RCAP2016-opening1

‘Translating Global Gains into Local Realities’ Sought at Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific Opening

Malaysian Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government YB Datuk Abdul Rahman bin Dahlan, Melaka Chief Minister YAB Datuk Seri Ir. Hj. Idris bin Hj. Haron, and ICLEI Secretary General Gino Van Begin headed the opening ceremony Wednesday of the second Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific (RCAP) forum at the Hotel Equatorial in Melaka, Malaysia.

RCAP seeks to provide a platform for discussions on urban resilience and climate change adaptation in the Asia-Pacific, with the ultimate goal of ‘identifying implementable solutions and creating lasting impacts’ for local governments in the region. Organized by ICLEI and hosted by the Melaka State Government, Melaka Historic City Council, and the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle, RCAP 2016 has convened around 500 delegates for the three-day forum to be held until March 4.

In his opening address, Mr. Van Begin noted that RCAP 2016 comes at an ‘opportune time’ for local governments in the region, as international outcomes approved last year such as the Paris Agreement and the new Sustainable Development Goals provide for significant recognition and support of local and subnational action. In the Asia-Pacific context, he said, the forum should look to define how local governments can act within these frameworks to address significant challenges, such as the continued lack of financing for local resilience actions and of the capacity by local governments to secure and manage funding.

“As ICLEI’s work within the global policy arena has helped secure many of the advances in support of local and subnational action, it is my hope that our work in RCAP 2016 will help translate these global gains into local realities,” said Mr. Van Begin.

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RCAP 2016 Day 1 Highlights:

Opening plenary: RCAP opens with assessment of ‘milestone’ 2015
Parallel session A3: Resilient investment – Targeting is good, embedding is better
Parallel session B1: Informality: Let the people be the solution

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‘Profound challenge’

Mr. Donovan Storey, Chief of the Sustainable Urban Development Section at the Education and Development Division of UNESCAP, recognized the ‘profound challenge’ posed by the combination of two ‘megatrends’ within the Asia-Pacific region, urbanization and vulnerability to climate change. Noting the new agreements have provided “more and more opportunities” for local governments, cities nonetheless will have to find new development pathways different from the one that “got us to this point.”

For her part, Ms. Mariko Sato, Chief of the Bangkok Office of UN HABITAT, stressed that the global agreements will have “no meaning” unless they “touch upon the lives of ordinary people and improve the wellbeing of the most vulnerable and marginalized.” She further argued that urbanization “is not the problem behind many of the challenges the world is facing today, but in fact one of the solutions and tools” to guide a transformative agenda, if new urban models that reduce GHG emissions are adopted and urban policy is placed at the center of the national development agenda.

“Cities, if planned and managed well, can create jobs, improve social inclusion, and protect local ecosystems so that cities can become engines of national economic growth, social prosperity, and environmental sustainability,” Ms. Sato said.

Mr. Kinlay Dorjee, Global Executive Committee Member, ICLEI South Asia Region and mayor of Thimpu, Bhutan, likewise addressed the assembly, presenting four ‘components’ of resilience – urban and environmental, social, cultural, and climate change – that cities should strive to equally attain.

Melaka Green City

In his message, Chief Minister YAB Datuk Seri Ir. Hj. Idris bin Hj. Haron highlighted Melaka’s efforts at becoming a Green Technology City State by 2020, through its Green Technology City State Blueprint and Green City Action Plan. He also discussed his commitment to the national target of reducing GHG emissions to 40%, for which, with the help of ICLEI, Melaka State has compiled its first greenhouse gas inventory.

YB Datuk Abdul Rahman bin Dahlan, who formally announced the opening of RCAP 2016, looked ahead to Malaysia’s hosting of the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum. He urged the organizers of RCAP to submit to him the findings and reports of the forum for possible consideration as policy.