15-17 October 2019 | PENANG – UCLG ASPAC is proud to play a key role at the Asia-Pacific Urban Forum 7 (APUF), recently concluded in Penang, Malaysia. APUF7 is one of the largest gatherings of key stakeholders for sustainable urban development across Asia and the Pacific Region that takes place every four years. Embracing APUF’s spirit of partnership and collaboration, UCLG ASPAC has mobilised local governments and their associations as well as concerned national authorities to take part in the Forum, through a series of meeting held in partnership with other institutions. More than 9,500 participants from over 60 countries participated in the event to share and gain insights in four thematic areas: urban and territorial planning, urban resilience, data and technologies for smart cities and urban finance.

Consolidating Local Government Voices and Positions

Prior to the official launch of APUF7, local governments convened at the Local Government Assembly, co-organised by the Asia-Pacific Local Government Coordinating Body, of which UCLG ASPAC serves as a coordinator, and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF). Participants presented their strategic visions and discussed the future of the Asia-Pacific cities, with the mutual of achieving the 2030 Agenda.

Mr. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director United Nations for Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat), spoke at the Local Governments Assembly that “As leaders, Mayors need to know the challenges, strength and opportunities of their localities. We need baseline data that can be analysed and inform decisions. In achieving SDGs and NUA, we need to understand, translate, localise and measure our progress. We also need knowledge, workforce, capacity, funding and political will. But mayors must lead. Mayors must have vision. Mayors can make a difference by taking actions.”

Making Local Voices Matter for Urban and Sustainable Development in Asia-Pacific

During APUF7, UCLG ASPAC partnered up with other organisations to conduct discussions on a broad range of topics including gender equality and women’s leadership, localisation of the 2030 agenda, local action for climate and disaster resilience, public space integration in urban revitalisation, urban sanitation and ASEAN mayors’ collaboration for sustainable development. The meetings were conducted in collaboration with Urbanice Malaysia, UN-Habitat, Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA), Seoul Foundation of Women and Family, UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Cities Alliance, UNICITI, and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Mr. Ashok Kumar Byanju Shrestha, President Municipal Association of Nepal, Mayor of Dhulikhel, reiterated the important role of local political leaders stating that “People living in both rural and urban areas demand different things from the municipalities. … As we provide basic infrastructure and need to address poverty eradication, discourse on financing is important. Political leaders have important roles to play.” Mayor Noraini Roslan of Subang Jaya (Malaysia) further called on other mayors and city representatives to be creative in building partnerships to finance SDGs localisation including with the private sectors and solutions providers.

Secretary General of UCLG ASPAC, Dr. Bernadia I. Tjandradewi spoke on her vision for the Asia-Pacific region at the High-Level Roundtable on 15 October 2019. The 5-Zero’s Vision is: 1) Zero inequalities – a human-oriented that considers the rights of all, including women, children and youth, 2) Zero poverty, 3) Zero crime, violence, disaster and accident – a safe environment especially for women, children and less privilege people, free from conflict and disaster risk, 4) Zero greenhouse gas emissions and zero pollution, and 5) Zero intolerance and zero discrimination.

Reaffirming the participants’ commitments, APUF7 concluded with the establishment of Penang Platform for Sustainable Urbanisation to Accelerate City Actions for SDGs. The platform foster partnerships among private and public actors in four areas for the period of 2019-2023 namely: Collaborate (to accelerate the implementation of integrated and sustainable city solutions in at least 10 cities); Integrate (the use of innovative tools and models, research and evidence and good practices on sustainable urban development by urban actors across the region); Transform (access to existing resources and forge new partnerships to mobilize catalytic funds for enhanced local-level solutions); and Increase (political will for sustainable urbanisation across the region level via adoption of enabling policies and budgets).

Prior to the Closing of 7th APUF, participating organisations announced their voluntary commitments to make concrete impacts on sustainable urban development by 2023. UCLG ASPAC together with Asian Development Bank (ADB), International Urban Cooperation (IUC), Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Kumamoto City committed to leverage the mutual efforts into more meaningful actions for cities in the region. UCLG ASPAC was committed to accelerate the SDGs achievements, through SDGs localisation and to strengthen LGs/LGAs expertise, institutional capacity and their collaboration with national governments.

Penang Mayor Dato’ Ar. Yew Tung Seang, pledged while delivering the Local Government Statement during the Declare your Action session on 17 October, that “Local governments in Asia-Pacific are ready to join hands and work together towards a better, sustainable future for the people with the people. Our cities, our responsibility.”

In addition, UCLG ASPAC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UN-Habitat and Penang Women’s Development Corporation for gender mainstreaming cooperation framework in Malaysia across all levels of government. UCLG ASPAC also congratulates Seberang Perai for the soft launch of Eco Corridor, a participatory design public space project carried out by Seberang Perai, UNHabitat and UCLG ASPAC. More than 200 people have participated in the process. Secretary General of UCLG ASPAC mentioned, “Public space can be the catalytic start to higher level of multi-stakeholder participation at the local level.”

In this APUF7, UCLG ASPAC is glad to be able to play its strategic role as an active member of APUF Steering Committee, member of the Advisory Board of the Asia-Pacific Mayors Academy and Founding Member of the Penang Platform for Sustainable Urbanisation.

UCLG ASPAC thanks all partners and network for their continuous commitment in promoting the important role of local government through various forms. We are looking forward to turn these partnerships into more meaningful steps!