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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

24 November 2020

Welcoming Remarks

 

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to launch the second class of the Asia-Pacific Mayors Academy today. 

ESCAP in partnership with UN-Habitat, United Cities and Local Governments- Asia Pacific (UCLG-ASPAC), United Nations University-Institute for Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), developed this unique initiative to support local leaders to promote sustainable urban development, recognizing again the  critical and very important role cities have been playing to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Our region is currently not on track to realize these agendas, SDG as well as the Paris Climate Agreement and without more actions and more leadership from cities and mayors in our region, we will fall behind. 

Since our first class completed its programme in Abu Dhabi in February 2020 at the World Urban Forum, we have seen the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic all over the world and certainly on cities.  More than 90 per cent of COVID-19 cases have been reported in urban areas, and the socio-economic impacts have been tremendous.

COVID-19 further highlights the need and urgency of local actions, and why the Academy is even more important this year. 

Mayors have again been on the front lines in leading local response and efforts and mayors will also be responsible in harnessing the direction of cities to recover better, by building more resilient, inclusive and sustainable cities.

Therefore, mayors more than ever need the support, knowledge as well as the  tools to lead and respond to the greatest challenges we face, whether it is on  climate change, as well as on keeping the momentum of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).. 

Colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen,

The UN Secretary General has said that, ‘Addressing COVID-19 in an increasingly urbanized world requires a focus on how urbanization shapes impacts, responses and longer-term recovery.’  The Secretary General also highlighted that this must be done through commitments and action in three key areas:

  1. Tackling inequalities and development deficits;
  2. Strengthening the capacities of local actors, particularly local governments;
  3. Pursuing a resilient, inclusive, gender-equal and green economic recovery. 

Commitments and local actions if implemented thoughtfully will have multiple benefits or multiply effects.  With regard to climate change, most of the estimated increases in emissions and energy consumption is due to the projected economic growth of cities. 

As cities recover from the current socio-economic crisis and grow, they must create development pathways that are resilient and low-carbon and accelerate a transition to energy decarbonization.

On the broader 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, local authorities and their citizens must be recognized and engaged as stakeholders.

It has been estimated that nearly 70 per cent of the SDG targets require engagement with local actors or actions at the local level.  We must leverage recoveries to build back better and accelerate progress toward the SDGs with the commitment of all stakeholders. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Through this joint initiative, we expect that newly elected mayors will become more aware of the technical support and resources available in our region and be able to build a network of mayors that highlights the increasing role and responsibilities of local authorities.

Our main goal is for these selected mayors to become better, more resilient and effective on delivering on their mandates.

We believe the Academy will assist you and your cities to become agents of change and unleash your potential for innovation and action to strengthen future resilience and sustainability of your cities. We need you as mayors to be champions and leaders to bring about the needed transformative changes to the cities.   

Strong leadership is required to mobilize communities towards ‘Building Back Better’ solutions that will contribute to the SDGs, combating climate change and implementing the New Urban Agenda. 

In this regard, we encourage mayors to focus on key priorities, such as Urban and Territorial Planning, Urban Resilience, Smart City approaches and Urban Finance. These are the thematic priorities in ESCAP’s and UN-Habitat’s joint report “The Future of Asian and Pacific Cities” and the policy pathways in the report can serve as an effective framework for recoveries.   

In this regard, we are looking to the mayors in this region to become champions of sustainability, not just in their communities, but to share your challenges and successes, lessons learned, best practices with each other and across the region to showcase what the cities of Asia and the Pacific can achieve. 

Looking forward, mayors should identify what specific assistance they need to implement sustainable urban development policies so that the network partners can respond. 

Furthermore, we expect that mayors will commit to sharing their experiences and reporting their progress, in conjunction with national governments.  More Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) of progress against the SDGs will allow other cities, national governments and the UN system to see what is possible in cities and to accelerate and scale up local actions.

We encourage mayors to commit to the Academy through development of actions in their cities.  We also look to this class to become future mentors to other cities and continue to be engaged with the institutions and collaboration platforms to scale up actions across the region. 

Finally, may I express my sincerest appreciation and thanks to all of our Academy partners and especially the mayors in the Academy for your commitment to sustainability.

I wish you all a very successful this year’s Academy class. 

Thank you for your attention.

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