Excellencies, Ladies, and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to join you at this 8th UCLG ASPAC Congress and I wish to thank the Zhengzhou Municipal People’s Government for hosting this important event. This Congress convenes at a critical time for cities as they consider how to promote resilient and inclusive urban development in a post COVID-19 pandemic era.
Indeed, the Congress theme, “From Steady Recovery to Sustained Prosperity in Post COVID Asia and the Pacific,” should guide cities as they work with local stakeholders and national governments to ensure that we build back better. As the Asia Pacific region now has a majority urban population, cities will in large part drive our recoveries.
As the United Nations Secretary-General has said, recoveries require “a focus on how urbanization shapes impacts, responses, and longer-term recovery”. He highlighted that this must be done through commitments and action in three key areas:
- Tackling inequalities and development deficits;
- Strengthening the capacities of local actors, particularly local governments; and
- Pursuing a resilient, inclusive, gender-equal and green economic recovery.
The dialogues in this Congress align with this focus, from strengthening national-local collaboration to make cities resilient and on human rights and healthy cities in post-pandemic futures.
Emerging from the pandemic, we must ensure that cities are empowered to implement urban solutions that contribute both to economic recoveries and address global and regional challenges.
The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was sobering; it shows that we are well off-track to achieve the 1.5 degree target envisioned in the Paris Agreement. Given the expected growth of another 1.2 billion by 2050 in urban populations in our region, cities will drive energy consumption, emissions and resource consumption. They must therefore also be leaders in decarbonization. Low-carbon transport, energy efficiency and local building regulations are just a few of the local actions that cities can promote.
We cannot disconnect our current patterns of urbanization with the significant loss of biodiversity in our region. We must integrate resilience strategies and nature-based solutions in urban planning to ensure that environmental challenges such as coastal degradation, loss of forests and species, and the further emergence of zoonosis diseases are properly addressed.
ESCAP is pleased to be working with partners such as UCLG-ASPAC and local cities to build capacities and support the development of innovative urban solutions. We are partners in the Asia-Pacific Mayors Academy.
We have worked together on supporting cities to develop Voluntary Local Reviews.
I commend the commitment of all local leaders participating in the Congress and congratulate UCLG-ASPAC on bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to promote sustainable urbanization.
I look forward to the outcomes of this Congress being brought forward to the Regional Partners Forum on Sustainable Urbanization. The Forum will be convened by ESCAP, the Penang Platform and UN-Habitat on 28 and 29 October of this year.
I wish you all a successful Congress and thank you for your attention.