UN calls for regional approach to urban resource management across Asia

Kimpo, South Korea- Solar panels installed on a farmhouse in Kimpo, Kyungki Province.

Asia-Pacific policymakers and city leaders closed a three-day regional workshop in Bangkok this week on an innovative United Nations-led project aimed at integrating resource management across Asia-Pacific, to support the long-term sustainable development of its growing cities.

“The rapid urbanization of Asia-Pacific brings with it the risk of widening supply gaps, in particular for water and sanitation systems, energy, land use and food security,” noted Donovan Storey, Chief of the Sustainable Urban Development Section, Environment and Development Division of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). “Yet municipal administrations and utilities in the region continue to plan and manage along sectoral lines and within municipal boundaries, and rarely in a coordinated and integrative manner.”

In reiterating the urgent need to shift toward more sustainable urban futures, and echoing the call for a change in the way cities are planned and managed, Ruth Erlbeck, Project Director, German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) stated: “We need to develop garden cities, not garbage cities in the region.”

Recognising the challenge of sustainable cities, ESCAP has partnered with the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), with financial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to deliver the ‘Integrated Resource Management in Asian Cities: The Urban Nexus’ project. The initiative supports 10 cities in six countries: China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam, by providing technical advice on nexus approaches to municipal administrations.

The project enables the implementation of the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2012 (Rio+20), which recognized the importance of cities to global sustainable development efforts, and underscores the United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon’s declaration that the struggle for global sustainability will be “won or lost in cities.”

The regional workshop, which ran from 2-4 December noted that at present countries in the region were unable to fully utilize the policy nexus opportunities between water, energy and food security and the potential co-benefits arising from integrated resource management and planning for cities and their regions. Consequently, in better meeting the urban sustainability challenges facing the region, participants at the workshop called for a greater role of local governments, the need for collaborative governance across municipal boundaries and supportive institutional relationships for integrated resource management in Asia-Pacific cities.

The workshop further provided an opportunity for participating member States to share their experiences and review current policies and programmes in support of nexus approaches, in particular the institutional arrangements required. Attendees also defined the next steps to be undertaken by the project in the participating cities.