26-28 August 2019 | BANGKOK – The 5th ASEAN Mayors Forum (AMF) was successfully concluded in Bangkok, Thailand, with more than three hundred fifty participants including 130 mayors/governors/cities representatives taking part in this year’s Forum. The gathering came at a critical time as studies show that ASEAN member states need to accelerate their work in various areas, especially at the local level, if the region is to get back on track in realising the SDGs and other global development agendas.
Discussions among ASEAN mayors and representatives from national/international development agencies, technical experts as well as private sector focused on how ASEAN cities and local governments can connect with various ASEAN’s cooperation frameworks such as the Complementarities Initiatives, the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 (MPAC), the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN), the ASEAN Sustainable Urbanisation Strategy (ASUS), and meaningfully contribute, to achieve the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 that truly leaves no one behind.
The event was organised in the framework of Thailand’s ASEAN Chairmanship, and in partnership between the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), UCLG ASPAC, the United Nations Economic Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP), and supported by the Ministry of Interior of Thailand and the European Union (EU).
The Forum was inaugurated by H.E. General Anupong Paochinda, Minister of Interior of The Kingdom of Thailand. In his opening remarks, he elaborated the importance of locally-focused development, stating that “this is the level that is closest to the people, resources and has the best knowledge of people’s needs and problems. If local governments adopt the SDGs as a framework for empowerment at the local level, this would help raise awareness among citizens and foster the linkages between local and international development efforts.”
Pol. Gen. Aswin Kwanmuang, Governor of Bangkok, extended his warm welcome remarks to all the participants and stated that “the 5th AMF which is organised under the theme Driving Local Actions for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth does not only serve as a platform for ASEAN Mayors and their partners to exchange and discuss their local development experience, but also demonstrates BMA’s commitment on international cooperation to strengthen local governments’ position and capacities in enhancing sustainable development at all national and regional levels, with people at the centre for the development process.”
Also in her welcome remarks, Dr. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi, Secretary General of UCLG ASPAC/AMF highlighted that “the world is not on track in achieving the SDGs. This is a critical concern that we need to address in ASEAN. As local government networks we can play a key catalyst role in fostering ownership from all stakeholders at local level. We can address inequality through inclusive service provision that do not only build on high technology, but also take into account our traditional and community knowledge.”
The remarks were also delivered by H.E. Mr. Pirkka Tapiola, Ambassador of the European Union to Thailand, and Dr. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, UN Under-Secretary General and the Executive Secretary of UN ESCAP.
First day of the AMF’s meeting started with a panel discussion on ASEAN’s Path Towards SDGs & Sustainable Urban Development, participated by Dr. Suriya Chindawongse, Director-General, Department of ASEAN Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand; Dr. Maung Maung Soe, Mayor of Yangon, Myanmar; Mr. Desmond Choo, Mayor of North East District, Singapore; Ms. Norliza Hashim, CEO Urbanice, Ministry of Housing and Local Government, Malaysia and moderated by Mr. Stefanos Fotiou, Director of Environment and Development Division, UN ESCAP.
Breakout group discussions focused the three main themes of Thailand’s ASEAN Chairmanship namely: Sustainable ASEAN (sustainability in all dimensions); Digital ASEAN (future-oriented); and Seamless ASEAN (enhanced connectivity). Fifty-five speakers, a majority of them were ASEAN Mayors, took part as speakers that led interactive discussions during the event.
A special briefing session on the Global Covenant of Mayors for Energy and Climate (GCoM) was conducted by the EU and attended by H.E. Mr. Pirkka Tapiola, Ambassador of the European Union to Thailand, to explain about GCoM initiative in Southeast Asia (GCoM SEA), launched last year in collaboration with UCLG ASPAC that also serves as GCoM SEA Secretariat and its Help Desk.
In order to better connect ASEAN’s work at the regional and local level, the first interface working lunch meeting between ASEAN Mayors and Country Permanent Representatives to ASEAN, was hosted by BMA to exchange about the each other work and areas where both sides can possibly support each other, in order accelerate the implementation progress of ASEAN’s cooperation frameworks, and ensure that their benefits are triggered to local level. As AMF has received the accreditation from ASEAN as the first local governments entity affiliated with ASEAN, there are opportunities that AMF can gain.
To manifest local governments’ commitment to contribute to the ASEAN’s relations with the Republic of Korea (RoK), as both are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of dialogue relations, Mr. Sung-Wan Byeon, Vice Mayor of for Administrative Affairs of Busan took part in the panel discussion on ASEAN Mayors’ international cooperation, together with Dato’ Sr Hj Rozali Hj Mohamud, President of Seberang Perai Municipal Council, Malaysia and Dr. Bima Arya Sugiarto, Mayor of Bogor, Indonesia. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Vallop Suwandee, Chairman of Advisors to Governor of Bangkok.
The 5th AMF was successfully concluded with the adoption of the ASEAN Mayors’ Declaration on Driving Local Actions for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth, which outlines concrete areas for further collaboration among ASEAN. The Joint Declaration of the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Mayors on the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN-ROK Dialogue Relations was also adopted at the event to mark this auspicious occasion and in the coming up of the Commemorative Summit to be hosted by Busan in November this year.
The 5th AMF was ended with the ASEAN Mayors’ Closed-Door Session to discuss about the draft Charter of AMF and strengthening ASEAN Mayors’ Network and Cooperation.