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Resolution Requesting Drastic Reform of Legal System on Cities Aiming for Sustainable Cities


For a long time, Japan has been developing cities with placing a priority on economic activities and without taking account of the environment and residents' opinions. Such development has resulted in the unregulated expansion of cities, ruined valuable green land including agricultural land and "satoyama," a mountain near a village which is closely connected with villagers' lives, and destroyed characteristics of each city and good face of streets. Local communities have also declined. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) made a recommendation at the 36th Convention on Protection of Human Rights in October 1993 that in order to develop a principle that will value lives of residents and establish a system to substantially realize the principle, the state should reinforce public control of land, guarantee authority of and financial aid for local governments for developing cities, disclose sufficient information, and guarantee the right of people to participate in city development.


Contrary to the JFBA's recommendation, the state has been continuing to relax regulations and cities have been further disorderly developed across the country while participation of residents in city development is still not enough and the state has not transferred sufficient authority to local governments. Additionally, new problems have arisen. In urban areas, skyscrapers have been indiscriminately built and there are urban heat island effects. In local areas, cities are sprawling, and commerce facilities are being moved to suburban areas, with these resulting in hollowing-out of central city areas, and public transportation is in decline because residents are becoming more dependent on automobiles. Such changes in cities have caused adverse effects on children, elderly people, and people with disabilities, and accelerated global warming.


The JFBA reaffirms that everybody has the right to maintain a comfortable and fulfilled life in a good environment, the right which is crystallized as a part of the environmental right guaranteed by Articles 13 and 25 of the Constitution of Japan. In addition, everybody has the responsibility to sustain, without destroying and wasting environmental resources, cities into the future as places where all people will be able to maintain comfortable and fulfilled lives. For these reasons, it is time to transform cities into "sustainable cities" where with environmental consciousness all residents including children, elderly people, and people with disabilities are able to enjoy comfortable and fulfilled lives.


Therefore, the JFBA urges the central government to drastically revise the current city planning and construction laws to establish an integrated legal system on cities concerning land usage, construction, transportation, and cityscape, to include the provisions as described below.


  1. To state that the purposes of the legal system are to create and maintain sustainable cities and to guarantee the right to enjoy a comfortable and fulfilled life, to cover all matters concerning cities such as land usage, construction, transportation, and cityscape, and to respond to these matters in an integrated manner.
  2. To explicitly lay down, as fundamental principles, preservation of the global environment, cityscape, and green space; shift from automobile-dependent society; consideration for children, elderly persons, and persons with disabilities; and stimulation of regional economy and local communities. Also to stipulate that these fundamental principles shall guide/govern city planning and formulation of control criteria, and assessment process for each development project and construction.
  3. To enhance decentralization for local governments so that each city, town, or village is able to determine contents and procedures of city planning/control criteria and procedures for assessment of each development project/construction.
  4. To guarantee as a right of resident, by drastic reform of administrative appeal and judicial review procedures, voluntary participation of residents at an early stage in determining city planning/control criteria and in assessment process of individual development project/construction, so as to guarantee the right to maintain a comfortable and fulfilled life.

Japan Federation of Bar Associations
November 2, 2007 at the JFBA Convention on Protection of Human Rights

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