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India, Japan Join Forces to Build "Green Cities"

Japan is using their energy efficiency know-how—and corporate tech—to help India build "green cities." And China doesn't like it.

The Japanese government announced yesterday that it would sign a free trade agreement with India that would eliminate 94 percent of trade tariffs over the next decade. The partnership between two of Asia's leading innovators runs much deeper than sending goods across the boarder though. It's also sprouting a network of "green cities."


Historically, India and Japan have had strong relations politically and commercially, a result of the spread of Buddhism coming from India via China to Japan in the 6th century A.D. During World War II, the Indian National Army was employed by the Japanese Imperial Army in Japan’s efforts against British forces. Japanese commercial giants like Honda, Sony, and Toyota have long been operating manufacturing plants in India and one of Japan’s most successful companies, Suzuki, has a strong partnership with the largest car manufacturer in India, Maruti.

In December, 2006, India and Japan signed the Joint Statement Towards Japan-India Strategic and Global Partnership. Since then, the two countries have participated in annual summits, which have culminated in projects such as the Delhi Metro and the JET Program.

In November, 2010, India and Japan unveiled a plan to launch 24 green cities along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. These green cities will have optimized energy supplies, 24-hour potable water supply, bicycle and walking paths, and water and waste recycling systems. Preparatory work has begun on pilot projects in seven green cities expected to be part of the DMIC. “Green cities and green technologies will be an important part of the DMIC. It will be like forging a sort of a green alliance between India and Japan,” said Aftab Seth, a former Indian ambassador to Japan.

Japan’s reputation as a world leader in green technologies adds tremendous credibility to the possibilities of these green cities. Companies like Hitachi, Mitsubishi, and Toshiba are all expected to participate in the design and construction of eco-friendly towns in seven states. Because Japan is more energy efficient than India, the development of green cities will allow knowledge sharing across the nations, with the end goal being improved energy efficiency and overall quality of life for citizens of the green cities and, eventually, all of India.

India has a lot to learn from Japan: despite the massive difference in size of the two countries, Japan at one point was the shining star of Asia and now, even after all its economic woes, is still the world’s third largest economy. India’s potential though seems to supersede what global expectations were of Japan twenty years ago.

It cannot be denied that part of the motivation for strengthening the tie between India and Japan is to counter China’s progress. But the two countries are capitalizing on a unique opportunity to set a worldwide example of the future of urban planning and development. The combination of state-of-the-art infrastructure supporting transportation functions and the modernity of “green” living is an innovative idea and can very well change the way the world—both developed and developing—will view international relations in the context of readying for the future.

Nisha Kumar Kulkarni is a Senior Associate at Beyond Profit where a version of this article appears.

Image: (cc) by Flickr user Ivan Walsh.

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This article was produced in partnership with the United Nations to launch the biggest-ever global conversation on the role of cooperation in building the future we want.

When half of the world's population doesn't share the same opportunity or rights as the other half, the whole world suffers. Like a bird whose wings require equal strength to fly, humanity will never soar to its full potential until we achieve gender equality.

That's why the United Nations made one of its Sustainable Development Goals to "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls." That goal includes providing women and girls equal access to education and health care, as well as addressing gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls.

While there is still much work to be done, history shows us that we are capable of making big leaps forward on this issue. Check out some of the milestones humanity has already reached on the path to true equality.

Historic Leaps Toward Gender Equality

1848 The Seneca Falls Convention in New York, organized by Elizabeth Lady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, is the first U.S. women's convention to discuss the oppression of women in sociopolitical, economic, and religious life.

1893 New Zealand becomes the first self-governing nation to grant national voting rights to women.

1903 Marie Curie becomes the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She is also the only woman to win multiple Nobel Prizes, for Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911.

1920 The 19th Amendment is passed in the U.S. giving women the right to vote in all 50 U.S. states.

1973 The U.S. Open becomes the first major sports tournament of its kind to offer equal pay to women, after tennis star Billie Jean King threatened to boycott.

1975 The first World Conference on Women is held in Mexico, where a 10-year World Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women is formed. The first International Women's Day is commemorated by the UN in the same year.

1979 The UN General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also known as the "Women's Bill of Rights." It is the most comprehensive international document protecting the rights of women, and the second most ratified UN human rights treaty after the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

1980 Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland becomes the first woman to be elected head of state in a national election.

1993 The UN General Assembly adopts the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the first international instrument to explicitly define forms of violence against women and lay out a framework for global action.

2010 The UN General Assembly creates the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) to speed progress on meeting the needs of women and girls around the world.

2018 The UN and European Union join forces on the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

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As the UN celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is redoubling its commitment to reach all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality. But it will take action and effort from everyone to ensure that women and girls are free from discrimination and violence. Learn more about what is being done to address gender equality and see how you can get involved here.

And join the global conversation about the role of international cooperation in building the future by taking the UN75 survey here.

Let's make sure we all have a say in the future we want to see.

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