28 May 2020 | Bangkok – IN supporting local governments’ efforts towards sustainable urban development, UCLG ASPAC has consistently promoted cooperation between governments and within the international communities. Joining the Asia Pacific Mayors Academy, an initiative of UN-ESCAP, UN-Habitat and UCLG ASPAC in collaboration with other partners that aims at developing capacity of local governments for sustainable urban development is, therefore, a strategic step to realize this vision. UCLG ASPAC, a permanent member of the Academy’s Advisory Board, scaled up the voices of Asia Pacific cities in facing coronavirus disease and to leverage the role of this platform to meet the needs of local leaders through the Asia Pacific Mayors Academy’s first virtual meeting of the 2019 class of fellows, held 28 May 2020.

UCLG ASPAC, represented by Secretary General Dr. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi, shared COVID-related challenges experienced by local governments included limited budget and revenue, limited and not up-to-date data, misinformation among the public, and lack of synchronisation with central government.  Apart from that, UCLG ASPAC also promoted local initiatives that have emerged as communities have responded to COVID-19  such as the Vegetables on Wheels in Iriga, The Philippines, to address food resilience, digitalisation of traditional markets in Jember, provision of social safety net in Jeonju and Malang, and Jago Tonggo (Watching Our Neighbours) culture that strengthened community engagement in Central Java.

Looking to the challenges and opportunities, UCLG ASPAC has responded by connecting city leaders through regular virtual discussions. UCLG ASPAC bridged communication with government at national level as well as private sector. It has also facilitated solidarity act of Xi’an, Yiwu, Haikou, and Guangzhou in donating medical supplies. Reaching out further, UCLG ASPAC documented cities’ practices in tackling the challenge and distributed the knowledge within its network.

Concluding the presentation, UCLG ASPAC Secretary General stated that there is opportunity for local governments to build crisis resilience. She put highlight on cooperation of various stakeholders and city-to-city solidarity that plays a key role in enabling effective response at the local level.

On this occasion, UCLG ASPAC also moderated the mayors roundtable session that updated participating cities on detailed initiatives and impacts of COVID-19 on communities. Mr. Amrulah Kamal, Mayor of Tawau, and Ms. Noraini Roslan, Mayor of Subang Jaya, Malaysia shared that income loss has been projected due to relaxation of collection in their cities. To address this, Mayor Roslan came up with incentives for businesses to pay taxes in instalments. Dr. Menchie de Guzman, Mayor of Bauang, provided an overview of Philippine government’s national response and noted the provision of one-month internal revenue allotment for local governments to support response at the local level. Ms. Gina Lizares, Mayor of Sipalay, Philippines, shared their experience in contact tracing and in mobilising communities to create protective equipment such as masks and suits used in the city. The Busog Lusog Talino (BLT) or Central Kitchen Programme, an initiative of Mayor Lizares that serves healthy food for undernourished children in public schools, continues its operation during the pandemic and has extended its reach to the front liners. Food security is also addressed in Nili, Afghanistan, with the establishment of bakeries by women as remarked by its Mayor, Ms. Zahra Ahmadi.

Through this occasion, partners and faculty of the Academy also reaffirmed their commitment to support knowledge transfer by sharing the case studies and cities practices.

The Asia-Pacific Mayors Academy was formally launched during the Asia Pacific Urban Forum in Penang, Malaysia in October 2019, and held components in Bangkok in December 2019 and at the World Urban Forum (WUF-10)  in Abu Dhabi in February 2020. The Academy is an initiative of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), UCLG ASPAC, in cooperation with the UN University- Institute for Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), and Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). This virtual meeting was the first after the completion of the 2019 class at WUF 10. More information on the Asia Pacific Mayors Academy is available on its official website: https://www.asiapacificmayorsacademy.org/.