“Region, Life and Culture in the New Urban Agenda” debated at the UCLG ASPAC Congress

From 3 to 8 September 2016, UCLG ASPAC celebrated its congress in Jeollabuk-do, Gunsan, South Korea, with the theme “Region, Life and Culture in the New Urban Agenda”. The event saw a wide range of discussions on topics including Enabling Environment Ratings, the question of leadership in the New Urban Agenda, the localization of the SDGs, urban innovation, public space, and the issue of urban resilience in different formats.

The Congress highlighted the role of UCLG’s Asian Regional Section in contributing to the diversity of the global network, supported by the UCLG World Secretariat.

The UCLG World Secretariat and UCLG ASPAC co-organized sessions on localizing the SDGs, learning, and culture. The session on the SDGs was split into two sections extended over the morning, the first emphasized learning and the second, networking. The speakers were Fabienne Perucca from UN-Habitat, Paavani Reddy from UNDP, Claudia Buentjen from the Asian Development Bank, and Anselmo Lee, from Korea Human Rights Foundation, representing civil society. . The networks represented were: Connective Cities, by the City of Nuremberg; Clean Air Asia, by Katherine Arlette; UCLG ASPAC members, by Rajak Shanmugarajah from Sri Lanka, and the President of the Cambodian Association of local governments, Pok Sukundara. The learning session revealed possible topics for future collaboration on SDG 11 and SDG 8, such as mobility and local economic development, as well as providing the opportunity for participants to give feedback on the learning approach and confirm their interest in cooperation.

The key message from the UCLG ASPAC Congress for the New Urban Agenda to be adopted at Habitat III was that the SDGs will fail if local governments are not in the center of action and support. For this reason, international partners need to react to their demands, particularly:

  1. The SDGs should function as checklist for integrated urban management.  Urban management decisions are as stronger when owned locally. The political will of local governments to implement the SDGs is fundamental.  
  2. Capacity, functional assignment and fiscal gaps are significant at local level. National governments must decentralize, build capacity and localize funding for the achievement of the SDGs. The political commitments to the SDG are not yet reflected in investment at local level, which makes up less than 5% of total investments in the region, according an Asian Development Bank review.
  3. Capacity building can be carried out through networking learning and cooperation in the areas of mobility, local economic development, business licensing, incentives and business platforms. On culture, the relation between culture and planning in heritage management is vital.

UCLG hopes to support the Action Learning of ASPAC members and attract partners to collaborate in tackling Asian urban realities. In 2017, we envisage a joint peer learning programme involving our networks and partners. The themes covered will be proposed by local governments.

Further coherence was built by linking the learning on mobility of the Seoul Human Resource Development Center (SHRDC), to the networks of Clean Air Asia and Connective Cities, which whom UCLG is signing a partnership agreement to foster peer learning opportunities for UCLG members.

The meeting of the ASPAC Standing Committee on Culture revealed an interest in cooperation between the Asian and the global chapter, as well as particular interest in exploring the protection and promotion of cultural heritage and other cultural assets in the context of urban planning. The UCLG Committee on Culture presented its current activities. The ASPAC Committee on Culture is led by the Jeju Special Province, which will also host the 2nd UCLG Culture Summit on 5-7 April 2017. This event is seen as a good opportunity to strengthen networking among cities in Asia-Pacific as regards culture and sustainable development, as well as to further collaboration with UCLG. The Province of Jeju, the ASPAC Secretariat and the UCLG Committee on Culture will work in the coming months to guarantee good participation of cities in the region at the 2nd Culture Summit

The Place of Culture in Urban Transformation” was also the topic of one of the Congress’ plenary sessions, which saw presentations of experiences from Surakarta (Solo), Jeju, Jeollabuk-do and the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), as well as the UCLG Committee on Culture.

More information: uclg-aspac2016.org