Mrs. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-Habitat,
Mr. Danny Rahdiansyah, Deputy Permanent Representative to UNEP and UNHABITAT,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of ESCAP, it is my pleasure to welcome you to this pre-meeting on the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
I would like to express my appreciation to UN-Habitat for co-organizing this session and to the Government of Indonesia for its support of this meeting as well as its leadership in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
The Asia-Pacific region became majority urban in 2019, and the cities and towns in this region continue to be drivers of growth and innovation. Our region is estimated to add 1 billion more urban residents by 2050.
How cities manage this growth and how they integrate recovery and resilience strategies will be critical if we are to realize the transformative commitments of the New Urban Agenda of 1) Sustainable and inclusive urban prosperity and opportunities for all; 2) Sustainable urban development for social inclusion and poverty eradication; and 3) Environmentally sound and resilient urban development.
While cities have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been on the frontlines of responding to the pandemic and will drive recovery.
We already see cities in our region leading in the development of best practices that can help accelerate progress towards the New Urban Agenda and help build forward better post-pandemic.
For example, the region is a leader in the development of smart city initiatives. In China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and across South-East Asia through the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, we see cities deploying technologies to be more efficient and improve their urban governance.
We must continue to encourage smart solutions but also ensure that we narrow and not widen the digital divide.
I applaud cities across the region for undertaking Voluntary Local Reviews or VLRs, using regional guidelines developed by ESCAP and the Penang Platform for Sustainable Urbanization, which drew inspiration from successful VLRs in Japan.
VLRs are a valuable tool to allow communities to monitor their progress towards the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda. It is encouraging to see cities from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Nepal all conducting VLRs.
Voluntary Local Reviews are especially important as the ESCAP 2022 SDG Progress Report launched last week found very little overall progress since 2015 on the specific targets in SDG 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities.
Localizing Sustainable Development Goals and improving vertical integration of policies will generate multiple benefits.
There is much more to do.
Given the increasing energy demand associated with urban growth, we know that the transition of cities away from fossil fuels is essential if we are to address the climate crisis, which disproportionately affects our region, especially low-lying coastal cities and towns.
Becoming net-zero carbon cities should be the target for urban areas across Asia and the Pacific.
We see increasing levels of urban air pollution, and plastic waste generated in urban areas makes its way to our waterways and oceans. Cities continue to experience urban sprawl from ineffective planning and inequalities arising from inadequate national urban policies.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Last October, many of you participated in the Regional Partners Forum, convened by ESCAP, UN-Habitat and the Penang Platform. You reaffirmed the thematic pillars on which all cities must focus:
- Urban and Territorial Planning
- Urban Resilience
- Smart Cities and Technologies
- Urban Finance
And you highlighted the need for strengthened partnerships, raising awareness of best practices, enhanced capacity building, and the need for more countries to conduct robust reporting on the New Urban Agenda.
I encourage you to continue the dialogue and send a clear message to the 9th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development on how we can accelerate the implementation of the New Urban Agenda across the region.
ESCAP remains committed to working with you to build smart, sustainable, resilient and inclusive cities across Asia and the Pacific.
I wish you a very productive meeting.
Thank you very much.