11-15 February 2019 I Barcelona, Spain – UCLG ASPAC Secretariat led by Dr. Bernadia I. Tjandradewi participated in UCLG Retreat, an annual high-level gathering to discuss strategic priorities for the World Organization. This year event took place in Barcelona, Spain, from 10 to 15 February 2019. More than 230 people attended the event, representing all UCLG geographical and thematic sections as well as political leaders and partner institutions from around the world.

The five-day meeting, comprising both plenary and working group sessions, took stock of UCLG’s work  and achievements in 2018, while highlighting the challenges local governments are facing in realizing a broad-range of sustainable development goals (SDGs). During the opening, UCLG World Secretary General Emilia Saiz reiterated that “The goal of this Retreat is to identify synergies of our work. While SDGs remains at the core of our mission, there is a need to provide the right political structure for our leaders to realize SDGs. The Retreat is where we bring political leadership together”.

Implementation of SDGs at local level was featured prominently during the Retreat. Participants shared their experiences and lessons learned from their work to localize SDGs, including in Asia-Pacific. Particular emphasis was on UCLG’s upcoming report, to be presented at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The report currently will provide an overview on the status of SGDs localization among local government associations (LGAs) including their involvement in the Voluntary National Review (VNR). In this regard, UCLG ASPAC has aligned its on-going survey on SDGs for the upcoming Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) with the report and will provide data to support UCLG’s global level research, which will also include recommendations for HLPF’s consideration.

Local governments’ role in addressing climate change was another main focus at the Retreat. Secretary General Bernadia chaired the discussion on “UCLG Strategy on Climate Change” and shared UCLG ASPAC’s experience in working with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM), of which UCLG ASPAC serves as Secretariat for Southeast Asia. During the discussion, a panel of experts reiterated the need to work more closely with academics and scientists as cites’ and local governments’ actions and advocacy need to be backed up by concrete evidences and data. They further called on local governments to not only understand, but also produce, science. This is due to the fact that local governments are already sources of knowledge that often overlooked by policy makers and practitioners.

Promoting gender equality, both internally within UCLG Governing Bodies and externally in the wider political context, was extensively discussed in various sessions. Participants reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen gender balance across all work and pledged to place gender at the center of the upcoming UCLG Congress in Durban, South Africa, in November this year. It was recommended that UCLG advocacy work should be supported by research and focus on specific priority areas. UCLG ASPAC Secretary General Bernadia called for attention to the quality of gender balance rather than mere quota, stressing that woman should not only be allowed to stand for elections but actually be elected to hold a political position. She further highlighted the importance of partnership with civil society in enhancing the quality of gender mainstreaming in politics at both national and local levels.

In addition to these thematic areas, the participants reflected on the impacts of UCLG’s advocacy work under the Wave of Action, in order to mobilize global support and actions on issues of local governments’ particular concerns. UCLG ASPAC took the opportunity during the Retreat to conduct bilateral meetings with various partners to discuss possible areas of collaboration in Asia-Pacific, including with Bilbao City Hall, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), the International Co-operation Agency of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities, the UN Capital Development Fund, as well as colleagues from other UCLG Sections.