5-6 October 2020 | Surabaya, Indonesia – The world’s attention and eyes are focused on Surabaya, as the city led by Mayor Tri Rismaharini, President of UCLG ASPAC and Vice President of UCLG World, got the honour to host the “Global Observance of the World Habitat Day 2020 – Housing For All: A Better Urban Future.” The international event was held online and offline and opened at the Surabaya City Hall, Monday (5/10/2020) night. The event applied strict health protocol. Not only that the committee arranged tables and chairs about 2.5 meters apart, but also delegates, cultural performers, and all people attending the event offline were required to pass a swab test with negative result. The delegates were also requested to wear mask, and to keep their distance.

The opening ceremony drew tens of thousands of eyes from around the world to the stage prepared by the Surabaya City Government. The stage was where the 2020 Scroll of Honor Awards was presented to the winner and where the captivating arts performance was staged. On that occasion, President of Indonesia, Mr. Joko Widodo delivered a virtual speech, welcoming all delegates who attended the event in person in Surabaya. He reiterated that it is an honor for the Indonesians that the city of Surabaya is trusted to host The Global Observance of The World Habitat Day in 2020.

“We met in the city of Surabaya to convince the world that the New Urban Agenda in 2030 cannot be delayed anymore. Currently, 55 percent of the world’s population lives in cities. In 2050 the number is estimated to increase to 68 percent. The highest increase will be in Asia and Africa, “he said.

Through the Global Observance of The World Habitat Day 2020, President Joko Widodo hopes that participants from all countries can share ideas, exchange knowledge, expertise and experiences. He expects that the event can also establish cooperation and strengthen collaboration to increase the resilience of cities in facing pandemics and other disasters.

On the other hand, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres called for immediate action to provide affordable housing with guaranteed ownership and easy access to water, sanitation, transportation and other basic services for low-income families. This need is considered to be more urgent given the COVID-19 pandemic. “Access to clean water and sanitation, along with social distancing, is the main response to the pandemic. However, in slum areas it is proving difficult to implement these measures,” said Guterres.

According to him, the increasing risk of infection is not only in slum settlements, but also in all cities which are mostly served by low-income informal sector workers, and they live in informal settlements. He also urged greater partnerships, pro-poor policies, and regulations needed to improve housing in cities.

“Now that we are working to tackle the pandemic, address the fragility and inequality that has been exposed, and fight climate change, now is the time to harness the transformative potential of urbanisation for the benefit of people and the planet,” he added.

Mayor Tri Rismaharini said that hosting the 2020 World Habitat Day was an opportunity to be proud of. Hence, she expressed his gratitude to all those who have supported Surabaya as the host of this global event. “However, due to the pandemic, we have to hold this event in a hybrid mode. The meeting is held in combination of virtual and face-to-face events in Surabaya,” said Mayor Risma.

According to her, throughout this year, almost all countries were tested by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the effects of this pandemic is the impact on people’s purchasing power to obtain proper housing. Meanwhile, Surabaya is the second largest city in Indonesia, which has the same challenges as other big cities in the world, particularly in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. “Before the pandemic, Surabaya enjoyed strong economic growth above the provincial and national figures. However, we have also experienced a decline this year due to COVID-19. Now, thanks God, we have been able to control this pandemic and the economy is starting to recover gradually,” she explained.

During discussion session, Mayor Risma shared insight from Surabaya. She said that keeping the culture in kampung (urban villages) in the middle of the city is one of the keys in handling the COVID-19 in Surabaya. By not changing the culture, people can be more responsible to handle COVID-19 in their closest environment. “We are making this happen through a programme called Kampung Tangguh (Resilient Kampung). It is how settlements can be used to help the handling of COVID-19,” she said.

Executive Director of UN Habitat, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, thanked all countries and cities participating to the World Habitat Day, particularly the city of Surabaya for becoming a good host. Now, many cities, local governments, grassroots groups and various sectors want to work in partnership. “This is important to accelerate the implementation of the new urban agenda and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG),” she said.

The Global Observance of the World Habitat Day 2020 was organised by UN-Habitat, with the participation of cities and local governments around the world. The event also included the launch of the Urban Agenda Platform, awarding ceremony for the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour Winners, and discussions on progress update of urban agenda as well as responses to resilient, inclusive, gender-equal and green economy recovery to informal settlements.

With the attendance of international delegates, the city government warmly welcomed and invited them to various tourist attractions and several places showcasing best practices of Surabaya, the City of Heroes, ensuring their comfort stay in the city.