Message Interview with the Chairman
Chairman Kizo Hisamoto
(Mayor of Kobe City)
Mr Hisamoto, you are the Mayor of Kobe City and therefore chairman of the Japanese Mayors’ Association of Designated Cities, an association of 20 cities in Japan. What specific goals and thematic priorities have these cities set themselves to achieve the 2030 Agenda?
The Japan Designated Cities Mayors Association (JDCMA) is a federation of 20 large cities in Japan. We actively exchange opinions on pressing issues faced by large cities and the future of these cities. In addition, we express opinions and make requests for solutions to these issues.
Regarding the SDGs, an Energy and Environment (SDGs) Subcommittee has been created under the JDCMA, and discussions are underway with the main theme of “Creating a sustainable decarbonized society.”
In Japan, awareness of and interest in the SDGs is high, and many local governments have incorporated SDG concepts and principles into their policies and plans. Each designated city is working to lead Japanese local governments in addressing issues that threaten sustainable development, such as the realization of a zero-carbon society and addressing biodiversity loss.
How do you evaluate the cooperation between G7 and U7 so far?
In 2022, with the support of the German government, we believe we were able to present a declaration that reflects the voices of the local governments of the G7 countries more systematically and effectively.
JDCMA has been participating in the activities of the U7 as a coalition of Japanese cities since 2021. I participated in the U7 Mayors Conference held in May 2022 as the Chairman of the JDCMA and reiterated that major cities, as leaders of cities, must proactively work toward the realization of a sustainable society, including taking measures to combat climate change, protect biodiversity, and eliminate intergenerational inequalities, while cooperating and collaborating with the national government.
Thanks to the efforts and leadership of the German local governments involved in the U7, the Declaration has been delivered to the German government, and the importance of cities is not only mentioned in the G7 Leaders' Communiqué but also emphasized in several ministerial communiqués and documents, which suggests that the U7 activities, including the “Urban7 Mayors Declaration 2022,” are being appreciated and that our collaboration between G7 and U7 is progressing.
In 2023, Japan will take over the presidency of the G7. This means that Japan will also represent the U7. Do you already have plans for the further development of the relationship?
The U7 began its activities in 2021, but in terms of local government contribution to the G7 discussions, it began 7 years ago in 2016 when local governments voiced their opinions in conjunction with the G7 Environment Ministerial Meeting held in Toyama, Japan.
We, the JDCMA, as representatives of Japan's chairmanship of the 2023 G7 Summit, will take over the U7 Summit. Compared to seven years ago, we feel that internationally the roles of cities are recognized strongly and that in order to achieve a sustainable world, cities should be involved in policy making at all levels as equals with the national governments.
The tension over the Russian war in Ukraine has made energy security, in particular, a global issue, and there are many other challenges we face. I believe that the world will move in the right direction if we, as local governments, keep a close eye on the social situation of the moment and proactively tackle these issues while staying close to our citizens.
We would like to deepen our dialogue and cooperation with the government while utilizing our network of 20 major Japanese cities and also working with ICLEI.
What support do you expect from the national governments that cities can utilize to unleash their transformative power in the sense of the 2030 Agenda and get closer to the Sustainable Development Goals, especially with the current diverse global challenges we are facing?
The social condition has changed over the past few years, including measures against COVID-19 and responses to the effects of the Russian war in Ukraine. In addition to responding to these changes in the social situation, climate change countermeasures and the transition to a decarbonized society are also in need of immediate attention. For this reason, the role required of local governments, including ensuring the safety and security of citizens' lives, is becoming extremely important.
In order to make the transition to a decarbonized society without leaving citizens behind, it is necessary to respond on a city-by-city basis and in detail, reflecting the actual conditions and capacity of each city.
In order to promote decarbonization measures, such as the development of hydrogen energy and low-carbon public transportation such as railroads, promptly and steadily, cooperation between cities and governments is indispensable. The government should establish a framework for international cooperation while promptly providing information to local governments on measures to be taken.
In addition, in allocating authority and budgets from the national government, local governments should be granted discretion so that the budget can be spent as freely as possible.
Although U7 did not receive official recognition as an Engagement Group in 2022, we are looking forward to working with all parties involved in order to receive such recognition in 2023.
The Mayors Association of Designated Cities will host the Urban7 Mayors Summit following on from Germany, and represent the large cities of Japan, the host nation of this year’s G7 Summit. Please tell us about your aspirations for the U7 Mayors Summit.
I feel that the role of the cities is more recognized domestically and internationally now, and that the local governments of all levels are now expected to be involved in policy-making on an equal footing with the central governments.
The 2023 summit will build upon previous initiatives, while evaluating their achievements and aiming to include the unique characteristics and strengths of the host country. Specifically, we would like to raise “SDGs” and “Peace” as central concepts. I want to advocate for the role of local governments and their contribution to tackling common international challenges related to sustainable development, such as the promotion of peace and democracy, response to climate change, biodiversity conservation, disaster preparedness, and resilience planning, as well as measures to combat inflation and rising energy prices. Furthermore, I would also like to mention the need for and importance of establishing international networks, such as inter-city cooperation and multi-level corporations.
At the same time, our association cannot make this upcoming summit a success all by itself. Therefore, we shall work in close cooperation with both our national governments, and the local governments of all the other U7 countries.