The Surprising Role of Local Governments in International Environmental Cooperation: The Case of Japanese Collaboration with Developing Countries

In The Journal of Environment and Development
Volume (Issue): 20(3)
Peer-reviewed Article

This study shows that some Japanese local governments, at both the prefecture and city levels, have engaged in international cooperation with local governments in developing countries in Asia to improve environmental management and explains their motivations to do so even if international cooperation is not usually considered part of local governments’ mandate, and despite fiscal constraints. Forms of cooperation include training officials from developing countries in Japan, dispatch of Japanese local government expert officials to developing countries, partnering with and providing assistance to international organizations, establishing organizations for international environmental cooperation, and hosting international intercity network programs. This cooperation can be explained by a combination of environment-related factors and degree of local area’s international orientation. Environment-related factors include desire to make a contribution based on local experience and human capital, promotion of international environmental business, response to trans-boundary pollution issues, and conservation of natural assets. Collaboration with the national government is an important facilitating though not determining factor since local governments respond differently to national policies. Other facilitating factors include local governments’ fiscal capacity. The cases in this study can promote consideration of the potential motivations and ways that local governments in industrialized countries can contribute to international environmental development.


DOI: 10.1177/1070496511415644