Sustainable development stands as a strategic pathway to secure a harmonious future where economic progress intertwines with environmental stewardship and social equity. With an emphasis on ‘no one left behind,’ the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) serve as a guiding framework to steer global efforts in addressing pressing environmental, social, and economic challenges all over the world. These goals facilitate the creation of more resilient, equitable, and livable communities, encompassing a spectrum from eradicating poverty and hunger to fostering good health, quality education, and gender equality.
As part of the 12th Asia Smart City Conference, the CityNet SDGs Cluster Seminar took place on November 15, 2023, at PACIFICO Yokohama North, Japan, with a pivotal focus on the potential expansion of Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) leveraging CityNet’s prominent network within the Asia Pacific region. The session encompassed presentations by CityNet member cities, along with contributions from international organisations, private companies, and elementary school students from Yokohama City. The VLRs are a mechanism that empowers local and regional governmental bodies to voluntarily report on their progress, obstacles, and actions pertaining to the implementation of the SDGs. Amidst escalating global attention on SDGs and decarbonization, local governments worldwide are undertaking VLRs to build solid trust among citizens and stakeholders by accelerating accountability and transparency on their commitments and performance toward SDGs.
The opening of the CityNet SDGs Cluster Seminar featured a performance by students from Minatomirai Honcho Elementary School, Japan, highlighting the significance of the event. The opening remarks were provided by Hirotoshi Shiro, the Deputy Mayor of Yokohama City. Sanjeevani Singh, an economic affairs officer at UNESCAP, delivered the keynote speech, followed by the compelling presentations from Yokohama, Kuala Lumpur, and Danang Cities, as well as industry leaders from Ishii Zouen Landscape Co., Ltd. and JFE Engineering Corporation. The seminar concluded with an open discussion session moderated by Tatsuka Kataoka, the programme director of the City Task Force at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), culminating in a closing speech by Rumi Kurita, the Head of the CityNet Yokohama Project Office.
During the keynote speech, Ms. Singh empathised with the interconnectedness of environmental sustainability and development within the region’s multi-crisis context, comprising climate change, disaster, and food insecurity. She underscored the increasing significance of SDG localization and VLRs in addressing such global challenges that are directly rooted in the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic and biodiversity collapse. Ms. Singh stated, “VLRs play a key role in identifying fiscal gaps and resource needs and really promote or provide a strong basis for advocating for increased funding and targeted support from higher levels of government, which really enhance the localization of SDGs.” Conclusively, she accentuated the endeavours undertaken by UNESCAP in offering comprehensive guidelines, technical assistance, capacity building, and knowledge sharing for VLRs across the Asia-Pacific region.
Nor Nazariah binti Kamardin, a senior deputy director in Kuala Lumpur City, Malaysia, elaborated on the crucial commitment of Kuala Lumpur City Hall to localising SDGs, aimed at rejuvenating Kuala Lumpur and encouraging inclusivity for all citizens. Kuala Lumpur grapples with urban challenges encompassing development plans, traffic congestion, flooding, rising temperatures, and housing shortages. With a dedication to devising lasting solutions, the city hall proposed the Kuala Lumpur SDG City Roadmap 2030, strategically integrating SDGs into structural and local plans to underscore sustainability, climate action, and a low-carbon society. Le Minh Tuong, a deputy director of the Da Nang Department of Planning and Investment, spotlighted Da Nang’s aspirations to bring sustainable development and execute the VLRs. Positioned as one of Vietnam’s largest cities, Da Nang targets a transformation into a leading ecological and smart city by 2045, consolidating efforts on the marine economy, high-tech industries, tourism, and quality living standards. Their sustainable development tactics encompass comprehensive plans like the Ten-Year Master Plan (2021-2030) and Socioeconomic Development Plan (2021-2025), integrating 71 key performance indicators across environmental, economic, and social domains.
The discussion session at the CityNet SDGs Cluster Seminar involved invaluable insights and perspectives shared by multiple stakeholders regarding the impact of SDG localization and VLRs in customising strategies, promoting inclusivity, advocating for enhanced funding, and gathering data for evidence-based policymaking. Representatives from Santa Rosa and Baguio, Philippines, introduced their SDG localization strategies at the department level and expressed their intent to embrace VLRs for improved project alignment and monitoring. Furthermore, Nobororu Okazaki, a deputy manager at JFE Engineering Corporation, described how Yokohama City’s “Y-SDGs” certification system bolstered trust, opened collaboration opportunities, and motivated employees. The central goal of JFE Engineering is to accomplish seven out of the 17 SDGs, specifically bearing on industry, innovation, infrastructure, and climate action. The session displayed the benefits of SDG localization and VLRs by pointing out the importance of collective efforts, knowledge exchange, and innovative approaches in achieving SDG implementation within the Asia-Pacific region.
This article has been written by SDG Program Assistant Woo Bin Choi, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Woobin Choi is an SDG Program Assistant at CityNet, responsible for the coordination of effective communication with key urban stakeholders and the management of the Urban SDG Knowledge Platform. Currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in International Relations, he aspires to spearhead a pivotal role in sustainable urban development and pressing global challenges by leveraging his multifaceted academic background from Hiroshima and Kyoto, Japan, alongside his technical skills and trilingual language abilities. He can be reached at email@example.com.