UCLG ASPAC is proud to announce its continued support to the 5th Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation, a biennial award event hosted by Guangzhou city government to recognise innovation in improving social, economic, and environmental sustainability in cities and regions. UCLG ASPAC encourages all city members to promote their innovations and to participate in this Call!

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About the Award

Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation, or referred in short as the Guangzhou Award, was initiated in 2012 by Guangzhou City together with UCLG and Metropolis. The event has grown into a flourishing system for sharing knowledge on sustainable urban development. Benchmarking against the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and New Urban Agenda (NUA), the Award has been mobilising exchange of innovative development experience and knowledge in improving social, economic and environmental sustainability among cities and regions all over the world.

Adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fifth cycle of the Guangzhou Award seeks to encourage cities and local governments to “rethink their local governance mechanisms, reconsider the urban morphology and typology, address the problems exposed, and improve the resilience of urban economy” by welcoming forward-looking post COVID-19 initiatives. Such call for problem-solving introspections on urban governance against the unprecedented pandemic is a stimulus to enhance the overall local governance capacity of cities and local governments under the context of large-scale public health crisis.

Working with partners including UCLG ASPAC, Guangzhou Award has received more than 400 initiatives from nearly 300 cities and local governments in the Asia-Pacific region during the previous four cycles. The reservoir of initiatives pools the local wisdom of this region in addressing governance problems by various means such as improving public services, public sector organisation and management, partnerships and public participation, and building smart cities and sustainable cities. Remarkably, under the framework of the Guangzhou Award, Guangzhou City has organised a series of thematic activities, conducted several field researches and explored regional cooperation projects subject to SDGs and NUA in Asia-Pacific region. Moreover, Guangzhou Award has invited many experts on urban governance, especially from this region as recommended by UCLG ASPAC, into its think tank.

Leadership of city managers is the pivotal strength in promoting urban innovation and improving urban governance. Their capacity and vision are of significance to the future of the city. On this basis, the Workshop for Thought Leaders has been held successfully since 2015 during the gap year between every two cycles of the Guangzhou Award. As a warm-up for the coming cycle of the Guangzhou Award, the Workshop has become a platform for local-level leaders, decision makers and other stakeholders to exchange their thoughts and experience in urban governance.

It is acknowledged that city diplomacy ties in with national diplomacy. To its credit, under the framework of the Guangzhou Award, Guangzhou City has worked together with one of its sister cities, Surabaya City, which is also a presidency city and active member of UCLG ASPAC, to provide local solutions to specific global governance issues, i.e. economic development, social management and environment protection. In this regard, the city-to-city cooperation serves as an important supplement to cooperation between the two countries.

Guangzhou and UCLG ASPAC

As an active member of UCLG ASPAC, Guangzhou has taken up the opportunity as the Chair of Standing Committee of Women in Local Government (SCWLG). In September 2019, Madam Chen Yini, Vice Chair of Guangzhou People’s Political Consultative Committee, has been elected as the Chair of SCWLG, which is an ex-officio co-president of UCLG ASPAC, representing women in the Presidency of the institution. Furthermore, the 3rd Workshop for Thought Leaders held December 2019 also customised a section for exchanging ideas for women and children’s well beings. The city sponsored UCLG ASPAC members to increase the engagement of SCWLG representatives in the event. In the coming future, mobilising resources to achieve transnational cooperation in diagnosis, treatment and health management at local level in the region would be one of the priorities of SCWLG. In addition, Guangzhou City supports the work of UCLG ASPAC in various ways, in pursuit of consensus on relevant conceptions and solutions to common challenges so as to realise sustainable urban development.

Through UCLG ASPAC, Guangzhou City has also joined the international cooperation in containing the COVID-19 pandemic by sharing knowledge and donating supplies. Guangzhou City shared its experience in tackling COVID-19 crisis at local level during the UCLG ASPAC WebShare #2 “Local Governments Efforts in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak,” held on April 09, 2020, during which Madam Chen emphasised the importance of enhanced cooperation and exchanges among cities to tackle this global challenge of the COVID-19 outbreak. She drew special attention to the vulnerable groups like women, children and the elderly, who need adequate and easy access to social public health resources to stay healthy both physically and mentally during the difficult time. The city’s strategies and efforts in the COVID-19 response have also been adopted as one of the case studies in “COVID-19: What Local Governments Need to Know- A Brief Guide for and Lessons Learnt from Local Governments in Asia” which was compiled by UCLG ASPAC. Guangzhou also provided help within its capacity and donated some epidemic-prevention supplies to its fellow members to support their response efforts.

Guangzhou City’s interaction with UCLG ASPAC has developed under a multi-level working mechanism. High-level visits between Guangzhou City and UCLG ASPAC and its member cities in recent years focus on sharing insights on facilitating urban innovation and promoting in-depth pragmatic cooperation among member cities. Oriented by high-level consensus, Guangzhou Municipal Government has conducted smooth daily communication and exchange with UCLG ASPAC Secretariat and its members. Such interaction is also under the guidance of Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, an important member of UCLG ASPAC. Additionally, since 2013, the city has sent seven secondees to UCLG ASPAC Secretariat, each of whom stays for time duration ranging from one to six months, to support the work of the institution in an attempt to enhance mutual trust and to promote capacity building in multilateral cooperation. From high-level visits, exchange among cities to secondment programme, Guangzhou has deepened its interaction with UCLG ASPAC over the recent years.

Contributor: Victoria Liang, secondee from Guangzhou
Picture: Huramaul, Pixabay