Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me first to congratulate CityNet and its members on convening its 9th Congress.
Since its establishment 35 years ago, CityNet has been a partner with ESCAP and with cities across the region, sharing knowledge and solutions to the many challenges of urbanization.
This Congress is important as the role of cities has become increasingly vital. Moreover, the challenges that cities face are diverse are not limited to designing urban spaces and providing basic urban services.
As clearly seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, cities must be full partners in developing strategies that can respond to crises and at the same time look forward to a better future.
We know that urban systems are fragile and that shocks and stresses, whether from natural disasters, economic downturns, health emergencies, or conflicts, can have severe consequences.
Rising inequality is, unfortunately, a characteristic of many of our cities, and the pandemic exposed the lack of access to shelter, employment and health care faced by many urban residents.
The climate crisis and environmental impacts such as waste and air pollution are placing additional burdens on our cities.
Solutions require leveraging the scale and innovative capacities of cities and their citizens. We need, for example, to see more community-based initiatives for housing and health, and a rapid transition to low-carbon urban development.
In a world of ever-increasing conflict and crises, cities and their networks have a role far greater than managing urban development. They must be leaders in forging cooperation, fostering just transitions, overcoming social inequalities and bringing people together to co-design solutions for achieving inclusive and resilient cities, which are the foundation of peaceful societies.
The work of CityNet and its members is essential as we emerge from the pandemic and seek solutions to climate change and action towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities will be among the SDGs reviewed at the 10th Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development and the High-Level Political Forum in 2023.
I encourage all of you to work in your communities and with national governments to highlight and accelerate actions to create safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable urban communities across our region.
ESCAP remains committed to working with all of you to help achieve this goal.
Thank you for your attention and best wishes for a successful Congress.