Agenda 21: Programme of Action for Sustainable Development adopted at the
Earth Summit of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 stated in chapter 28 that local activities
are necessary for solving issues raised in the agenda, and as to the
participation and cooperation of the local public sector, it urged local public
organizations to draft a "Local Agenda 21" for the local area through
discussions with local residents by 1996 and to implement the plan as well as to
conduct follow-up monitoring.
When looking at the follow-up efforts by the Environment Agency, it seems that their enthusiasm has been completely dampened. Because it was a plan relying on the spontaneity of each prefecture to start with, it can be said that that is the way it is and that it is not their responsibility. However, what is needed now is the formulation of contents for local residents to start acting locally. Without a national system to back up these efforts, I dare say that the Local Agenda 21 might be in vain.
I have received an e-mail from a community-based citizens' farm advocate from a region in England. The group is seeking local-level exchanges with Japanese groups in regions which incorporate citizens' farm movement, which includes City Farms and Kleingarten in their action plan of the local environment basic plan based on the Local Agenda 21.
They say that they hope to pursue the so-called "glocal" action, which means "to think globally and act locally", through the citizens' farm movement.
In a region in England, they outline six areas of challenges (i.e. countermeasures for traffic and transportation issues, measures to save energy, countermeasures for pollution and waste issues, protection of green space, creating healthy local environments and establishing strong and clean local economies), set up an action group for each task and compose a Local Agenda 21 forum under collaboration among local residents in an effort to achieve the expected goal.
The citizens' farm movement is included in the strategy of protection of green space.
In Japan also, it is necessary to let local actions taken by local residents bear fruit in connection with international efforts by grouping action plans commonly raised in the Local Agenda 21 of prefectures, forming a nationwide forum to help achieve each local strategy and formulating and supporting common strategy.
Although the Japan office of the ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives) is supposed to provide support for local governments to network internationally, their supporting activities are weak and their current membership in Japan is as small as 49 local governments, including only 11 prefectural governments. Therefore, Japan's own domestic support for supplementing this is required.
Acting in concert with the new agricultural basic law
I am currently keeping my eye on how the revised food, agriculture and rural areas basic law, which is now being formulated, can be used in accordance with the Local Agenda 21.
With this revision, rural policy will be better positioned in the basic law.
When the food, agriculture and rural areas basic plan is outlined and subsequently at the stage of drafting the prefectural level promotion plan for agriculture and rural areas, it will be inevitable to have cooperation with the local level Local Agenda 21.
According to the recently revealed interim report of the environmental basic plan of Iwate prefecture, one third of the plan is occupied by policies regarding agriculture and environment as Iwate is an agricultural prefecture.
It goes to show how high the share of environment planning has become in rural areas.
So far, international exchanges conducted by local governments, I believe, have been mostly general exchanges with sister cities.
Nevertheless, more focused exchanges may be possible in the future via the Local Agenda 21.
International exchanges of concrete information on the know-how of local area promotion strategy may also become possible through this.
It may be time for both central and local governments to rethink the significance of the reasons for adopting the Local Agenda 21 at the Rio summit and reformulate a tangible local action strategy.
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