Bangkok, Thailand, 28 March 2022- Representatives of 25 Asia-Pacific countries have set the tone for leaders from other parts of the world meeting at the United Nations General Assembly next month by issuing a statement that specifies key New Urban Agenda (NUA) priorities for the region.

The Government of the Republic of Indonesia read the statement on behalf of the entire group at the 9th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APSFD).

The President of the United Nations General Assembly has called for a High-Level Meeting in New York on 28 April to put more emphasis on the NUA follow-up and review processes and how countries can achieve sustainable urban development and further the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

National Reports on the New Urban Agenda have not been released in sufficient numbers in the Asia-Pacific region. Indonesia, Malaysia, and Lao PDR have submitted national reports in support of the Secretary-General’s just-published Second Quadrennial Report on the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda 

UN-Habitat, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and many other partners, including the Penang Platform for Sustainable Urbanisation, have pushed for several regional processes of follow-up and review of the NUA and the urban dimensions of the SDGs. 

Key messages in the statement read by the Indonesian representative relate to inclusive territorial development processes, stronger integrated governance, addressing the digital divide, stepping up urban and national net-zero carbon actions and other urgent urban environmental and climate improvements. Also investing in safe and healthy housing by applying green building standards is singled out.

The statement had been endorsed during a virtual pre-meeting to APFSD on 21 March, convened by UN-Habitat and the ESCAP, with the support of the Government of Indonesia. The majority of the 84 participants in the 21 March meeting represented line ministries leading nationally on the New Urban Agenda, but also included mayors and representatives of regional organizations. 

“Your support – the support of the Asia Pacific region – contributes strongly to the preparation of the High-Level Meeting, to be convened by the President of the General Assembly on 28 April next month,” UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif told the 21 March meeting.

“There is an emerging consensus among Member States that the outcome of the High-Level Meeting should be action-oriented.  I join the Government of Indonesia in making this strong request for more national reporting for the next Quadrennial Report. I also call for more Voluntary Local Reviews, and more collaboration,” she added.

The pre-meeting provided opportunities for participants to offer suggestions that solidified the final statement.

During that meeting, representatives, including from the Government of Turkey, called for national urban policies and territorial development processes that strongly encompass rural hinterlands and address poverty and disaster risks, such as fires and droughts.

Several participants appealed for a strong gender message, support to grassroots organizations, while Karibaiti Taoaba of Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) (Pacific) appealed for unifying the Voluntary National Reviews and Voluntary Local Reviews formats and integration suitable for the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Many participants had welcomed the participation of sustainable urban development actors in the pre-meeting as a tool for crafting a unified message for the HLM meeting in New York.

Among those expressing strong support were Ramkumari Jhakri, Nepal’s Minister of Urban Development;  Marylin Pintor, Philippines Undersecretary for Human Settlements and Urban Development; Diana Kusumastuti, Indonesian Ministry of Public Works and Housing’s Director General for Human Settlements at the Ministry of Public Works and Housing; Sengdara Douangmyxay, Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s Deputy Director of the Department of Housing and Urban Planning at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport; Mayor Datuk Mahadi Che Ngah of Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur; and Lim Chze Cheen, the Director of the ASEAN Connectivity Division.

At the occasion of the 21 March meeting, ESCAP released a report on prior regional consultations that showed progress on key priorities, including recent effective implementation of good practices. The Secretary-General’s 2nd quadrennial report highlights some of the challenges and examples of the progress in the region.