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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

22 February 2024

Excellency Mr. Bambang Susantono, Head of the Nusantara Capital City Authority of Indonesia,

Excellency Mr. Rachmat Budiman, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent, Representative to ESCAP,

Mr. Bruno Dercon, Acting Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific of UN-Habitat,

Distinguished participants, colleagues and friends, ladies and gentlemen,

The Asia-Pacific region is undergoing a profound transformation characterized by rapid urbanization, which is expected to persist in the years to come. Urban development in our region is a “double-edged sword,” presenting both challenges and opportunities with significant implications for the achievement of the SDGs.

With more than 65 per cent of SDG targets needing to be met at the local level by subnational governments including cities, it becomes imperative to focus our efforts on sustainable urban development.

Our flagship report with UN-Habitat entitled “Crisis Resilient Cities” launched last October at the 8th Asia-Pacific Urban Forum in Suwon, Republic of Korea, makes the case demonstrating urbanization as a crucial driver of growth in the Asia-Pacific region, with an estimated 80 per cent of GDP stemming from its cities.

However, the report shows that urbanization comes with its own set of multiple interlinked challenges, ranging from the effects of climate change to limitations in local investment and the need for socially inclusive urban policies.

Member States in the Asia-Pacific region recognize the importance of addressing these challenges and are stepping up in prioritizing sustainable urban development, demonstrated by the Commission adopting last year resolution 79/7 on “Advancing regional cooperation for achieving sustainable urban development and localization of the Sustainable Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific.”

Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) emerge as crucial processes to expedite SDG achievement at the local level. Guided by our Asia-Pacific Regional Guidelines on VLRs, these reviews help identify opportunities, gaps and challenges, as well as directing actions towards comprehensive long-term urban planning and investment strategies.

Our side event today aims to delve into the opportunities and challenges faced in developing new and emerging cities in the region by applying sustainable development principles.

For instance, Indonesia's ambitious plan to build a new national capital city in the East Kalimantan, Nusantara city, emphasizing the preservation of 75 per cent of the delineated area as green open space.

This underscores the commitment to sustainable development from the very beginning of the development of these new cities.

Through this event, we seek to foster an exchange of best practices as well as experiences concerning the development of new and emerging cities and the strategic utilization of VLRs as tools guiding sustainable urban futures.

We have gathered cities, national governments, stakeholders and experts who will share insights on how strategic urban planning, influenced by VLRs, can support a whole of government and whole of society approach to accelerate SDG achievement in our region.

Moreover, we will explore the integration between Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) and VLRs to incorporate urban development measures into national policy strategies.

I encourage all participants to actively engage in the discussions, share your experiences, knowledge as well as contribute to regional partnerships that will emerge from this event.

Together, let us pave the way for sustainable urban futures in the Asia-Pacific region.

Thank you very much.

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