Cooperation among cities essential to address challenges

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Collaboration, coordination and cooperation are the key ingredients in the recipe for progress and prosperity of mankind. Especially given the significant challenges including poverty, inequality, security and climate change facing countries and communities across a wide spectrum-western and eastern, developing and developed worlds-there is need for coordinated response to address these and come up with effective counter-measures.

The need for such regional cooperation has been realized and addressed since several decades giving rise to many trade blocs and economic development frameworks among countries of a region, for example the Commonwealth, EU, ASEAN, G20 and G8. These have served to further the common agendas of the member countries and to address common challenges.These groupings have however promoted cooperation among national governments on issues at the national level.

Cities are, in the last couple of decades, facing their own set of challenges. These include rapid and relentless urbanization causing severe infrastructure gaps, service provision deficits, growing inequality, managerial capability issues and financial constraints with limited resource mobilization options. These are complexities facing cities and other sub-national governments in many countries of the developing world as well as some developed countries. At the same time, with growing population and high density settlements, cities are tasked with hosting and ensuring the welfare of larger numbers of the population.

With the concentration of population, several challenges get amplified. For example the issues of efficient public transportation, outbreaks of communicable diseases, pollution, ambient air quality and affordable housing all manifest themselves as prominent challenges in our crowded cities. Moreover these are not common in prevalence or intensity in all cities of a country. With their growing roles, the success of cities will, to a large extent, determine our success in achievement of some global objectives – the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Climate Agreement and Habitat III, for example. There is hence, in our opinion, need for closer cooperation and collaboration among cities and local governments across nations and regions. This will enable better exchange of ideas and experiences at the cities level and enable address the local issues.

We at UCLG ASPAC have been working to provide such platforms for mayors, urban local body professionals, elected representatives and other stakeholders of the Asia-Pacific region to interact. Among such events is the ASEAN Mayors Forum which enables mayors and others from the ASEAN countries to interact, exchange thoughts and learn from each other’s experiences. We have conducted many such events in different cities of the Asia region to strengthen various departments of urban local bodies. The conferences have drawn encouraging response from city managers and witnessed keen participation and significant valuable takeaways. South Asian Cities Summit (SACS) is another such event. We believe that more such efforts are required among sub-national governments of different regions in order to support each other in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration to address the significant challenges of our cities. In this issue of One Belt One Road we cover several aspects of regional connectivity, cooperation and collaboration. In the Cover Story, we cover ASEAN Mayors Forum proceedings and outline our agenda of bringing together all cities from different countries for weaving a better and sustainable future for our cities.