I would like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate all of you on your active participation in the Asia-Pacific Mayors Academy.
The commitment each of you made to join the Academy demonstrates that you are dedicated to making your communities safe, resilient, inclusive and sustainable and interested in the learning of the tools and policy actions to do so.
I regret that we were unable to bring all the mayors in this class together but hope that you were able to exchange experiences and develop a support network of peers that you can reach out to.
I was also saddened to hear of the passing of Mayor Mr. Abdul Baiz Kamardeen of Puttalam, Sri Lanka, from an accident just before the completion of the class.
We all know- mayors better than anyone—that cities are on the frontline of major challenges such as:
• Climate change
• Air pollution, traffic and congestion
• Meeting the demands for basic urban services such as water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management
• Overcoming the infrastructure gap and providing adequate shelter
These challenges have become more prevalent in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had unprecedented impacts on the economies and social life in cities and urban areas.
The impacts of the pandemic make your achievements in the Academy all the more valuable.
Cities and urban centres in Asia and the Pacific are accelerators for social and economic progress, and indeed recoveries from the pandemic will largely be driven by how cities respond and realize their dynamic potential as hubs of innovation and ideas.
Recoveries will need strong leadership in cities to ensure that our future urban areas are prepared to meet the economic growth over the coming decades, strengthen resilience and contribute to our ambitions to deal with climate and enable sustainable development.
I expect that through the modules you have developed a better understanding of the four thematic pillars on which all cities, regardless of their starting points, should focus:
• Urban and Territorial Planning
• Urban Resilience
• Smart Cities and Technology
• Urban Finance
As highlighted in The Future of Asian & Pacific Cities report, "A sustainable future occurs when planning lays a foundation; resilience guards against future risk; smart cities deploy the best technology for the job; and financing tools help pay for it all."
I have had the opportunity to review the initiatives that you brought forward and shared with your peers, and which you elaborated through the course learnings and expert feedback provided by the Academy partners and faculty.
The range of initiatives and your ambitions are impressive and will improve the quality of life in your communities.
I hope that each of you are able to fully engage all stakeholders in your cities to help implement your initiatives in the timeframes you have established, and we all will look forward to seeing the results of your leadership and initiatives.
I know that some of you are considering undertaking a Voluntary Local Review process to monitor progress in your communities against the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.
A VLR can be an effective approach to building community consensus, identifying local capacity gaps, and to overcoming policy gaps between local and national governments.
The VLR process relies in large part on local leadership, and it is clear through your work in the Academy and your initiatives that you are well-positioned to take the next step and become Champions for Sustainability.
ESCAP and the partners in the Academy will be available to support you and I look forward to seeing the results of your localization efforts in your cities.
In closing, I wish to express my thanks to all of our partners in the Academy: UN-Habitat, UCLG-ASPAC, UN University-Institute for Advanced Study of Sustainability, the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, and IGES.
A special thanks to all of the faculty from partner institutions and universities in the APRU network for your tireless efforts and support to the class of mayors.
I wish all of you the best of luck in your efforts.
Thank you very much.