Bangkok (UN ESCAP Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section) – More than 900 representatives of governments, civil society, private sector and academia in the region are meeting in Bangkok this week to discuss ways to ensure that booming Asia-Pacific urban prosperity is friendly to both the poor and nature.
The three-day Fifth Asia-Pacific Urban Forum (APUF) which began today under the theme “Cities of opportunity: Partnerships for an inclusive and sustainable future,” is jointly convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and over 30 of its development partners.
Increasing by the size of Singapore every month and producing more than 80 percent of regional economic growth, urban areas in Asia and the Pacific are dynamic centres of economic, social and cultural growth.
Yet urban growth is marked by extreme social and economic disparities. An estimated 35 percent of the region’s urban people lack adequate access to shelter, basic services, income opportunities and decision-making on issues affecting their daily lives.
“To make our cities inclusive and sustainable, we need to address economic growth, environmental sustainability, poverty reduction and resilience to climate change,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Noeleen Heyzer. “This requires that we take a fresh look at how cities are managed.”
Asia-Pacific cities are also highly vulnerable to natural disasters and extreme weather-related hazards. Over 50 percent of the region’s urban population lives in low lying coastal zones or flood plains exposed to high risk of increased flooding due to climate change, according to The State of Asian Cities 2010/11, a joint ESCAP – UN-Habitat report which will be distributed at the APUF.
“The frequency and intensity of these and other climate-related disasters will increase,” stated the ESCAP chief. “We simply do not have the luxury of growing first and cleaning up later.”
Presiding over the opening ceremony, Professor Dr. Her Royal Highness, Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol of Thailand highlighted the urgent need for a green economy and a comprehensive framework for its implementation to ensure sustainable and equitable urban development. “All these challenges of rapid economic growth, increasing inequalities and disparities, environmental and climate change, require that we reconsider our development paradigm.”
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva asserted in his opening address that Asia is in the midst of high economic growth and dynamism.
“Cities are important centers generating this growth and development dynamism,” he said. “This is the right time to find the appropriate model for combining economic growth and the growth of cities with a new form of urbanisation which can also provide equal opportunities for all.”
Participants at the Forum will identify priorities and share experiences on good and innovative practices to promote inclusive and sustainable urban development.
For further information, please contact:
Ms. Francyne Harrigan
Chief, Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section, ESCAP
T: (66) 2 288 1052
M: (66) 81 835 8677
Ms. Thawadi Pachariyangkun
Public Information Officer, ESCAP
T: (66) 2 288 1861; M: (66) 81 634 3876
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Asia-Pacific forum to discuss making cities pro-poor, environment-friendly and climate safe