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  5. Formulating the Kansai SDGs Citizens' Agenda: Fostering Public Awareness and Creating the Future

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FOCUS September 2020 Volume 101

Formulating the Kansai SDGs Citizens' Agenda: Fostering Public Awareness and Creating the Future

IWASAKI Hiroyasu and TAKAHASHI Miwako

The initiative of the Kansai SDGs Citizens’ Agenda (K-SDGs) of formulating a Sustainable Development Goals Agenda (SDGs Agenda) began in March 2018 based on a proposal from a non-governmental organization (NGO) at a reception celebrating the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Kansai NGO Council. It was motivated by the Council’s aspiration to communicate the “civil society” perspective on SDGs to the public. The initiative involves members of the civil society giving thought on the issues that the SDGs seek to solve, raising their voices, sharing their thoughts, and becoming aware of and owning the fundamental significance of the SDGs.

Inspiration from Hokkaido

Sapporo Alternative School “Yu”  in Hokkaido published the pamphlet “SDGs – Setting Local Goals for Hokkaido” in March 2017, which compiled the outcomes of workshops organized over the year. In the workshops, discussions were held on topics such as poverty and disparities, labor and employment/consumption and production, gender/minorities, Hokkaido and Ainu (the indigenous people), energy, climate change/marine resources, bio-diversity, quality education/ESD and international cooperation and peace. Local goals and action plans were then formulated. Behind these efforts was the conviction that the SDGs were there to affirm the everyday wishes of citizens, such as the hope “to eliminate poverty,” ”to achieve respect for human rights,” “to protect the environment” and “to create a peaceful world,” as global common values and goals, and that each one of us as citizens was the main actor in achieving the 2030 Agenda, “Transforming the World.”

We did not want to miss the opportunity to learn from this experience, so the Kansai NGO Council invited KOIZUMI Masahiro, the Secretary-General of “Yu” to start our own project. A kick-off meeting for K-SDGs was held on 7 July 2018 at the Higobashi Kanpo Building with forty participants. In addition to the discussion of experiences in Sapporo, KOIZUMI presented a new pamphlet, “SDGs – Setting Local Goals for Hokkaido 2: SDGs in Ainu Context” (published in March 2018). KOIZUMI’s message was powerful enough for every participant to keep the SDGs motto “leave no one behind” in mind and to realize the importance of focusing SDGs on local issues from the perspective of social inclusion.

Efforts to Formulate the Citizens’ Agenda

The following workshops were organized for K-SDGs:
•    Session 1: Human Rights, Gender
    11 September 2018, Seminar Room, St. Paul’s Church, Osaka, with thirty-six participants, and MIWA Atsuko as speaker;
•    Session 2: Disasters
    27 October 2018, OSAKA YMCA, with forty participants, and YOSHITSUBAKI Masamichi as speaker;
•    Session 3: Multiculturalism
    8 December 2018, OSAKA YMCA, with forty-five participants and TAJIRI Tadakuni as speaker;
•    Session 4: Education
    26 January 2019, Higobashi Kanpo Building, with forty participants and NITTA Kazuhiro as speaker;
•    Session 5: Sustainable Working Style/Business and Human Rights
    9 February 2019, Higobashi Kanpo Building, with forty participants and OKAJIMA Katsuki and MATSUOKA Hideki as speakers;
•    Session 6: Environment
    April 2019, Higobashi Kanpo Building, with sixteen participants and SUGIMOTO Ikuo as speaker.

In the workshops, participants discussed the issues after listening to the speakers, and everyone was requested to write about “My Vision of 2030.”

Group discussion during a workshop. Photo: Kansai NGO Council

On 24 December, 2018, at OSAKA YMCA, a workshop titled “Kick-off Project for Agenda Formulation by High-School and University Students,” was organized as one of the programs in the 5th One World Festival for Youth with fifty participants.

Politics and Economics in Line with the SDGs

The United Nations adopted in September 2015 the resolution, “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” In Japan, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Promotion Headquarters headed by the Prime Minister was convened in May 2016, and in December of the same year, the SDGs Implementation Guiding Principles were adopted. The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) revised its Charter of Corporate Behavior in November 2017 to integrate the SDGs. The SDGs were even used to attract the World Expo to be held in 2025 in Japan, and there have been increasing arguments that SDGs will contribute to economic vitalization.

The SDGs Implementation Guiding Principles raise the principles of universality, inclusiveness, participatory approach, integrated approach, transparency and accountability for the implementation of the SDGs. The Guiding Principles state that government policies should be made in accordance with the SDGs’ perspectives and the government should cooperate with a wide range of stakeholders in achieving the SDGs. They also explicitly note that “in the implementation of the Agenda, NGOs and NPOs will likewise play an extremely important role” in facilitating “collaboration with vulnerable people and advocate on potential challenges and policy options through their networks at the global and regional levels.” The Guiding Principles name not only “NPOs and NGOs” but also “private companies,” “consumers,” “local governments,” “the science community,” and “labor unions” as stakeholders.

The SDGs pledge to “leave no one behind” and indicate that it is important to balance the three dimensions of sustainable development, namely, the environmental, social and economic dimensions. This is because no one can dispute the fact that we are still a long way from achieving gender equality, and that the environmental, social and economic dimensions are very much out of balance. And that is the reason that the significance of the agreement on the seventeen goals and one hundred sixty-nine targets of the SDGs after discussions in the UN is immeasurably significant, and neither the government nor the business sector can ignore them.

The Kansai SDGs Platform was launched in December 2017, led by JICA Kansai. We were asked to be involved, as the Platform wanted NGOs to be part of the management, and so the Deputy-Representative of the Kansai NGO Council became a member of the Platform’s organizing committee. We will work as partners with the participating organizations in fulfilling our role of monitoring initiatives such as the World Expo 2025 on whether they are managed in line with the SDGs, and whether they integrate the economic, environmental and social (particularly regarding human rights) dimensions, in order to achieve the SDGs.

Future of Kansai SDGs Citizens’ Agenda

We would like to introduce some voices of “My Vision of 2030”: “The proportion of parliamentarians by gender should be 50-50,” “achieving a quota system,” “guaranteeing opportunities to learn about social minorities,” “leaving office at the end of office hours,” “gender equality in house work, child care and other care work,” “no child on waiting list for child care facilities,” “guaranteeing equal pay for equal work and equal pay for work of equal value to women and non-Japanese workers,” “implementation of basic income on a trial basis,” “a society in which diverse people can work together,” “avoid using the word ‘normal’,” “a society in which non-Japanese residents join community meetings,” “networking in preparation for disasters,” “trying to help anyone in trouble,” “enjoying differences,” “providing in-service training for teachers/educators,” “learning about diversity, dialogue and peace, global citizenship,” “aiming for 100 percent renewable energy,” “a town with 0 percent disposable containers,” “alternative consumer life to pass on to the next generation.”

These examples of voices express our aspiration as citizens to face the lives of the people and strive towards solving the issues in those lives; indeed, the issues are there right at our feet, and addressing those issues is what the realization of the SDGs is about. With people from various backgrounds coming together and sharing the views, we are able to clarify our goals of how and what 2030 should be.

The Osaka Citizens’ Summit was held on 25-26 June 2019, just before the G20 Summit Meeting. K-SDGs was in charge of organizing the workshop “Community and SDGs.” Approximately ninety people participated, and while we reported on our year-long activity, panelists from Okinawa, Okayama, Toyama and Hokkaido prefectures spoke about the efforts being made in their local communities. We shared our views on the importance of civil society participation in the decision-making process towards achieving the SDGs. Participants also raised the significance of addressing issues of disparities and poverty as well as issues faced by minorities.

The C20 (Civil20) Meeting at which the civil society presented its policy proposals to the G20 Summit was held on 21 to 23 April 2019 in Tokyo, and the Kansai NGO Council was given an opportunity to report on the K-SDGs. After our report, participants from China, New Zealand and Mongolia came up to tell us that they would also like to start formulating local agenda in their own local communities. It seems that the simple structure of our initiative―community members sharing the awareness of citizenship can launch their own initiatives by gathering to talk―attracted their interest.
In the process of presenting our K-SDGs at the C20 and the Osaka Citizens’ Summit, we have clearly observed that citizenship and local issues are firmly related, and we are determined to move to the next stage by sharing our challenges and outcomes with fellow citizens in other communities. There is a growing tendency to understand the SDGs as being relevant to each one of us, as well as awareness of the importance of sending the voices of the citizens to the policy decision-making processes.

In the meantime, we will continue our discussions regarding K-SDGs, and join hands with consumers, labor unions and schools, to create an agenda that reflects the citizens’ voices. We welcome your participation.

Iwasaki Hiroyasu is an Auditor of Kansai NGO Council; while Takahashi Miwako is a Director and the Secretary-General of the Council.

For further information, please contact: Kansai NGO Council, e-mail:;