Activities and Events
Japan Day Seminar
20 Years of Japan-UK Relations at JLGC
The Recession One Year On – Strategies and Solutions for Local Communities
Local Government House, London – 23 November 2009
The event was opened by Cllr Richard Kemp, Deputy Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA) and Chairman of its European and International Strategy Group. After welcoming delegates, Cllr Kemp introduced Michihiro Kayama, Chairman of the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations of Japan (CLAIR). Mr Kayama expressed thanks to the LGA for co-hosting this year’s Japan Day Seminar on account of its being the 20th anniversary of CLAIR’s London office, the Japan Local Government Centre (JLGC), in London. The chairman highlighted the work undertaken by CLAIR between the UK and Japan, in particular the contribution of the JET Programme, paying tribute to the Japanese studies lecturer at Liverpool John Moore’s University whose son had later followed her onto the programme. He hoped that this experience would be taken into account by the new government of Japan, which had been elected on account of the people’s desire for change and as such CLAIR’s existence could be under pressure.
However, he stressed, it was important to take a long term perspective in order to deepen international bonds at the local level and hoped that this would be taken into account in any future discussions. Cllr Kemp then thanked the chairman before moving on to his own presentation. He paid tribute to JLGC’s 20 years in London and noted that what Japan had been undertaking for two decades through CLAIR, the rest of the world had only just started to do through the United Cities and Local Governments’ organisation (UCLG). The CLAIR model therefore he argued could act as a template for the rest of the world to analyse the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats faced by local government, he continued, and this had become apparent during his recent visit to a UCLG congress in China, where most other delegates reported that their national governments did not accord them sufficient power or resources and that such problems were in fact universal.
However, the UK was arguably the most centralised state in Europe he maintained, noting that while the government now accepted the need for decentralisation it was still failing to deliver. National government should set overall strategies he stated, not micromanage communities, as all towns and cities are different. While all localities are different, this does not preclude them from learning from one another, he asserted. For instance, the work being undertaken by Chinese cities to mitigate against climate change or indeed the theme of the event, UK/Japan knowledge transfer about tackling the recession. It would take a peculiar type of nationalist to disagree, he asserted.
Moving on to the event theme, he suggested that his own experience of serving as a councillor in Liverpool during the early 1980s recession and the later dot com boom crash had shown him that councils should not panic at the challenges which lay ahead.
The seminar then heard from Greg Clark, Adviser on City and Regional Development, UK Government. Greg thanked JLGC for the opportunity to speak at the event and hoped that it could become the first step on the path to a collaboration agenda of improved dialogue and learning between British and Japanese cities, which currently face a knowledge gap in collaboration and exploration of areas of potential connectivity.
The next speaker was Michitaka Nakao, formerly Director of Business Development, Japan External Trade Organisation London office (JETRO). Mr Nakao mentioned that he was currently unemployed after currently finishing an MBA course at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School following his resignation from JETRO and this was a source of shame to be part of such a prestigious line up of employed speakers. Furthermore, he was aware that many in Japan viewed JETRO as a waste of taxpayers’ money and stressed that his presentation was based on his own personal views, formed under the previous Liberal Democratic Party administration and not those of JETRO. In particular he noted the emerging collaborative links in bioscience research between Kitakyushu in Japan and Liverpool in the UK.
The event then heard from Sarah Longlands, Director of Policy at the Centre for Local Economic Strategies. Ms Longlands outlined the centre’s work and membership profile before going on to detail its resilience model, with particular regard to Portland, US and Yokkaichi, Japan.
Following a short break, a panel discussion was held between the previous speakers and Akiyuki Hamagami, Director General of the European Representative Office of Hyogo Prefectural Government. Mr Hamagami began by paying respects to the victims of the on-going floods in Cumbria, before going on to outline the role of Hyogo’s European presence and its efforts to attract visitors from Europe.
The panel was followed by a short question and answer session, during which further questions were asked regarding the governance and finance of economic development and the role of local links globally.
Richard Kemp then closed the event by thanking all speakers and guests and hoped that JLGC would continue in London for at least another 20 years. A reception then followed, which was addressed by Professor George Jones and Toshihiko Akamatsu of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, who both paid tribute to the work of JLGC in London over the past 20 years. Both were introduced by JLGC Director Noboru Fujishima, who also thanked delegates for attending.