Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to join you at this third Malaysia Urban Forum. Let me congratulate you for creating a successful platform to promote and mainstream sustainable urban solutions and raise awareness on the important role of cities and urban areas in achieving climate targets and sustainable development.
In October 2019, I had the great pleasure to be in Penang for the 7th Asia-Pacific Urban Forum, co-organized with UN-Habitat, the city and state of Penang, Urbanice Malaysia, and the Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing & Local Government, Malaysia. It was clear then that Malaysia was not only talking about sustainable urbanization but putting into practice urban solutions that build resilience, protect cultural diversity and improve the well-being of urban residents.
While no one could have predicted at the time the affects of a global pandemic on the region’s cities, we know that recoveries will in large part be driven by cities, which must be enabled to act as full partners with central governments to ensure that no one, and no location, is left behind.
The Secretary General of the United Nations has said that, “now is our chance to recover better, by building more resilient, inclusive and sustainable cities,” and that “addressing COVID-19…requires 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.
So it is appropriate that the theme for this forum is “Sustainable Urban Nation 2030: Better Cities for All With COVID-19.” I am confident that from dialogues such as this focusing on cities and mobilizing all urban stakeholders, strategies for building back better will be effective and guide you to a stronger recovery.
ESCAP is pleased to be working with partners such as Urbanice Malaysia and local cities to develop urban innovations. Kuala Lumpur is a partner in the Closing the Loop on plastics initiative, developing an innovative approach to use digital tools to address plastics in waterways, a challenge for many cities. The city’s experience can be shared broadly across the region.
Subang Jaya was the first city to apply newly developed regional guidelines for a Voluntary Local Review (or VLR). This valuable process strengthens stakeholder engagement in planning and supports the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
I commend the commitment of local leaders in these and other cities across Malaysia for mobilizing their communities to develop and share urban innovations.
The VLR guidelines were co-produced by ESCAP, UN-Habitat and the Penang Platform for Sustainable Urbanization (PPSU), a partnership launched at the 7th Asia-Pacific Urban Forum.
I want to thank especially Urbanice Malaysia for its leadership in PPSU and for organizing this forum. I look forward to its outcomes being brought forward to the Regional Partners Forum on Sustainable Urbanization. The Forum will be convened by ESCAP, the Penang Platform and UN-Habitat from 28 to 29 October of this year so that the efforts and solutions being developed in Malaysia can be shared more broadly with partners across Asia and the Pacific.
I wish you all a successful Malaysia Urban Forum, and thank you for your attention.