“Rebuilding Trust after Fukushima”

Sendai EN

On Monday I’ll be giving a presentation as part of a UNU side event at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai. For full details about the event, please visit here. For the event, I’ve prepared a new working paper, which can be downloaded here. The abstract is below

Update: if you want the short version, I’ve also added the powerpoint slides from my presentation: Sendai presentation 16.3.15

Christopher Hobson “Rebuilding Trust after Fukushima”, UNU Fukushima Global Communication Programme Working Paper #4 (March 2015).

This paper focuses on the lessons that can be learned from the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant following the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March 2011. There has been a strong path dependency with the Fukushima disaster, with decisions made during the initial response period having a determinative impact on the subsequent recovery process. It is suggested that more focus needs to be placed on the social dimensions of the recovery process, such as rebuilding trust and restoring a sense of security and wellbeing for affected people. It is particularly important that lessons are taken from the Fukushima nuclear accident because the combination of aging infrastructure interacting with a natural hazard to trigger a technological disaster is a scenario that is likely to become increasingly common in the future.

New op-ed: “Terrorism is low on the list of dangers threatening Japan”


I have a new op-ed in The Japan Times today. It considers to what extent the Islamic State and terrorism pose a threat to the security of Japan and its citizens. The argument I present is pretty sensible and obvious, noting the very limited threat terrorism represents and the need to be wary of politicians stoking fears for their own ends. Japan has thankfully been spared the worst excesses of America’s ‘war on terror’ and we should try to make sure it does not repeat the same mistakes.

You can read the full op-ed here.

Disaster Risk Reduction and the Transition from Response to Recovery


On 16 March 2015, UNU-IAS will be organising a side event as part of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which is being held in Sendai. The event is entitled ‘Risk Reduction and the Transition from Response to Recovery: Lessons from Japan’s Triple Disasters’ and draws on work undertaken by the Fukushima Global Communication Programme. I am participating and I will be presenting a paper focusing on risk communication after the Fukushima nuclear accident. Hopefully a written version of my paper should be online beforehand.

For more information about the event, please visit the UNU event page.

Asia Rising podcast

During Professor Nick Bisley’s recent trip to Tokyo he took time out of his busy schedule to have a chat with me for La Trobe University’s “Asia Rising” podcast series. We talked about the state of Japanese politics after Shinzo Abe’s recent re-election and reflected on the ongoing consequences of the Fukushima nuclear accident. I have been too busy with teaching and finishing my book manuscript to write any op-eds recently, so this was a good opportunity to present some thoughts on these issues. Please have a listen if you are interested. Thanks to Nick for inviting me, it was enjoyable to do.

Natural Disasters and Human Mobilities symposium


I will be giving a presentation at the ‘Natural Disasters and Human Mobilities: Research on Non-traditional Security in East Asia‘ international symposium on Thursday 5 February at Waseda University. The event is being hosted by the East Asian University Institute program in the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies at Waseda. My talk is provisionally titled, ‘Fukushima and the future: Reflections on human insecurity in Japan’, and in it I will be discussing my ongoing research on the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident. If you would like to attend, advanced registration is required. You need to email your name and affiliation to: campus-asia@list.waseda.jp

For more information, please click here for the symposium homepage and program outline.



2014 has been a very busy and productive year for me. Two books that I co-edited were published by Routledge: Human Security and Natural Disasters, and Human Security and Japan’s Triple Disaster, as well as a special issue of the journal International Politics that I co-edited. I also had an article published in Third World Quarterly. Even though most of these were finalized in 2014, they represented the final outputs from my time working at the United Nations University. I was very happy and proud to be able to bring these various projects to successful completion. 2014 was also my first full year at Waseda University. It has been a tremendous learning experience and I am very grateful to my colleagues and students for their patience and support during the year. Having now almost finished my third semester here, I am feeling a bit more settled in at Waseda. I am looking forward to 2015 at Seikei, there are some exciting things on the horizon. I am also continuing to contribute to the Fukushima Global Communication project at the United Nations University. In the meantime, I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year. See you in 2015.

Privatising the war on drugs


I am happy to announce what should be my final academic publication of 2014. It is an article published in the latest issue of Third World Quarterly, which is entitled, ‘Privatising the war on drugs‘. The piece looks at the role private military and security companies (PMSCs) have been playing in the US-led war on drugs. In this article I focus on Latin America, specifically Colombia and Mexico, but PMSCs have also played a prominent role in Afghanistan, as this recent post on The Intercept notes. While an extensive literature on PMSCs has developed (see here for an extensive bibliography), there is very little research that has examined the role they have played in regards to the drugs prohibition regime. This article fills in some of the empirical gaps, and also highlights some of the specific practical and normative problems that comes from using PMSCs in the field of counter-narcotics. I have included the abstract below.

The first 50 people to access this link are available to download the article for free.

Christopher Hobson, ‘Privatising the war on drugs‘, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 35, Iss. 8, 2014, pp. 1441-1456

A defining feature of the ‘9/11 wars’ has been the prominent role played by private military and security companies. The growth of this market for military and security services has not gone unnoticed. Yet the role these organizations have played in supporting the US-led war on drugs has largely gone under the radar, both literally and figuratively. The aim of this article is to look at the activities of private military companies funded by the USA in Latin America, and to consider the specific consequences that arise from employing them in the field of counter-narcotics. It is argued that the use of these actors further entrenches a costly and unsuccessful way of dealing with drugs. There is a need to move from a strict prohibitionist stance and consider alternatives to the war on drugs approach, but the use of contractors creates another strong vested interest in maintaining an increasingly problematic and costly status quo.

Audio from FGC seminar

For those interested, the UNU has made available an audio recording of last week’s seminar with Prof Gerry Thomas, in which she discusses how to understand and communicate the risks posed by the Fukushima nuclear accident. I give a very brief introduction to the themes of the seminar at the beginning, noting the challenges that have appeared for people having to come to terms with the complexities of the science surrounding nuclear issues. A brief summary of the event, including Prof Thomas’ powerpoint slides, is online at UNU’s website.

Seminar: Communicating Health Risks from Nuclear Accidents


On 15 October 2014, the Fukushima Global Communication Programme will be co-hosting a seminar with Professor Gerry Thomas, who is a Professor of Molecular Pathology at Imperial College London. She will be presenting on the challenges of communicating health risks in the context of nuclear accidents, drawing on the Chernobyl and Fukushima cases. Following her talk, there will be an open discussion with the audience, which I will be chairing.

For more information about the event, visit here. And if you would like to attend, you need to register, which you can do here.

On ISIS and evil


I have a new op-ed piece in The Japan Times today, which reflects on the challenge posed by ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Given the truly shocking and barbaric nature of their actions, it is easy for us to see ISIS as a group of medieval savages, or some kind of evil force. Yet identifying ISIS as an evil monster that must be ‘destroyed’, as Obama and other world leaders have promised, risks misunderstanding what is a complex political phenomenon. I argue that it is important that we come to terms with ISIS as a political actor, and try to understand their goals and grievances. My thinking on these matters has been inspired by the project I completed earlier this year on ‘evil in international politics’, as well as through a course I am teaching this semester, ‘Ethics and World Politics’ .

You can read the full piece here.