ASEAN Mayors Forum Fortifies Collaboration among ASEAN Cities and Local Governments

August 1-2, 2023 | UCLG ASPAC, as the ASEAN Mayors Forum (AMF) Secretariat successfully organised the 2023 AMF hosted by the Jakarta Special Capital Region. For the second time, the AMF and the Meeting of Governors and Mayors of ASEAN Capitals (MGMAC) were held jointly.    

In line with Indonesia’s ASEAN Chairmanship theme “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth,” the AMF and MGMAC elaborated on the theme “Catalysing Regional Growth through Sustainable Development in ASEAN Cities”. The Forum was attended by more than 300 participants including Governors, Mayors, senior local government officials, representatives of local government associations from ASEAN, strategic partners from UN bodies, national and international partners, and other stakeholder groups.

In his opening message, Mr. Heru Budi Hartono, Acting Governor of Jakarta Special Capital Region, remarked that local governments have a big role in supporting the continued relevance of ASEAN in responding to regional and global challenges and strengthening ASEAN’s position as the centre of regional economic growth. He mentioned how MGMAC was first initiated by the Provincial Government of DKI of Jakarta during the leadership of Mr. Joko Widodo in 2013 and has been since held annually following the ASEAN Chairmanship rotation.

Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary General of ASEAN, stated how the ASEAN Smart City Network (ASCN) and ASEAN Sustainable Urbanisation Strategy (ASUS) complement each other in catalysing opportunities for ASEAN cities. “For innovative, inclusive, and sustainable urban development, cities will therefore need to find the right combination of technology, policy, and partners.” He recognised the vital role of cities in spearheading action needed towards sustainable development and the need for ASEAN Member States to build their capacity to promote pathways toward low carbon and climate resilient ASEAN. He concluded his message by acknowledging how MGMAC and AMF can be credible platforms to deepen collaboration and partnership among the ASEAN cities and local governments as well as catalyse the collective efforts in attaining the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and beyond.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs (MoF) of the Republic of Indonesia, Honorable Retno L.P. Marsudi, inaugurated the AMF and MGMAC. She underscored that the people should be at the core of government work. She recommended that Governors and Mayors should pursue three main agendas to support the ASEAN Chairmanship theme: health resilience, food security, and energy transition.

During the plenary session moderated by Dr. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi, Secretary General of UCLG ASPAC, the host of AMF, the panelists representing national and local governments highlighted several key issues. Mr. Berlianto Situngkir, Director of ASEAN Economic Cooperation of MoEF of Indonesia, elaborated on the theme “ASEAN Maters: Epicentrum of Growth” based on three pillars: ASEAN Matters to signify ASEAN’s vital role to the region and importance of unity; Epicentrum of Growth to recognise ASEAN’s great economic potential and asset; and the implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific to facilitate stable economic development. Dr. Safrizal ZA, Director General of Regional Administration, Ministry of Home Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, emphasised the importance of balance between urban and rural life which is demonstrated by three strategies: regulation to manage rural life, the establishment of Ministry of Village and Development, and allocation of budget. Mr. Dakila Carlo E. Cua, The President of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP)/Governor of Quirino Province, the Philippines, remarked how his province as a rural area contributes to sustainable development through ecological balance and the ambition to be net zero in the next 5-10 years. Mrs. Noraini Roslan, President/Mayor of Klang Municipal Council, Malaysia, underscored the importance of having long-term plans aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA). Mr. Nuon Pharat, Vice Governor of Phnom Penh, Cambodia remarked that strengthening partnership and collaboration is key to global growth and prosperity not only between ASEAN cities and partners but among ASEAN cities as well.

Local governments expounded on their perspective during the AMF Roundtable Statement. Mr. Mohammad Sofian bin Haji Basri, Acting Tutong District Officer, Bandar Seri Begawan-Brunei Darussalam, stated that they have three goals to achieve the Brunei 2035 vision: develop educated, highly skilled, and accomplished people; ensure high quality of life; and achieve a dynamic and sustainable economy. Brunei also started mandatory reporting to track progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieved progress on SDGs 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 14, and 15 as reflected in their Voluntary National Review (VNR) 2023. Ms. Math Azimah, Deputy Governor of Siem Reap Province, explained how they are trying to reduce poverty by improving public service through one window, one service; public healthcare service; infrastructure; tourism development; agriculture development; and education. Mr. Dhany Sukma, Mayor of Central Jakarta, discussed how they are fostering economic growth by encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation and how they are adopting nature-based solutions to address extreme rainfall caused by climate change. Dr. Emil E. Dardak, Vice Governor of East Java, stressed the importance of ensuring disaster resilience, and standardisation of data management and protection, and expressed support for the implementation of Voluntary Local Review (VLR). Mr. Saveuy Silavan, Vice Mayor of Luang Prabang City, shared that their challenge is how local people annually burn their far which brings serious air pollution. To address this, Luang Prabang paid more attention to public awareness; education and public health; and the provision of jobs and project to address poverty. Mrs. Noraini Roslan described a smart city as one that can deliver services and advance a better living ecosystem. She highlighted how information can help make better decisions and how local government leaders must ensure not to create but reduce the digital gap. Mr. Dakila Carlo E. Cua explained the association’s initiatives on ease of doing business and public-private partnerships. Mr. Ngo Trung Hai, Secretary-General of the Association of Cities of Viet Nam (ACVN), discussed how ACVN is focusing on digital transformation particularly smart cities which they conceptualise with four layers: natural layer, physical infrastructure, digital infrastructure, and service infrastructure.

During the closing ceremony, Dr. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi stated that AMF 2023 Jakarta Declaration captured the commitment and actions of local leaders. Given its adoption, it will be submitted to the ASEAN Country Permanent Representatives (CPRs) and ASEAN Secretary-General for consideration.