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Examining Regional Strategies in the Era of SDGs

Takafumi Ikuta, Senior Fellow
April 2019


The role of local communities in achieving the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by their target year of 2030 has been attributed great importance. Various initiatives have sprung up among international institutions, networks of local governments, and Europe and North America which recognize the importance of the local level in realizing the SDGs. Japan has also positioned local governments' efforts as one of the three founding pillars of Japanese “SDGs Model”, which aims to increase the percentage of prefectures and local governments involved in SDGs initiatives to 30% by 2020. Following the output of one policy after another related to SDGs and rural community revitalization in 2018, more and more local governments have expressed interest in the UN's goals.

Fujitsu Research Institute conducted a survey of the public information from 1,788 local governments available on January 31st, 2019. Of those governments, 243 had transmitted information related to SDGs, and of those, 105 had begun to engage in general SDGs-related initiatives or were considering doing so. Only 12% of local governments transmitted information, compared to 60% of prefectures and 75% of ordinance-designated cities. With the advent of the SDGs, some local governments have begun to partner and cooperate with companies, universities, and NPOs. Furthermore, 25 of the local governments which have undertaken general initiatives were taken as a sample and an interview survey was conducted. In many cases, the division in charge of initiatives was related to policy and planning, and the pathway taken by the initiatives could be largely categorized as top-down, bottom-up, or parallel. Also, many leading projects were apparent, such as commitment and structural planning, representation in vision and overall planning, public awareness and dissemination of information, and partnerships and networking. Among the local governments interviewed, those which had been selected as the SDGs Future Cities spoke highly of that program. Additionally, interviewees identified issues with their initiatives, such as raising awareness among the public and businesses, evaluating outcomes, and project sustainability.

For local governments, one advantage of using SDGs is that they provide an easy-to-use common language encompassing all societal issues; they also offer an overarching vision and plan, consideration of individual policies, partnerships with stakeholders outside the local community, continuity of initiatives, and improvement of citizens' quality of life. Although emphasis is being put on localizing SDGs to suit the unique circumstances of each community and efforts are being made to develop local indicators, we must bear in mind the consistency of local initiatives with achieving the international SDGs. When a local government is considering and implementing an SDGs initiative, they must take the utmost care as they follow a process of understanding the SDGs, making their targets clear, preparing their implementation structure, defining goals, formulating a plan, implementing the initiative, and measuring and evaluating the outcome.

The full version of this report is available in PDF format below. This report is only available in Japanese.
Examining Regional Strategies in the Era of SDGs