‘City Realities’ in RCAP 2016: Poor coordination, limited capacity hamper progress in urban resilience-building
Atty. Leticia Clemente, City Budget Officer of Baguio City, Philippines, and member of the ICLEI Southeast Asia Regional Executive Committee, among the panelists at the session, ‘City Realities: Tackling Challenges and Leveraging Opportunities for Local Governments’, organized by ICLEI SEAS at RCAP 2016 held on March 2-4 in Melaka, Malaysia.
 

Poor coordination between local and central (national/federal) governments, limited capacity by local governments, and ‘lack of ownership’ at the local level were among issues identified as ‘hampering progress’ towards building urban resilience at the session, ‘City Realities: Tackling Challenges and Leveraging Opportunities for Local Governments’, organized by ICLEI Southeast Asia Secretariat (ICLEI SEAS) at the second Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific (RCAP) forum held on March 2-4 in Melaka, Malaysia.

‘City Realities’ was the first of two sessions organized by ICLEI SEAS at the forum, the second being ‘Resilient Infrastructures and Mobilizing Transfer of Knowledge.’

The session was organized in view of four key international agreements approved last year – the Paris Agreement from COP 21, 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Sustainable Development Goals), Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development – and the challenges and opportunities for cities in delivering the objectives of these agreements. The session was attended by local government and civil society representatives from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Nepal.

National governments ‘sign up for change,’ it was noted, but local governments simply continue on ‘business as usual’ – indicating the deficit in communicating these agreements from national to local levels. Indeed, Ms. Indah Wibinastiti, Deputy Secretary General of APEKSI (Association of Indonesia Municipalities) points out that “most of the local governments in Indonesia are not aware of the international agreements, and what their objectives and responsibilities are in supporting them.” Similar sentiments were echoed by Ms. Tharee Kamuang, Senior Researcher and Project Manager at the National Municipal League of Thailand, and Mr. Kalanidhi Devkota, Executive Secretary of the Municipal Association of Nepal, with regard to their respective countries.

Furthermore, “planning systems at the local and national levels are not the same, nor are they synced,” notes Mr. Rudra Singh Tamang, CEO of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Nepal. Financing is also ‘not coordinated’. In general, Atty. Violeta Seva of Makati City, Philippines, maintains that “communications between all levels of government must be improved.”

Nevertheless, the lack of capacity by local governments to implement these agreements is a major challenge, noted Mr. Alvidon Asis, Environment Unit Head at the League of Cities of the Philippines. Session moderator Ms. Jessica Dator-Bercilla, Senior Advocacy and Policy Officer for Asia and the Middle East at Christian Aid, points out the ‘low level of understanding’ within nations of their vulnerabilities. As such, among other factors, “local governments do not have the capacity to spend funds and are returning a lot of money to the national government.” Corruption, prevalent across Asia, likewise hampers funding for local resilience initiatives; hence, one goal of advocacy should be to “strengthen the access of local governments to international donors.”

As a way forward, local governments must ‘take ownership’ of urban resilience-building notwithstanding these gaps, as suggested by Atty. Leticia Clemente, City Budget Officer of Baguio City, Philippines, and member of the ICLEI Southeast Asia Regional Executive Committee. Baguio City, she says, “does not wait for guidance from central government” and considers its methods for implementing resilience measures as ‘self-help’ initiatives. The panelists likewise recommended that local governments use their partnerships with stakeholders (private sector, academe, etc.) in order to enhance their capacity, and look towards the international agreements directly for guidance in urban resilience planning. For its part, ICLEI provides a platform for the direct involvement of local governments in the formulation and negotiation of these international agreements.

Organized by ICLEI and hosted this year by the Melaka State Government, Melaka Historic City Council, and the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT), RCAP seeks to provide a platform for discourse on urban resilience and climate change adaptation in the Asia-Pacific, with the ultimate goal of ‘identifying implementable solutions and creating lasting impacts’ for local governments in the region. The event builds on the success of the inaugural RCAP forum held last year in Bangkok, Thailand.

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