Honourable Mayors, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,
I am pleased to be with you today to commemorate World Habitat Day, which this year focuses on the theme “Mind the Gap. Leave No One and No Place Behind.”
We open Urban October with a recognition that urbanization remains a major driver of growth and development in our region and that our emergence from the pandemic as well as other crises is closely linked to the recovery of our cities and the well-being of their residents.
Our fragile urban systems are especially susceptible to shocks and stresses, be they natural disasters, economic downturns, health emergencies, climate change, with impacts far beyond jurisdictional boundaries.
We know that COVID-19, for example, and the climate crisis have had visible impacts on cities in the region, including on the most vulnerable of our urban residents. COVID-19 cases were often concentrated in cities and exposed rising inequalities among many residents.
The full effects of the pandemic on the education, health and well-being of urban residents and on urban economies broadly are still to be determined, but we for sure know the gap has widened. In this regard, let me highlight a few points for your further reflection and deliberation
Firstly, building urban resilience is essential, and recovery strategies and investments must incorporate local climate action. Cities in our region are among the most at-risk or vulnerable to climate change in the world, including low-lying coastal communities and those affected by flooding, drought and water stress.
Secondly, cities must respond and adapt to the interlinked crises of growing inequalities, emerging food insecurity and different capacities. Cities experience the consequences of the war in Ukraine being felt across our region as our cities are increasingly connected to global supply chains.
Thirdly, we must ensure that urban development is managed to close rather than widen gaps so that no one is left behind and to engage all communities—large and small-- so that no place is left behind.
Therefore , the theme of this World Habitat Day is especially relevant for our majority-urban region. At the center of urban development and our communities are people.
Engaging residents and all stakeholders is more important than ever, as the crises that cities face cannot be addressed by city governments alone. Community-based organizations, civil society, academia, national governments, private sector and philanthropic organizations all have a role to play in building urban communities that will thrive as they emerge from crises.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Your participation in today’s Expert Group Meeting will help to build greater understanding of the region’s urban challenges and solutions. Your guidance and expertise will be essential as we look forward to the 8th Asia-Pacific Urban Forum in October 2023.
We hope the insights and lessons you share will contribute to a rich discussion and a common way forward
I wish you a fruitful discussion.
Thank you very much.