When a delegation of the city of Växjö, Sweden, visited Shimokawa, they were positively impressed by the advanced citizen engagement and immediately sat down with their Japanese counterparts to learn more.
In a nutshell, this is the lesson of the World Cities Third Country Cooperation project and the reason why city-to-city cooperation is a powerful tool for local leaders and civil servants to exchange and confront good practices, discuss common challenges and build lasting connections and friendships across distant places.
The World Cities Third Country Cooperation project is a city-to-city exchange program launched by the European Commission – Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy. ICLEI was selected to facilitate the exchange between cities in the European Union and counterparts in Japan and Canada.
The project, just concluded, involved eight city pairings, four between EU and Canadian cities, four between EU and Japanese cities. Climate resilience, green infrastructure, urban mobility and renewable energy were among the key areas on which cities exchange knowledge.
The city pairs were:
- For the EU - Canada Urban Policy Exchange
- For the EU - Japan Urban Policy Dialogue
Through workshops and field visits these cities explored possible options to address common sustainable urban development challenges. The Japanese leg of the exchange also focused on how an ageing and declining population affects urban policies, a key issue in many Japanese cities.
The project was very successful, in that to extend their partnership beyond the project’s scope and time frame, some cities signed memoranda of understanding and developed academic or expert-level partnerships.
The project cities also spread the word about the project and the benefits of city-to-city cooperation to a wider range of cities during conferences and seminars at various international events such as Metropolitan Solutions, the German Habitat Forum, the United Nations conference in Nairobi, Resilient Cities 2016.
Some of the cities will also be attending the Habitat III conference in Quito, to share their experience and lessons learned with a wider global audience.
Several of the cities also joined ICLEI multi-partner initiatives such as the EcoMobility Alliance and the 100% Renewables network, to advance local implementation and share experiences on a global level.