Special Adviser

CityNet has two Special Advisers who served as Secretary General. Having served for CityNet, CityNet’s Special Advisers share their time in providing advice to Network’s strategic directions. They also provide overall guidance in improving CityNet’s organizational agenda and in providing strategic and in-depth perspectives in the development of the Network’s long-term goals.

CityNet Advisers bring with them unparralled experience in their areas of expertise. Even before joining CityNet stint, they already had established careers on their own.


Dato Lakhbir Singh Chahl

Dato Lakhbir Singh Chahl is the founding Secretary-General of CityNet having served the position from 1991-2009. Under his guidance, CityNet has grown and achieved its status to become the leading network of advocacy for local governments in the Asia-Pacific.

In CityNet, he had served and represented the Network in several United Nations agencies committees like in UNESCAP, UN-Habitat, and UNEP, to name a few. He represented CityNet in Rio Summit 1991, in series of World Urban Forums in Vancouver (2006) and in Nanjing (2008) and at the UN Habitat Summit 1996 in Istanbul.

Mr. Singh was an adhoc expert to the UN-Department of Economic and Social Affairs. He was a member of the Advisory Committee of the Asia Urbs Program of the European Union which strengthened cooperation between Asian and European cities.

In his hometown Penang, Malaysia, Mr. Singh had contributed to the promotion of planning and development of the Penang’s State Master Plan. He has also contributed to the development of local sports having served as president or vice president in many of state’s sports associations. Currently, he is one of Penang’s most-sought legal practitioners.

Mary Jane Ortega

Mary Jane Ortega is a former CityNet’s Secretary-General (2009-2013). She is a former mayor of San Fernando City, La Union (1998-2007). She is the first Filipina to receive the United Nations Scroll of Honour Award from United Nations Habitat in 2000 for her advocacy for the empowerment of women. Currently, she is one of three Vice Presidents of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. She is also a member of Board of Trustees of Clean Air Asia.

In the Philippines, she continues to be a part-time lecturer at the Ateneo School of Government, a board member of the Institute of Solidarity in Asia, member of the board of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation, and Coordinator for Synergia Foundation. She is also chairing the multi-sectoral governance council of San Fernando City. Mary Jane shares generously her time as CityNet’s special adviser by representing CityNet in high-level conferences, contributing to the network’s strategic long-term agenda, and promoting CityNet in the Asia Pacific region.