Keynote address at the 5th ASEAN Mayors Forum Driving Local Actions for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth

Excellency Mr. Anupong Paochinda, Minister of Interior, Kingdom of Thailand,
Excellency Mr. Aswin Kwanmuang, Governor of Bangkok
Excellency Mr. Pirkka Tapiola, Ambassador of the European Union to Thailand
Ms. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi, Secretary General, United Cities & Local Governments Asia-Pacific
Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be with you for this 5th ASEAN Mayors Forum Driving Local Actions for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth at the UN Conference Centre in Bangkok. I am delighted to take this opportunity to share some of my perspectives for your consideration.

Today, the Asia-Pacific region is not on track on achieving any of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda by 2030. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) analysis shows that our region needs to accelerate progress against more than 80 per cent of the SDG targets.

At the same time, we know that most of the SDGs intersect in cities, and that 65 per cent of all SDG targets require local actors or an orientation toward urban stakeholders.

From Bangkok to Bandung, it’s high-time to include Mayor’s to take centre stage as part of key solution providers if we are to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

We must seize this opportunity now with Mayor’s forward-looking and solutions-oriented engagements and leadership.

As a priority, let’s jointly enable and empower sub-national and local governments to play a catalytic part and advance partnerships for sustainable growth and development. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our continued support to Thailand’s ASEAN Chairmanship this year on the theme of “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

More than 50 per cent of the population live in urban areas in the ASEAN region, and an additional 70 million more will live in cities of these countries by 2025. This population growth is increasingly concentrated not in the mega-cities, but in intermediate cities with populations between 500,000 and five million.

Residents in many of our cities struggle every day with the traffic congestion resulting from urban sprawl and unplanned growth. Urban air pollution has become a rallying factor for increased citizens’ participation in public debate.

Climate change is now the most defining factor in this region. ASEAN is home to many low-lying and coastal cities, housing millions of residents, which are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Putting economic growth first, and then addressing costs of environmental sustainability policy is no-longer an option for cities in ASEAN and beyond.

Building resilience and sustainable development trajectories for these cities are not only planning principles, they are pathways to long-term survival and their prosperity. We have a responsibility, and we must appropriately drive local actions.

Our cities have large resource footprints, and it is not a coincidence that the rapid-- and often unplanned-- growth of cities has occurred in parallel with insufficient progress on responsible consumption and production.

Looking at waste, UN ESCAP analysis indicates that waste generation in Asia and the Pacific—mostly from cities—is expected to more than double from 2012 to 2025.
The economic growth of cities has been accompanied by growing inequalities. The sprawl of slums is a significant risk and the urban slum population in several ASEAN member states is higher than the world average.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

In the presence of over 70 Mayors from over 130 ASAN cities, we must commit more, and be bold. I urge Mayors and local representatives to act together to find sustainable solutions for your cities, which will also accelerate SDGs progress.

For driving local actions for sustainable and inclusive growth, you may wish to consider four possible strategic policy issues:

First, strengthen urban planning to leverage multiple benefits across a range of issues, resulting in a transformed and resilient societies in our region.

Second, build resilience in cities through nature-based solutions, climate and disaster resilient action plans, and by strengthening partnerships to build connected local communities which can harness productivity gains and inclusive growth.

Third, leverage smart city solutions and deploy technologies that not only improve mobility and efficiency of government, but provide transparency, promote citizen engagement, and capitalize on private sector and market opportunities.

Fourth, focus on means of financing sustainable urban development process, especially in smaller cities, to enable the building of much needed infrastructure including in areas such as transport, trade, energy and ICT.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am committed to supporting initiatives in our region through stronger partnerships. For example, since 2015, UN ESCAP has been partnering with Royal Government of Thailand and the ASEAN Secretariat on enhancing complementarities between the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

A concrete outcome from the Complementarities Initiative is the planned establishment of the ASEAN Centre for Sustainable Development Studies and Dialogue. We all look forward to its launch in November of this year and call for it to co-create solutions with sub-national and local levels of government in ASEAN.

Furthermore, our partnerships, including with ASEAN and the UCLG-ASPAC are creating opportunities for local stakeholders to share best practices, build technical capacities, develop knowledge and raise awareness on the critical role of cities.

We are proud to be a partner of the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, which has been spearheaded by the Government of Singapore. UN ESCAP supports selected ASEAN cities in the preparation of smart city action plans and the identification of bankable projects, in close partnership with private sectors and other stakeholders.

At the same time, UN ESCAP along with UCLG-ASPAC and UN-Habitat, will launch the Asia Pacific Mayor’s Academy on Sustainable Urban Development to equip newly elected Mayors with knowledge and a supporting network to navigate the challenges of making their cities’ development inclusive and sustainable. I welcome your active participation in this leadership programme.

The upcoming Future of Asia Pacific Cities Report 2019 that UN ESCAP is preparing with several agencies and partners will be launched at the Seventh Asia Pacific Urban Forum (APUF-7), to be held from 15 to 17 October 2019 in Penang, Malaysia. APUF-7 is being jointly organized by Urbanice Malaysia and UN-Habitat.

The UN ESCAP and the United Nations family stand ready to be partnering with Mayors to ensure concrete actions are taken to build safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable communities in support of implementing the SDGs by 2030.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am looking forward to hearing the outcome of this Mayor’s Forum, which will be presented at the APUF-7 for further action and mainstreaming in national planning.

I am committed to working with all member States, including Mayors and other local stakeholders, to achieve sustainable development by 2030 in Asia and the Pacific.

Thank you for your attention. I wish you a successful forum.