The Promoting Association for the Movement for the ‘Charter of Local Self-Government’
On March 1, 1997, the 50th year after the Constitution of Japan and the Local Autonomy Act came into force, the Promoting Association for the Movement for the Charter of Local Self-Government announced its ‘draft Charter of Local Self-Government’. The association had been founded by 20 organizations including Jichiroren, responsible for secretarial work.
Local self-government in Japan is now at a critical juncture due to the state’s persistent interference in it. The draft chapter is intended to be a guideline for opposing any attempt to impair local governments’ function of ensuring the safety, health, and welfare of inhabitants, as well as for seeking to realize, in every community, the conditional rights such as a decent life, human rights, and democracy. We hope that the draft chapter will be enhanced through widespread and broad discussions.
The draft Charter of Local Self-Government
The Constitution of Japan (hereinafter referred to as the Constitution) declares that sovereignty resides with the people.
According to the basic idea of people’s living in dignity and freedom, the Constitution guarantees all sorts of fundamental human rights, including the right to maintain the ‘minimum standard of wholesome and cultured living’.
The fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution should be realized in daily life of those who live in local communities, in which every person is born and grow up, and in which they live the whole of their life in learning, working or making a home.
This is the reason why local self-government is upheld in the Constitution as a part of its fundamental rights, as well as why local authorities are required to ‘ensure the safety, health, and welfare of inhabitants and stayers ’, as its fundamental responsibility by the Local Autonomy Act. It means the guarantee of local self-government will allow us to apply and establish the principle of popular sovereignty at local communities.
Today, the principles of the Constitution, such as popular sovereignty, respect for fundamental human rights, peace for all time, parliamentary democracy and local self-government, are threatened to be undermined.
The recent measures taken by the State reveals the flagrant disregard of inhabitants’ living conditions and safety, as well as their fundamental human rights, as shown in the following cases; failing in its duty to investigate the cause of devastated damage from the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake, and denying individual compensation for victims; making little account of human life in the cases of the HIV-tainted blood scandal and o157 food poisoning incidents; repeatedly cut backing social security programs including pension system. The whole administrative and financial resources of local governments are, meanwhile, planned to be used for deregulations, large-scale public investment for benefiting big enterprises, and large-scale development of general contractors.
The State is ready to carry out another plan of reorganizing municipalities into larger-scale unit, which is contrary to greater self-government of inhabitants. The presence of U.S. bases in Japan, as is the case in Okinawa, results in the facts that national sovereignty, local self-government and the fundamental human rights of inhabitants are infringed.
In the present state of things, quite a number of local authorities are striving for inhabitants’ life and rights, although they are facing with various obstacles and difficulties. Many local authorities are, however, compelled or willing to carry out the state’s policies linked by the national administrative and financial systems, and other various schemes. As a result, local communities are decaying, and regional industries are declining, and inhabitants’ fundamental rights including the people’s right to exist, essential elements of which are welfare, medical care, public health, and education, are being menaced. This is a breach of local governments’ duty of defending the principles of local self-government as well as inhabitants’ life.
On the other hand, there has never been a time when so many people come to hope to establish such democratic local authorities that uphold and fulfill the principles of local self-government whose leading players are inhabitants.
In the pre-war period, there had been no legislation on local self-government under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan. Authorities of prefecture, city and town served for strict rule over and suppression of the people, and mobilized them for the war of aggression, as an enforcement office of the Tenno (imperial) government and military regime. This was a remorseful and painful history of local government in Japan.
After the Second World War ended, the Constitution, based on soul-searching about the pre-war history, established the principles of local self-government along with popular sovereignty, fundamental human rights, peace for all time and parliamentary democracy.
Since then, in the struggles for human rights and democracy, the post-war local self-government, established together with the Constitution, has contributed greatly to the progress of the movement for defending Japan’s peace and democracy, and people’s life. The experiences of progressive local governments since the late 1960s proved that ‘local self-government whose leading players are inhabitants’ played an important role in the protection of human rights, such as the improvement of inhabitants’ life and the promotion of gender equality, and in a democratic development of local communities.
Now is the time for the principles of the self-government of inhabitants, ‘government of inhabitants, by inhabitants, for inhabitants’, to be respected. A new democratic and cooperative relationship between the State and local authorities should be built.
The principles of local self-government may be achieved and established by our carrying through the constitutional principles of democracy and peace in every field of politics, economy, and societies. The democratic reform of national government and the democratic development of local self-government can be described as inseparable, two halves of the same whole.
With the twenty-first century just around the corner, the international community is aiming at the same goals, as common issues for all humanity; a peaceful world free of armed conflicts, an environmentally sustainable community, a democratic society by popular sovereignty, non-discriminatory society in which fundamental human rights are guaranteed, overcoming poverty through realizing economic democracy in the international society, gender equality of all women and women’s full participation in the process of development.
Back home, there are signs of steady progress in local joint actions of inhabitants, based on the same wishes, such as; a peaceful country free of nukes and military bases; a community with rich greenery where people can live with safety and an easy mind; a lively community and democratic development of the local economy; a comfortable aged society that guarantees fundamental human rights to every individual; gender equality and the advancement of women’s status.
Today, in the fiftieth year after the Constitution and the Local Autonomy Act were enacted, as seen in the expansion of systems of inhabitants’ participation, a new development of local self-government and building democratic local authorities begin to gain a momentum. In order to open the way to the twenty-first century in which the democratic ideas of the Constitution as well as local self-government bloom, much greater progression is required in a national cooperation in ‘defending the Constitution and local self-government’, focusing on people’s life, human rights, and peace at every workplace as well as at every community.
With the purpose to lead the twenty-first century into an era of local self-government by advancing the pioneering spirit, the universality, and the internationalism of the Constitution’s principles of democracy and peace, we declare this Charter of Local Self-Government.
(Fundamental human rights and local self-government)
Article 1. i) All inhabitants, at the community where they live, have all the fundamental human rights, including the right to be respected as individuals, the right to live in peace, theright tomaintainthe wholesome and cultured living.
ⅱ) Local authorities are require to endeavour to ensure the fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
ⅲ) Local authorities are required to endeavour to fulfill its responsibility for publicly ensuring the life, property, health and welfare of inhabitants, and constantly improving these standards.
(Principle of inhabitants’ self-government)
Article 2. i) The leading role in local self-government shall be played by inhabitants, as is provided in the Constitution as ‘the principle of local self-government’, and as is recognized in the international society.
ⅱ) Heads and officials of local governments, and members of its assemblies shall, according to the principles of the Constitution, endeavour to respect the principle of inhabitants’ self-government, as well as to realize it at every aspect of government.
ⅲ) Local authorities shall respect the rights of inhabitants, provided by the Constitution and the Local Autonomy Act, such as the right to vote and stand for public office, the right to make a direct demand toward each local authority and the right of petition, as well as shall endeavour to ensure inhabitants’ participation through a variety of ways, like a referendum.
ⅳ) The maximum possible freedom of information shall be guaranteed to inhabitants, as precondition for inhabitants-centred local self-government.
(The life of inhabitants and measures of local authorities)
Article 3. i) Local authorities shall, with the purpose to realize the fundamental human rights of inhabitants, make a constant effort to achieve the goals of the following administrative measures for, such as;
･ improving welfare, medical care and public health,
･ ensuring the healthy growth of children and improving education, culture and sport,
･ maintaining safety and its disaster prevention measures, and an agreeable environment, throughout the country and each local community,
･ promoting urban planning on inhabitants’ own initiatives,
･ developing local industries and economy,
･ realizing gender equality in every local community,
･ making social security more comfortable and more reliable for the aged,
･ realizing a peaceful community without any military base across the country,
･ establishing a democratic energy policy, taking all other necessary measures.
ⅱ) Local authorities shall , with the purpose to fulfill the measures set forth in the preceding paragraph, on the basis of the will of inhabitants, adhering to the principle of corporation self-government, create its own plans, as well as request the state to implement such necessary measures, as the improvement of national minimum, development of relevant laws, provision of information, allocation of appropriate financial resources.
(Responsibilities of Heads and personnel of local authorities, and members of its assemblies)
Article 4. i) Heads of local authorities shall, respecting the principles of the Constitution and the Local Autonomy Act according to the principle of inhabitant self-government, endeavour to rejuvenate public services by ensuring a variety of inhabitants’ participations, and to improve the level of public administration by using ingenuity of personnel.
ⅱ) Local assemblies shall, according to the principle of inhabitant self-government, fulfill its duties and responsibilities as a deliberative organ of a local authority. It is important for members of local assemblies to join inhabitants and local assemblies, as well as to play an appropriate role in progressing local self-government through a variety of inhabitants’ participations.
ⅲ) Personnel of local authorities shall be conscious of their duties and responsibilities for serving inhabitants and endeavour to realize public services for defending inhabitants’ life and human rights as well as to take such measures to create and preserve favorite environments for inhabitant self-government. To fulfill their duties and responsibilities set forth in the preceding sentence, personnel shall be secured their status as an official and working conditions, and guaranteed their rights in regard to civil and political liberty.
Article 5. i) Greater self-government of local authorities, which rightly derives from the principle of inhabitant self-government, has a great significance to the development of Japan’s democracy including in the national and local politics
ⅱ) The State and local authorities shall endeavour to increase power of local self-government by reorganizing their administrative affairs and jurisdiction, revising relevant laws and regulations, and preventing undemocratic involvements.
ⅲ)Ensuring greater self-government of local authorities shall be allocated a necessary revenue resource. The State and local authorities shall endeavour to secure revenue resource and independent administration of local authorities.
ⅳ) Local authorities shall, based on the will of inhabitants, as a defender of the life and human rights of inhabitants, make a constant endeavour to enhance its ability to make policies on its own decision and to impartially accomplish them.
(Reform of national government, and local self-government )
Article 6. i) Improvement of measures for defending the life and human rights of inhabitants in every local community links with realization of the people-oriented national government. Inhabitants and local authorities shall improve much more national administration through a variety of ways of exercising their rights to state their opinions or to put forward their proposals.
ⅱ) Inhabitants and local authorities shall, against such actions as the State seeks to encroach on power of local self-government without any justifiable grounds, or to make any alteration of the system of local self-government linked therewith, have the right to state their opinions, to put forward their proposals and to act, as a defender of inhabitants’ self-government.
(Responsibility of inhabitants )
Article 7. Inhabitants shall, as leading players in local self-government, have responsibility for exercising their rights, and for taking every opportunity to participate in government, and for enhancing their self-governing ability on their own efforts, for the purpose of the protection and progress of local self-government.
(Charter of local self-government )
Article 8. This Charter shall be verified by the movements of persons and various organizations that seek to make progress in local self-government as well as by the experiences of local authorities, and shall be enhanced through national debates about it, from now in the future.
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