8th High Level Seminar on Environmentally Sustainable Cities

8–9 February 2017

Chiang Rai, Thailand

Government of Thailand
Government of Japan
Government of Cambodia
ASEAN Working Group on Environmentally Sustainable Cities
ASEAN Secretariat

The High-Level Seminar (HLS) on Environmentally Sustainable Cities (ESC) is organised annually to gather influential East and Southeast Asia policymakers, experts and practitioners working on clean, green and sustainable cities. Since 2010, senior officials from the region’s environmental and urban line ministries, city authorities and development partners meet at various cities in Asia to:
  1. Share and promote their latest ideas and initiatives on sustainable city development;
  2. Exchange knowledge and explore collaboration potential; and, importantly,
  3. Develop specific recommendations to East Asia Summit Environment Ministers Meeting, which includes ASEAN Environment Ministers, on practical cooperation activities on environmentally sustainable cities.
A keystone initiative the HLS catalysed is the “ASEAN ESC Model Cities Programme,” established in 2011 under the ASEAN Working Group on ESC (AWGESC). With support from the Government of Japan and others, this programme supports over 40 frontrunner green cities in eight ASEAN countries, helping them develop a variety of innovative, replicable pilot projects and sustainable development practices. The HLS also provides these cities a platform to learn from each other, as well as from other cities and partners, and to report on their progress to becoming ESC to the AWGESC and East Asia Summit environment ministers.
This year, in line with recommendations from the last HLS that took place on 2-4 March 2016 in Ha Noi, Viet Nam, the HLS is renamed the “East Asia Summit High-Level Seminar on Sustainable Cities.” The new title reflects the seminar’s broadened focus on the multi-dimensional nature of city development, in addition to environmental concerns, and responds to the need of aligning city-level development with the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, particularly the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
THEME: “The Role of Cities: Localising the SDGs to Bridge Policy and Implementation.”
The UN-led 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the other universal agreements – such as the SDGs, the Paris Agreement, and the New Urban Agenda – laid out roadmaps for enhancing global well-being and prosperity. At the regional level, ASEAN Member States also reaffirmed their aspiration for similar joint prosperity expressed in the ASEAN Community Vision 2025. With these global agreements in place, this year’s HLS aims to move the discussion from words to action, particularly at the regional level, and to find the best ways to localise the SDGs and truly achieve sustainable development in East and Southeast Asian cities.
Indeed localising the SDGs is critical to implementation. This usually involves creating strategies at the local level, finding ways to translate the development agenda into results at the local level, and making discussions of the agenda relevant to local stakeholders.
Experience from implementing the Millennium Development Goals also showed that meaningful integration of the goals into national policies followed by a process of localisation – where local leaders and citizens made sense of the global targets – were critical steps to achieving success. In light of the SDGs, how then would these processes unfold? What are the steps to localising the SDGs? What are the new opportunities and challenges? And how can this be more effective as we learn from past experiences?
This HLS is focused squarely on cities and the SDGs. Using expert panel debates and ‘talk show’-style exchanges, the HLS will showcase how frontrunner cities in Asia are localising and incorporating the SDGs in their development plans and actions; how they are linking their local-level environmental achievements to the SDGs; and how they are attracting and leveraging public and private investments in the process. The critical roles of public involvement and participation, citizen and community leadership, and multi-stakeholder collaboration, as demonstrated by the Government of Thailand for example, will also resonate throughout the sessions.
Participants will hear and learn first-hand lessons from selected Asian cities on how they are localising the SDGs and incorporating the global goals into their development strategies. By facilitating an in-depth exchange among cities and development partners, this HLS aims to use practical, city-level experience to influence and encourage other cities to align their development plans with the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and be on the right path towards achieving the SDGs.
The HLS’s learning objectives include:
  • Increase awareness among city participants about the achievements of ASEAN’s frontrunner cities, particularly ASEAN ESC Model Cities (Year 3) in localising the new global agenda – for example, in terms of: improved data management; actions that result in visible transformation; and public involvement in implementing sustainable development practices;
  • Learn from what cities are doing to link their environmental activities to the SDGs and, possibly, attract public and private funds, and what development partners are doing to support innovative sustainable city development practices; and
  • Encourage peer learning, networking, multi-stakeholder collaboration between cities and development partners, and formulation of possible twinning partnerships among Asian cities.
Target participants will consist mainly of government officials from environment ministries from ASEAN member states. Local and city-level authorities, bilateral and multilateral development agencies – including but not limited to ADB, ESCAP, GIZ, JICA, OECD, UN-Habitat, and others – city networks, NGOs, private companies, academia and community groups will also join the seminar. Their participation will allow the sharing of experience and the opportunity to explore possible collaborations and partnerships. Total attendees are expected to be around 200.
This HLS is organised and supported by the Government of Thailand, the Government of Japan, the Government of Cambodia, the ASEAN Working Group on Environmentally Sustainable Cities, and the ASEAN Secretariat.