7 – 8 December 2018 I Guangzhou, China

In order to ensure UCLG ASPAC’s responsiveness to the needs of Local Governments (LGs) and Local Government Associations (LGAs) across Asia-Pacific, especially in their efforts to pursue sustainable development, the first ever Retreat was organized under the theme “Enhancing the United Voice of Cities and Local Governments in Meeting the Global Challenges”.

The event was held on the sideline of the 4th Edition of Guangzhou Award, in Guangzhou, China from 7 to 8 December 2018. It brought together 40 participants including the representatives from various cities in seven countries as well as partner organizations such as UN-Habitat and the National University of Australia.

The opening ceremony was presided over by UCLG ASPAC President Tri Rismaharini, Mayor of Surabaya City Government; Co-President Song Jingwu, Vice President of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries; and Co-President Ashok Kumar, Mayor of Dhulikhel Municipality. In her welcome remarks, UCLG ASPAC Secretary General (SG) Dr. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi reflected on some of the progress made in recent years. This included the Secretariat’s growing human and financial resources, demonstrating members’ as well as external donors’ trust in the organization.  Another landmark achievement was the accreditation of the ASEAN Mayors Forum (AMF) with ASEAN in 2018.

SG Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi emphasized that “This Retreat is an important occasion for all of us to candidly analyze the challenges we are facing in our work. By taking stock of what we have accomplished so far under the Manifesto, a strategic guideline for UCLG ASPAC work in 2015-2020, we will also define our way forward together. The goal is to ensure that we continue to provide meaningful assistance to local governments and their associations in dealing with a broad-range of issues in the Asia-Pacific region.”

During the two-day Retreat, participants identified UCLG ASPAC’s strengths that should be further leveraged. These include UCLG ASPAC’s unique and strategic position, as the institution is gaining more and more prominence due to the significance of its work vis-à-vis the Global Agenda and the worldwide movement for decentralization to achieve SDGs. Participants also called on UCLG ASPAC to reinforce its role as a facilitator of network and cooperation. In this regard, UCLG ASPAC President Tri Rismaharini, the Mayor of Surabaya City, proposed during her participation in the group exercise that “I wish to see UCLG ASPAC fostering even stronger partnership with its members through various forms of joint activities. The collaboration can also be clustered into key thematic areas such as the promotion of Small and Media Enterprises (SMEs) or protection of people living in hostile areas.”

Towards the end of the Retreat, the participants outlined their expectations on UCLG ASPAC’s future work where they would like the organization to scale up its services in order to: strengthen cooperation with LGAs, increase city-to-city cooperation, broaden areas of collaboration, promote members’ inclusive participation in UCLG ASPAC’s activities, enhance members’ ability to conduct policy advocacy, foster linkages between national governments LGs/LGAs, strengthen partnership with regional bodies such as ASEAN and SAARC, enhance membership in the Pacific, and facilitate closer communications among members.

UCLG World General Secretary Ms. Emilia Saiz reiterated during her closing remarks that “Moving forward, we need to avoid the false dichotomy between national and local levels. There is a real connection between the two and local voice is very important especially if it is built on the real work.” SG Emilia Saiz further emphasized the need to align UCLG ASPAC’s priorities in Asia-Pacific with the goals set in the Global Agenda.”

In order to achieve a broad-based outcome of the Retreat, an online survey will be launched in January 2019 to invite inputs from other members who could not attend the vent.  The survey results will be incorporated in the Retreat report, which will further be presented to UCLG ASPAC’s Statutory meeting and shared with all the members. The Retreat report will also guide the formulation of UCLG ASPAC’s next Manifesto for 2020 – 2022.

The 1st UCLG ASPAC Retreat on “Enhancing the United Voice of Cities and Local Governments in Meeting the Global Challenges” was supported by Guangzhou City and the European Union.