Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat,
Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to join you to commemorate World Cities Day, focused on the theme “Better City, Better Life: Act Local to Go Global.”
Nowhere is this theme more relevant than in the Asia-Pacific region.
Many of the most pressing global challenges have emerged prominently here, including the effects of climate change and COVID-19, and the rising inequalities visible in our cities and towns.
With more than half of the world’s urban population, increasing to 60 per cent by 2050, our region has a special responsibility to ensure that our cities develop solutions and manage their growth sustainably.
Rapid urbanization in our region is driving many challenges, from rising energy demands and associated GHG emissions to increasing volumes of solid waste and plastics and from inequalities in health and housing to unhealthy urban air quality.
But we know that recoveries begin with cities and that building better cities will improve lives now and build resilience to guard against future risks later.
Local climate actions, including low-carbon development, nature-based solutions and protecting coastal areas, will enhance the lives of citizens while contributing to broader climate strategies and Nationally Determined Contributions and will generate global benefits.
Integrated urban and territorial planning that considers transport systems, urban mobility and compact spatial development will save on infrastructure costs and make living, working and playing within a 15-minute city possible.
As centres of economies, social interactions, research and innovation, our cities are well positioned to lead the necessary transitions to a more sustainable future. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a framework to guide those transitions.
In this context, Voluntary Local Reviews (VLR) are a useful tool for cities to examine their progress and align their local priorities with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs.
In essence, a VLR supports cities to “Act Local to Go Global.” ESCAP is pleased to be the first UN regional commission to develop, in collaboration with UN-Habitat and other partners, regional guidelines for VLRs.
VLRs not only allow cities to measure their progress against the SDGs but contribute to more robust national reporting in Voluntary National Reviews.
We look forward to continuing our work in partnership with member States, local authorities, UN agencies and civil society to help build better cities for better lives.
Allow me also to take this opportunity to provide an advance invitation to all of you to the 8th Asia Pacific Urban Forum, to be held next year at this time in Suwon, Republic of Korea.
Thank you for your attention.