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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

23 October 2023

ESCAP ES

Honourable Mr. Lee Jae-joon, Mayor of Suwon City,

Honourable Mr. Kim Ki-jeong, Chair of the Suwon City Council,

Excellencies, Ministers, Vice-Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Senior Officials, Distinguished participants,  ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to be with all of you in the city of Suwon for the 8th Asia-Pacific Urban Forum.

This is a significant milestone, marking 30 years since ESCAP organized the first APUF to focus attention on the great potential of our region’s cities. 

Since that first forum, our cities across the region have become dynamic hubs of economic growth and recognized as the essential drivers and partners shaping the pathways towards achieving global sustainable development that leaves no one as well as no place behind. 

Four years ago, we convened in Penang, Malaysia, and strengthened our partnerships, including through the Penang Platform for Sustainable Urbanization. This partnership helped develop regional guidelines for Voluntary Local Reviews and establish the Asia-Pacific Mayors Academy to build capacities to implement urban solutions. Many of you made voluntary commitments to promote sustainable urbanization, accelerate local actions and deliver numerous initiatives leveraging the innovative potential of our cities. 

Unfortunately, right after APUF-7, we faced an unexpected and unprecedented global pandemic that shuttered our cities, debilitated local finances and disproportionately affected the most vulnerable of our urban populations.

This eighth Forum convenes at a time we face multiple and interlinked crises, particularly, including climate change, all of which intersect in our cities while we confront widening infrastructure gaps and exacerbating situation of affordable housing. 

Moving forward, I am pleased to highlight four key pillars to realize a sustainable urban future, which are outlined in our flagship report, Crisis-Resilient Urban Futures, co-published with UN-Habitat and partners. 

First, Urban and Territorial Planning. Planning remains the foundation of how our cities are developed and managed, and especially in times of crisis, holistic planning is essential to create safe, sustainable and livable cities. 

  • All countries must create a policy environment for transformative and resilient urban planning reinforced through multilevel governance.
  • Integrated, compact, mixed-use neighbourhoods and cities, supported by public transport and active mobility, must become the model for urban development if we are to meet climate and sustainability targets.

Next, we must have urban resilience and multi-level climate action. As the climate emergency continues, our cities must be catalysts and lead the transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient urban development.  No national government can realize their emission reduction potential without their cities.  

  • We need enhanced data and evidence to inform and accelerate climate action in cities and support higher levels of ambition at the national level. This requires integrated multilevel climate action to build certainty for investment and collaboration.
  • We must also enhance nature in cities to mitigate the climate, clean air and biodiversity crises and create greener, more liveable communities.

Urban digital transformations are essential to achieve our objectives. Many digital innovations emerged during the pandemic but highlighted the urgency to ensure that no one and no place is left behind. Our cities must leverage digital innovations while ensuring inclusive policies to overcome the digital divide. 

  • Thus, we must develop people-centred national smart city policies and build capacities for urban governance at all levels to ensure digital strategies support urban resilience.
  • We must build multi-stakeholder partnerships and citizen engagement to advance needed digital transformations. 

Fourth, the urgency of responding to multiple crises requires levels of urban financing commensurate with the challenges. 

  • Cities have to expand and diversify local revenue sources, strengthen transparency, leverage the potential from urban growth through land-based financing instruments and incentivize private sector investment. 
  • To do so also requires more stable and predictable policies and regulatory frameworks, and an enabling environment to facilitate the development climate-responsive finance instruments.

Finally, regional cooperation can facilitate these actions, because, especially in these times, no city can do it alone. The multidimensional nature of crises necessitates engagement from all stakeholders. All communities and governments should seize the opportunity to build effective multi-level governance and strengthen partnerships to build crisis-resilient cities. 

Excellencies, Distinguished participants,

This forum is a platform not only for discussion, but to build, expand and strengthen partnerships. I hope we find ways to take forward the recommendations in the new flagship report and build our sustainable urban future together.

ESCAP remains committed to working with member States, our UN partners, including UN-Habitat, and all of you to ensure that our future cities are safe, sustainable and resilient.

A special appreciation thanks to our host, the City of Suwon, for kindly hosting this important forum. We look forward to seeing the innovations you have developed here, and thank you for sharing your successes with all of us. 

Thank you for your attention, and my best wishes for a successful forum. 

Thank you very much.

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