23-26 March 2021 | Under the framework of Asia-Pacific Local Governments Coordinating Body (APLG), the voices of local governments as the major stakeholder were heard at the 8th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD). The event was organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in a hybrid format. The annual forum reviewed the progress of the 2030 Agenda in the region. Taking the theme “Sustainable and Resilient Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic in Asia and the Pacific,” the APFSD also included an in-depth review of SDGs 1, 2, 3, 8, 10, 12, 13, 16, and 17. UCLG ASPAC coordinates the APLG which facilitated the preparation of joint statements and participation of local governments at the APFSD.

In the local governments’ statement, UCLG ASPAC President and Dhulikhel Municipality Mayor Ashok Kumar Byanju Shrestha, stated three key actions that support the implementation of SDGs at the local level: 1) The effective decentralisation with vertical and horizontal integration across all levels of government; 2) The integration and contextualisation of SDGs in planning through localisation; 3) to recognise and support the voluntary local review (VLR) and voluntary subnational review (VSR) as bottom-up approaches that will provide reality-grounded information to the voluntary national reviews (VNRs).

During the Agenda 2 of APFSD, UCLG ASPAC Secretary General Dr. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi highlighted the indispensable role of local governments in the achievement of the SDGs and pandemic recovery, and the need for access to clear channels on COVID-19 recovery financing. She also emphasises the importance of local governments’ role, saying “With over 65% of the SDG targets actionable at the local level, it is clear that the 2030 agenda cannot be achieved without local governments.” Further, she also encouraged the national level government to provide local governments with the enabling environment and to engage them in the process.

UCLG ASPAC, together with Huairou Commission, UNESCAP, and UN-Habitat, co-organised the side event “Our Vision of a Sustainable and Resilient Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic: Grassroots Women and Local Government Leaders Speak-out” on 22 March 2021. The side event focused on how the organised grassroots group led by women and local governments addressed the pandemic and how they adapted the lessons learned in developing their recovery plan and programme.

In his intervention, Mayor Ashok Kumar Byanju Shrestha remarked that COVID-19 recovery and women empowerment are priorities in the UCLG ASPAC Manifesto. He explained how Nepal’s constitution provided an enabling environment that allowed higher participation of women in politics and how the municipality has been working with grassroots groups and women leaders.

“There is no development where there is no universal compassion and commitment for women citywide, nationwide, and worldwide. Our city believes that women are the force behind positive change.” Quezon City Mayor Ma. Josefina Belmonte shared the local government’s initiatives to support women in response to and towards recovery from the pandemic. The city government established several ways for women to access help in response to the increasing reports of violence against women during the lockdown. Victims of domestic violence and abuse were provided with shelter, counselling and livelihood opportunities for their reintegration into the communities. Under the Grow QC Programme, the city’s urban farm and community kitchen were connected and addressed food security.

In closing of the event, UCLG ASPAC Secretary General reiterated the importance of integrating the gender perspective in planning and ensuring that actions are taken to address inequalities.

The Asia-Pacific SDG Partnership Report 2021 “Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Leaving No Country Behind” was launched during the APFSD. Discussions on the SDGs also considered the Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2021 which was released a week before the APFSD. Both reports indicate how the Asia-Pacific region is not on track to achieve any of the SDGs and how efforts can be accelerated in this Decade of Action.

The outcome of the APFSD will be submitted by UNESCAP to the upcoming High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development to be held in New York from 6 to 15 July 2021.