Tang Prize CEO Dr. Jenn-Chuan Chern, also current president of the Society for Social Management Systems (SSMS), recently participated in the 10th annual SSMS symposium on the theme "Resilient Region, Resilient City." The meeting ran from Oct. 26-27 in Bantung, Indonesia, and saw over 150 participants from 10 countries. The mission of SSMS is "to make a practical contribution to the improvement of social systems" through the "the collaboration of social scientists (sociology, psychology, economics, public administration) and engineering scientists (civil engineering, architect, mechanics, information technology)."
Over the past decade, the world has seen increased frequency and strength of weather-borne disasters. According to the Global Sustainable Development Report 2015 edition, natural disasters have killed over 1.1 million and affected another 2.7 billion people since 2000, not to mention the damage these disasters have done to the sustainability of nations. It has already been proven that improvements in disaster risk management can reduce infrastructural and human loss. In rapidly developing Asia the threat of natural disasters is regarded as the highest in the world. Recent studies have shown that the highest disaster-prone cities are located predominately in Asia. Past SSMS meetings have looked at the technical aspects of disaster management in "Disaster Prevention and Reconstruction Management," and have also considered post-disaster societal issues in "Jobs, Lives, and Hearts of Our People." In this meeting, "Resilient Region, Resilient City," participants targeted safety actions, urban planning and management, and developing higher capabilities between regions. Topics for the event included Innovative Disaster Mitigation and Management, Food and Energy Security, Regional/City Planning and Management, Methods and Tools in Resilient City and Region, and Institution and Finance.
During his opening address, Chern stressed that the recent "2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" signed by the United Nations General Assembly in September and the coming COP21 in late November are both set to address the major challenges of extreme poverty and the world's economic and developmental reliance on fossil fuels. The SSMS is aimed at the same problems, though from the perspective of social management systems—it is concerned with concentrating the efforts of multiple stakeholders to achieve sustainable systems, with developing interregional cooperation to reduce the impact of massive-scale disasters. In this particular meeting it also responded to concerns from the Indonesian government over forest fires and haze, two huge contributors to air pollution. The concern is not limited to Indonesia; places throughout the East Asia Pacific region are often affected, showing again the importance of international cooperation in disaster mitigation.