1800 leaders at Eighth Asia-Pacific Urban Forum hear urgent call for collaborative, sustainable urban redevelopment

On October 23, 2023, the Eighth Asia-Pacific Urban Forum (APUF-8) opened in Suwon City, South Korea with a resounding call for sustainable urban redevelopment of an area that is home to 54% of the global urban population.

This year’s Forum is a significant milestone, marking 30 years since the first one was organized to focus attention on the great potential of the region’s cities.

Attended by over 1800 representatives from national and local government, think tanks, private sector, civil society and youth organizations from across the region, the three-day Forum seeks to mobilize innovative solutions, common actions and effective partnerships to achieve sustainable urban development.

Speaking at the Forum, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana urged for a special focus on investments to address the demand for infrastructure, basic services, affordable housing and mobility solutions.

She said, “National governments play a crucial role in creating an enabling environment for much needed and often overdue investments. Working with local and subnational governments to enhance urban finance options and develop the appropriate mechanism for cities is vital if we are to accelerate the implementation of impactful urban solutions.

Speakers exhorted local and national governments to increase political will and commitment as well as engage with stakeholders at all levels to address multiple interlinked crises that are placing pressure on the region’s cities.

As cities in the region continue to grow at an unprecedented rate, the population of people living in urban areas is projected to increase to 3.4 billion in 2050 from 2.5 billion today. Authorities need to accelerate their actions on the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement and New Urban Agenda at this critical time.

According to The Future of Asian and Pacific Cities Report 2023: Crisis Resilient Urban Futures, recent crises such as COVID-19, repercussions of geopolitical conflict and climate change have intersected in cities and created new challenges while further exposing long-standing issues such as inequality, urban poverty, affordable housing and an expanding infrastructure gap

The region has the largest number of people – approximately 650 million – living in informal settlements and slums, who are acutely vulnerable and marginalized. A disproportionately high number of large cities are on the coast, under threat from rising sea levels and flooding due to climate change.

Suwon Mayor Lee Jae-Joon was among the local government representatives to share their vision of a sustainable urban future. He said, “Building a ‘sustainable city’ is the only solution. We need to create an inclusive city to address the climate crisis through carbon neutrality, withstand disasters like pandemics, confront social issues such as inequality and income disparities, and protect the most vulnerable in society. Suwon will continue the spirit of innovation in sustainable development we have built over the past 20 years.

Towards this end, ministers and senior officials from member States also announced today the High-Level Communique for Sustainable Urban Development in Asia-Pacific that reflects a regional consensus on sustainable urban development. The communique seeks to promote Asian and Pacific cities as engines of progress.

It underscores advancing integrated urban and territorial planning, multi-level governance for climate resilience, inclusive urban policies for vulnerable groups, enabling environment for urban finance, digital innovation. It calls for strengthened partnerships encompassing all stakeholders, based on recommendations from the Forum’s flagship report.

APUF-8 is organized by ESCAP and Suwon City, in strategic partnership with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of the Republic of Korea, and in cooperation with UN-Habitat, Habitat for Humanity International, CityNet as well as a range of supporting partner organizations.

Photo of Suwon City is by Suhyun Lee from Pixabay.

See the website of the Eighth Asia-Pacific Urban Forum.

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