Shigenobu Sato has been a vital part of the CITYNET Secretariat team in Yokohama as Assistant Secretary General (ASG) over the past year. As ASG, Sato-san contributed a valuable amount to the operations of the Secretariat thanks to his years of international experience as a former city official of Yokohama. At the CITYNET Secretariat Sato focused on liaising between CITYNET and Yokohama, advising on CITYNET activities as well as improving conditions in the Secretariat. He participated in a number of CITYNET international activities including the Pre-APEC Seminar of Climate Change in Yokohama in August, KLRTC XX on Urban Planning in Kuala Lumpur in July as well as the Sanitation Workshop and National Chapters Meeting in Palembang held in November last year. At the 28th Executive Committee Meeting in Yokohama held in October, Sato also contributed to the Meeting. On behalf of the CITYNET, we would like to thank Sato for his dedication and contributions to CITYNET. We wish Sato all the best with his new prospects and look forward to many years of continued collaboration.
Sato shared some of his reflections on CITYNET in the following interview.
Q. Please share with us a little about your background and interests. As Assistant Secretary General of CITYNET, what have been your areas of focus?
I was born after World War 2, grew up in a rural area and then later moved to the city of Yokohama. In rural areas, usually the second or third son leaves the house. I worked at a private company and then in the city government. Due to my upbringing, I have some knowledge of war and so I have a great deal of sympathy for the Asian people. I strongly hope for peace for all. I lived for a few years in New York and I have an interest in international relations. Previously I worked at the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and I can remember when preparations for the set up of CITYNET by UNESCAP were being made – it was quite exciting to see the beginnings of what CITYNET has developed into today.
The position of ASG is quite important. The ASG must operate both outside and within the Secretariat and of course it takes time to fully understand an organisation. The ASG has the daily responsibility to oversee the operations of the Secretariat, in place of the SG. The aspect of management is also quite important especially in identifying where people’s strengths and weaknesses lie.
Q. During your term, you had the opportunity to visit a few CITYNET member cities. What were some of your impressions?
Each city has a special importance as well as their attendance at events. Each city has a great deal to share on challenges and examples. During my visit to Palembang, I could see that the mayor was very popular among citizens.
When I visited the slum in Palembang, so many children welcomed us; I could feel a lot of energy and potential for the future. There are a great many things they would like to achieve.
Q. What have been some of your most memorable experiences at CITYNET?
Last summer I was surprised at the large support of the Pre-APEC Seminar on climate change in Yokohama – attendance was very high. CITYNET has an important role in organizing useful and attractive events for urban stakeholders.
I am also very pleased to have worked with such able colleagues.
Q: What is your future vision for CITYNET? What are some of the changes or improvements that you hope to see?
Times and circumstances for cities both globally and in the Asia-Pacific region are changing. We need to review and recognize our position. As we are located in Yokohama, it is at times difficult to keep focus on other target areas.
It is also important to keep in mind the rate of development and issues of diversity. CITYNET should respond to the changing needs of the cities but also we should not impose our ideas but consider many factors such as culture and labour relations within a city. People should not think that ‘money can buy everything’ and we should be sensitive to causing a drastic change in culture or lifestyle when we consider projects.
A city is not only a platform for mayors, we expect leadership from them to ensure for the lives of their people. Ideas of discipline, education, skill transfer, self-dependency and raison d’être may be differ from city to city.
City-to-city relations are very unique; we need to foster these partnerships for them to continue. Keeping a cooperative mind is crucial. If cities study lessons from others as well as being educated on the difficulties, we can teach each other these experiences.
CITYNET has to change with the times; if this can happen then the future of CITYNET will be bright.
Q. What words of advice will you give to the next ASG and the Secretariat? How do you think the role of the ASG can best serve CITYNET?
The role requires someone who has a great deal of energy. I think it would be best if it were someone who has a strong vision for the future of CITYNET. The next ASG will also pave the way for the transition to Seoul.
Q: What are your future plans?
I would like to enjoy my remaining time. I am very interested in history, geography and travel. I also plan to do some writing. I will continue to be a CITYNET supporter.
Q: What message would you like to leave members with?
Please work together with strong communication and on an equal level. I believe that CITYNET, including Seoul, the future seat of the Secretariat, will grow and benefit a great deal from shared experiences; I hope that this opportunity can be used to strengthen CITYNET even further.