes that occurred, and also how Japan should evolve into the future. My comments will propose six public health principles for guiding the reconstruction of Tohoku: (1) Provide comprehensive redress to the victims, (2) Protect the health of the workers, (3) Build up social capital as the basis of community reconstruction, (4) Create real preparedness for future disasters, (5) Make regulation more effective, and (6) Create a government that can be trusted. These principles could help Japan address the profound challenges that continue to confront Tohoku for individuals, communities, and society: the problems of care, compensation, and clean-up.

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Japanese Law in Asia-Pacific Socio-Economic Context