The Significance of the Melaka Citizens’ Pledge

The 2nd Resilience Cities Asia-Pacific congress came to a close yesterday, here in the beautiful and historic city of Melaka in Malaysia. Three days of sharing, deliberating, learning, and networking, interspersed with opportunities to experience the vibrant culture and the culinary delights of our hosts.

The end of this Congress was aptly marked by the Chief Minister of Melaka, YAB Datuk Seri Ir. Hj. Idris bin Hj. Haron, reading out the Melaka Citizens’ Pledge for Resilience at the Independence Memorial. This pledge was based on the Melaka Call for Action, an output of the Congress and a joint statement that was adopted by the participants which appeals to national governments to enhance their support for local and subnational governments, and commits to ten action points.

The Melaka Call has been endorsed by the 500+ participants – which includes representatives from 98 cities from over 30 countries, UN organisations, urban researchers and practitioners, the youth and young leaders, private sector corporations, and financial institutions. It has been reviewed and revised by experts, and adds to the growing number of documented appeals that call for the adoption, support and implementation of the principle of subsidiarity.

Through six plenaries and 14 parallel sessions several important lessons were learnt. Partnerships were negotiated and hopefully sealed in the corridors of the Congress. These are valuable outputs and outcomes that the event sought to achieve, and in my opinion, did so handsomely. But, there was something more that happened here. It is encapsulated in the Chief Minister reading out the Melaka Citizens’ Pledge for Resilience at the Independence Memorial. From this act, three key messages emerge:

  1. The formulation and adoption of a citizens’ pledge by Melaka emphasizes that resilience cannot remain a concept that is deliberated by academicians, practitioners or politicians. It has to translate into a movement that percolates to every individual and motivates them into action so that the cumulative impact is transformational.
  1. The reading of the pledge at the Independence Memorial has a metaphoric significance. The venue is a symbol that marks a change for the better, a new beginning, and recognition of a struggle and victory over unacceptable systems and structures of the past. Moving towards a more resilient and sustainable future requires not accepting conventional practices, ‘rebelling’ against them, and defining new ways forward.
  1. The elected Chief Minister of the State of Melaka, requesting for such a pledge and personally adopting and reading it out sends a clear message that investing in and promoting resilience makes political sense; at least according to him. I wholeheartedly agree with him. This demonstrates an understanding of the regional and global dynamics of change, a vision and foresight for growth avenues, as well as revenues.

‘Greasing’ is a term that does not have a very positive connotation when it is used in political contexts. However, political will is a critical ingredient that is necessary to grease the wheels of transformation towards a resilient and sustainable future. We have witnessed political will in action in Melaka.


Sunandan Tiwari

5th March 2016

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