Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific 2016 reinforces development as peoples' process

A summary of the 2nd Asia-Pacific Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation



Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia YAB Datuk Seri Utama Dr. Ahmad Zahid bin Hamidi (seventh from left), with Chief Minister of Melaka YAB Datuk Seri Ir. Hj. Idris bin Hj. Haron (eighth from left), at High-Level Segment of Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific 2016 

The Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific 2016 congress, organised in conjunction with the 16th International Convention on Melaka Twin Cities, was held in Melaka, Malaysia from 2 to 4 March, 2016. The three-day event that was attended by more than 500 participants, including city mayors, councillors, members from civil society, UN agencies, financial institutions, business groups, among others, ended with the adoption of Melaka Call for Action, a joint commitment by the participants of the Congress. The Call appeals to national governments to enhance their support for local and subnational governments and commits to ten action points.

Participants from 98 cities in 31 countries, including eight Ambassadors and High Commissioners, 27 mayors, 21 elected representatives and 100 city representatives were present at the forum that was officially opened by YB Datuk Abdul Rahman bin Dahlan, Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Malaysia.

Dignitaries at the opening ceremony of Resilient Cities Asia Pacific 2016

The Chief Minister of Melaka YAB Datuk Seri Ir. Hj. Idris bin Hj. Haron, in his special address, highlighted Melaka's credentials as a resilient city, pointing out its goal of becoming a Green Technology City State by 2020 and its alignment with the national target of reducing CO2 emissions by 40 per cent by 2020. “Building resilience is a collective effort,” he asserted.

The Chief Minister of Melaka YAB Datuk Seri Ir. Hj. Idris bin Hj. Haron speaks at the Resilient Cities Asia Pacific Forum

The congress – as it happened

The event was divided into six plenaries and 14 parallel sessions – with themes ranging from informal settlements, knowledge transfer on resilient infrastructures, financing urban resilience, resilience in small island nations, relevance of research and technology, disaster reduction, gender and biodiversity, among others.

From global agreements to implementation

Year 2015 saw many global frameworks being finalized – Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Conference of Parties Paris Agreement on climate change. The first plenary session at the conference deliberated over implications of these outcomes for local and subnational governments. The experts from UNEP, UNDP, UN HABITAT, UNISDR and UNESCAP unanimously agreed that now was the time to achieve results by implementing frameworks at local levels. But this is a challenging task at hand, with most of the policy frameworks being time bound. “These agreements are also opportunities,” said Gino van Begin, Secretary General, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. “We need to always keep in mind the people we are working for,” said YBhg. Datuk Seri Dr. Rahamat Bivi Yusoff, Director General, Economic Planning Unit, Government of Malaysia.

Parallel sessions included discussions over tackling challenges and leveraging opportunities provided by the 2015 UN outcomes discussed in the plenary, focussing on the right areas of urban resilience, integrating resilience with biodiversity, gender and informal settlements. City specific problems with regard to informal settlements, small island nations and implementation of urban resilience were discussed in detail, with an insight into practical city experiences. A key message from the discussions was that transfer of knowledge was a key component for effective resilience planning.  The importance of coexistence in planning resilience and ensuring transfer of knowledge came as a key message. “Our master plan on the flood protection must be totally revised. We cannot just protect Bangkok City only - we need to expand and plan beyond our city” - Dr. Supachai Tantikom, Chief Resilience Officer, Bangkok. Cases from East Asia were also discussed.

Financing resilience

Finance, one of the major concerns at helm of development-related activities, was intensively discussed on the second day of the meet. The discussions were more relevant as the magnitude of infrastructure investments required in most Asian cities, coupled with the lack of capacity – such as financial resources, organization structures and staffing levels in the city – has been acknowledged as an obstacle to urban development, in general.

Bringing resilience into planning processes rather than establishing a "resilience budget" and understanding that money for resilience was available but cities need more specific and professional planning to use it were among the outcomes. YBhg. Dato’Maimunah binti Mohd, Global Executive Committee Member of ICLEI Southeast Asia Region and Municipal President, Municipal Council of Seberang Perai, Malaysia presented an example of how she turned the deficit in her council into a surplus through cost-cutting and use of technology for monitoring systems. In another reflection reinforcing the relevance of resilience for business organisations, Thomas Tang, Director, Sustainability Asia, AECOM said, "A healthy city is good for business."

Meanwhile, discussions over disaster risk reduction brought to fore that ensuring risk reduction should be a priority for both national and local governments. Challenges from small island nations were also talked about. “No proper planning frameworks, financial support and infrastructure are some obstacles faced in managing hazards in Port Vila,” said Sampson Ainea Jerry, Senior Physical Planning Officer, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Port Vila.

Resilience without youth?

While the Congress also saw youth representatives sharing how volunteering through sports in Solomon Islands and platforms like the Asia Youth forum have contributed to engaging youth in building resilience. Communicating challenges to youth in colleges of Nepal and engaging them in rehabilitation was cited as an example of how SDGs can be achieved better through inclusive development and participation.

Deputy PM at the High-Level Segment

On the third day, a High-Level Segment featured the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Datuk Seri Utama Dr. Ahmad Zahid bin Hamidi. The Deputy Prime Minister expressed his support for Melaka's pioneering initiatives, which include the publishing of a greenhouse gas emissions inventory (developed by ICLEI) and the introduction of electric buses. He reiterated the need for integrated and inclusive urban resilient strategies, arguing that resilient cities need resilient people.

Resilience through research and technology

The final day allowed participants to discuss the roles of research and technology for urban climate resilience. Speakers emphasized the barriers that stand in the way of green technology development, including heavy capital outlay, lack of sources of funding, long payback periods, unreliable suppliers and contractors, lack of innovative and technological expertise for installation and maintenance, and insufficient long-term support from local authorities. In addition, Juhari bin Ab Razak introduced Meterai Hijau Melaka (MHM) or Melaka Green Seal, a green buildings certification for new buildings in Melaka.

A pledge for resilience

The Closing Plenary of Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific 2016 looked back at the key themes of the congress - inclusive approach, informal settlements, youth, gender finance, global fameworks and leadership, and looked ahead to the rest of 2016 and beyond. The need for strong participation from the Asia-Pacific region in the process towards Habitat III was emphasized as this was one forum that saw participation from many countries in the region, following the establishment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Strong engagement will ensure that the New Urban Agenda to be established at Habitat III will reflect the importance of the region in the fight against climate change and in the global efforts for sustainable urbanization. “I would argue that the battle of climate change will be won or lost in Asia-Pacific region.” - Donovan Storey, Chief of Sustainable Urban Development Section, UN ESCAP.

Three days of sharing, deliberating, learning, and networking was then followed by reading of Melaka Call for Action, an output of the Congress and a joint statement that was adopted by the participants. The Call that appeals to national governments to enhance their support for local and subnational governments, and commits to ten action points was endorsed by the participants.

The forum ended in style with a “Resilience Walk” to Independence Memorial where a "Citizens’ Pledge for Resilience", based on the Melaka Call for Action, was led by YAB Datuk Seri Ir. Hj. Idris bin Hj. Haron, Chief Minister of Melaka, Malaysia.

Chief Minister of Melaka YAB Datuk Seri Ir. Hj. Idris bin Hj. Haron (in traditional blue attire), with other participants during Resilience Walk in Melaka, Malaysia

 The key messages of the Pledge are:

• Engage earnestly with the Melaka State Government in their efforts towards resilience
• Ensure that the women and men of Melaka equally participate in the process
• Encourage the youth of Melaka to actively engage in the planning and management
• Participate actively and contribute towards capacity building, awareness generation, and community mobilisation
• Commit to doing everything in our capacity to keep Melaka, clean, green, and safe 
• Inculcate in our children values and green practices to become responsible citizens of Melaka

Congress summary: a presentation
Melaka Call
Citizens' Pledge
RCAP 2016: In pictures

Watch out for full report of the congress 

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