During the Hamamatsu International Summit on Intercity Collaboration 2019 on “Sustainable Community Building through International Cooperation of Cities,” that Hamamatsu hosted in partnership with UCLG ASPAC from 23-25 October, UCLG ASPAC Secretariat had a chance to learn about the city’s vision and prominent work on SDGs directly from Mayor Yasutomo Suzuki.
As one of Japan’s SDGs Future Cities, Hamamatsu has lived up to its reputation as champion of SDGs localisation and had a lot of experience to offer. Hamamatsu has thrived because of the Mayor’s leadership and citizens’ conviction to build a city that is not only sustainable, but also promote openness and cultural diversity. Here is what we learned from the Mayor.
Q: What was your vision for Hamamatsu City when you first became the Mayor?
A: In 2005, twelve municipalities in this area including the original Hamamatsu City merged and we became the 2nd biggest city in terms of the surface area in Japan. Upon this merger, Hamamatsu City now has the mountainous area in addition to the urban city. We have different industries including manufacturing, agriculture, and forestry. As a result, Hamamatsu City can be considered a small-scale type of Japan. If we can well manage the administration of Hamamatsu City, we can become a good model for other municipalities in Japan.
Q: Hamamatsu City submitted its Voluntary Local Review (VLR) at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York this September 2019. What urged you to undergo the process of VLR and how has this affected your relationship with national government and the people of Hamamatsu?
A: In 2015, the United Nations (UN) launched the SDGs and the member nations approved and ratified that. Japanese national government started to promote the SDGs in the country and that’s how we, the local government, also started working along. We began to investigate and study about the SDGs only to find out that the Hamamatsu Comprehensive Plan that we had before the SDGs was launched was very closely linked with the SDGs. Some of these initiatives involve good sustainable forestry management, use of renewable energy and interculturalism. The activities here in Hamamatsu have been highly evaluated by the national government and we have been designated as SDGs Future City in 2018. For Hamamatsu citizens, it was a big discovery that what they had been doing before the SDGs, what they have been doing locally, contributes to global targets. It was good to enhance their awareness that what they do is important to protect the Earth.
Q: How can Hamamatsu City connect more with other cities in the world?
A: Hamamatsu is the only Japanese city member of UCLG APAC, which is a very valuable network for us. That is why we have also been informing other municipalities in Japan about UCLG ASPAC work. We also joined the Intercultural Cities (ICC) Network, established by the Council of Europe. Furthermore, Hamamatsu is a part of the UNESCO Creative Cities in the field of music, being the first city to be part of this network from Asia. It is through these invaluable networks that we enhance inter-city solidarity and raise the profile of Hamamatsu.