Action Plan for Regional Cooperation on Promoting Sustainable Urban Development Among Asia-Pacific Countries

Background

The Asia-Pacific region is undergoing a vibrant economic transformation with a number of countries recording remarkable economic and social gains. Increased national investment capacities and the growing influx of foreign capital together with vast technical expertise are facilitating accelerated economic growth in many parts of the region. Home to 60 per cent of humanity, the region has vast human resources promising further potential for growth and development. At the same time rapid urbanization in the region is further enhancing the role of cities as engines of economic growth. Economic growth is already enabling massive reforms and innovations in the delivery of housing, infrastructure and services in countries across the region.

However, a lack of appropriate linkages between economic development and urbanization threatens environmental, social and economic sustainability in the region. Indeed, the region continues to face critical challenges of sustainable urbanization including poverty and inequality, proliferation of slum settlements and natural disasters. Bringing together 69 countries, APMCHUD offers a unique framework to address these regional challenges through collaborative efforts and the sharing of experiences and best practices. The second APMCHUD in particular was intended to identify concrete regional actions to promote sustainable urbanization through associating growth with equity and identity.

A number of challenges related to sustainable urbanization were considered by the conference including: the need to upgrade slums and dilapidated housing stock; the provision of basic urban services especially water and sanitation; enhancing the affordability and quality of low-income housing, and disaster risk reduction, mitigation and reconstruction in view of the vulnerability of the region in this regard. It was agreed that every effort should be made to prioritize these key areas so as to reduce overall poverty and inequality in cities and other human settlements across the region. The importance of heritage, identity and culture was underscored, and the challenge of balancing technological progress with local norms, values and traditions emphasized.

Some of the operational considerations that were taken into account include the principle that the right to adequate housing will only be realized if public funds are injected in the housing sector and well targeted. The same applied to questions of infrastructure, public-private-partnerships, progressive cost-recovery and community participation. All these were considered within the overall commitment to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The conference proceeded to undertake an in-depth consideration of each of the key facets of sustainable urbanization and agreed on the following key messages and actions:

1. Urban and Rural Planning and Management

Key messages
  • An integrated, participatory and inclusive approach to urban and rural planning and management should be adopted at all levels in the region.
  • Countries within the region that are able to do so are called upon to assist countries that do not have adequate resources in strengthening capacities for rural and urban planning as well as management.
  • Comprehensive strategic plans prepared at national levels should reflect local needs and community aspirations.
  • Cooperation among countries of the region should be strengthened for mitigating the impact of the climate change on cities, particularly in coastal regions, and adapting urban infrastructure to better protect vulnerable human settlements.
  • Recognizing the serious challenge facing the management of large cities and metropolises, governments of the region are called upon to cooperate in the formulation of appropriate tools for good governance in them.
  • Countries of the region are urged to promote public-private partnership to leverage resources and increase efficiency in the delivery of basic services.
Actions

To carry out a feasibility study that will address:

  • Capacity building for integrated, participatory and inclusive planning at national and local levels.
  • The exploration of traditional and indigenous architectural values and urban planning and their incorporation into contemporary architecture and planning.
  • The harmonization of spatial plans and policies which transient national boundaries including those on the effects of environment change.
  • The acquisition of spatial data and information including satellite images, aerial photos, cadastral and topographical maps for planning and management purposes in urban and rural areas.
  • To initiate a regional urban observatory in collaboration with UN-HABITAT.

2. Urban Slums Upgrading

Key messages
  • Governments should promote participatory slum upgrading approaches that are peoplebased and foster multi-actor partnerships.
  • Governments should undertake measures to scale up slum upgrading and move from projects to city/nation-wide programmes, drawing on the good practices from the Region.
  • Governments are to adopt good housing policies that scale up the supply of serviced land and affordable housing in view of slum prevention.
  • Governments should recognize the important role of women in poverty alleviation and slum upgrading programmes.
Actions
  • a. APMCHUD is to establish sub-regional Slum Upgrading Working Groups to coordinate the following activities:
    Data collection and monitoring:
    • Improving existing slum indicators for the Region
    • Regular regional data collection on slums
    • Regional progress reporting on slum upgrading against agreed indicators and
    • benchmarks
    • Regional impact assessment of slum upgrading initiatives
    Experience sharing on good practices and policies on:
    • Participation mechanisms for slum upgrading
    • Scaling up of successful upgrading programmes
    • Slum prevention through enabling housing strategies
    Capacity building:
    • Field visits by various stakeholders for hands-on experience exchange
    • Development of policy guides, training materials and academic curricula
    • Strengthening local authorities and their partners, e.g. NGOs, CBOs, private sector,
    • training and academic institutions
  • Sub-regional Working Groups will set up networks comprising research institutions; governmental institutions; and civil society, community-based, and non-governmental organizations. The sub-regional Working Groups are invited to establish and maintain web-based knowledge bases to facilitate exchange of documented slum upgrading experiences and other related data. These knowledge bases shall be linked to the APMCHUD website.
  • The sub-regional Working Groups are to report regularly to the APMCHUD Secretariat and to the biannual conference.
  • The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to set up such a sub-regional Working Group and a Network on urban slum upgrading focusing on the three identified activity areas (data collection and monitoring; experience sharing; and capacity building). Furthermore, the Islamic Republic of Iran is willing to provide the facilities for coordinating this subregional initiative.
  • Other Member States are invited to create additional sub-regional Working Groups.

3. Delivery of Millennium Development Goals for Water and Sanitation

Key messages
  • The great diversity in the availability of water and sanitation facilities should be taken into account and therefore context specific interventions are necessary for the provision of safe water and sanitation services within each country of the region.
  • Principled and pro-poor governance should underscore the delivery of water and sanitation services in the region under a determined leadership and political will.
  • Pro-poor urban water and sanitation governance frameworks should be developed in countries of the region.
  • Investments in water and sanitation services should be enhanced and sharing of resources amongst various stakeholders with cost recovery for sustainability.
  • Training and research at all levels need to be recognized as important elements of water and sanitation governance framework.
  • In a bid to speed up delivery, sanitation provision and wastewater treatment should be prioritized.
  • The effects of environmental pollution and disasters on water supply and sanitation can be effectively addressed through preparedness and preventive measures and the use of appropriate technologies.
  • Partnerships should be promoted with civil society organizations, private sector and knowledge centers in the region to enhance coverage and outreach to poor communities as well as generating accurate information.
Actions
  • APMCHUD to encourage networks for promoting partnerships among countries for transfer of knowledge and experience in water and wastewater management.
  • APMCHUD Secretariat should designate resource hub (s) for research and capacity building from among existing institutions in the region.
  • APMCHUD to establish a task force of senior officials for water supply and sanitation to promote inclusive and coherent policy and planning, support the development of regional information systems as well as the strengthening national and sub-national systems as a mechanism of exchange in the Asia- Pacific Region

4. Financing Sustainable Housing: Enhancing Affordability and Quality of Low-Income Housing

Key messages
  • Promote equitable access to housing finance through the development of an enabling environment and consideration of specialized housing finance institutions or mechanisms such as housing finance banks, non-banking housing finance institutions, housing provident funds and social housing funds.
  • Governments to support the provision of land and basic services for low income groups.
  • Governments to consider reforming tax systems and providing incentives to encourage investments in the housing sector, particularly in low-income housing.
  • Develop an effective social housing policy or strategy including social housing finance, targeted subsidies and micro-finance for low income groups and effective crosssubsidies.
  • Promote decentralization of financial resources and give local governments more authority to generate revenue for housing and urban development.
Actions
  • To establish an Asia-Pacific housing finance network that will aim at: Enhancing collaboration between housing finance institutions and the sharing of technical experiences in the development of housing finance products and mechanisms; Promoting knowledge development and sharing through documentation and dissemination of housing finance best practices; and Supporting capacity building to improve housing finance systems.
  • APMCHUD may approach international organizations for technical and financial support for the above work.

5. Development of Sustainable Urbanization with a focus on Natural Disasters

Key messages
  • Countries to design and develop mechanisms for sharing the vast disaster mitigation knowledge that exists in the region.
  • Countries to expand insurance coverage and to adopt regulations requiring insurance to be obtained prior to the issuance of construction permits.
  • Countries to design their sports facilities for use as shelter during natural disaster and prepare plans for the use of existing ones
  • Countries to base all city development plans on natural hazard assessments and studies.
  • Countries to carry out voluntary technical assessments and studies for the retrofitting of vital and important buildings to be done within two years time based on the HYOGO framework.
Actions
  • Undertake feasibility studies for the creation of a disaster loan fund.
  • Draw lesson from valuable experiences of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Japan on seismic risk mitigation.
  • Design and implement training programmes in safe construction methods.
  • Establish an Asian Disaster Mitigation Centre in Tehran to design modular training courses to be used in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Establish a programme for city twining to support cities affected by disasters and provide the required support whenever needed.

Implementation Arrangement

In order to ensure the effective execution of the action plan, the Conference calls upon countries of the region to promote and establish technical networks and working groups relating to the different sub-themes. In this respect, the Conference urges Member States to support and lead the coordination of these networks and working groups in collaboration with the APMCHUD Secretariat.