HUD Participates in the Asia-Pacific Urban Forum
Cynthia Campbell, Director of PD&R's International and Philanthropic Affairs Division.
By Cindy Campbell
The eighth Asia-Pacific Urban Forum was held in Suwon, Korea, from October 22 to 25, 2023. The forum is held every 4 to 5 years and is organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Suwon City in strategic partnership with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of the Republic of Korea. The forum brings together diverse stakeholders to reflect on the colliding crises facing cities in Asia and the Pacific region and to synthesize innovative approaches and actions to support sustainable urban development in the context of the New Urban Agenda and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). HUD representatives were part of the U.S. State Department team that negotiated the New Urban Agenda in 2016. Our agency focuses on Sustainable Development Goal 11: to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
HUD attended the forum on behalf of the United States. Jason Pu, administrator for Region 9, which encompasses the Pacific region, and Cindy Campbell, director for international and philanthropic affairs, represented the United States at the forum. Ensuring U.S. representation at the forum was important because the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region includes not only the state of Hawaii but also the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the territories of Guam and American Samoa.
The HUD team attended sessions featuring insights from thought leaders, government officials, and major stakeholders. During the conference, the team also met with their counterparts from the Philippines, Fiji, Tonga, and the Republic of Korea, among others. These informal meetings are a great opportunity to interact between sessions. A wise friend of mine once told me that the meeting is never in the meeting, it's before and after the meeting. The conversations held on the sidelines were informative and robust and served as a reminder that despite representing disparate nations, we all share the same issues.
Each country had the opportunity to provide comments to highlight its commitment to the New Urban Agenda and the SDGs. In delivering the U.S. statement, Pu said:
Development of apartment buildings in the Gwanggyo Lake Park neighborhood supports the government's goal of building 2.7 million additional homes in the Republic of Korea. Photo credit: Cynthia Campbell
Like most United Nations conferences, the Asia-Pacific Urban Forum generated an outcome document, the “High Level Communique for Sustainable Urban Development in Asia-Pacific.” All attending countries agreed on this outcome document, which focuses on the following priority actions:
Supporting the promotion of integrated urban and territorial planning that accommodates population growth, infrastructure expansion, economic growth, sustainable food systems, and natural resource conservation.
Fostering multilevel climate governance and enhancing coordination and cooperation among local, subnational, and national authorities on climate action.
Prioritizing inclusive urban policies to address the needs of women, youth, and persons with disabilities as well as all marginalized and vulnerable communities.
Supporting the creation of an enabling environment that attracts public and private investments for urban infrastructure investments to catalyze the SDG stimulus at the local level.
Recognizing the potential of technology in driving innovation to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs and economic growth, especially across sectors such as transportation, governance, and public services.
The attending countries committed to these priorities and pledged to work together to meet these goals.
While in Korea, I was struck by the massive apartment buildings and complexes such as the IPark complex in Suwon. Construction cranes were everywhere. This activity is part of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport plan that was announced in 2022 to build 2.7 million additional homes in the Republic of Korea. Private developers are using government incentives to build the homes, most of which will be in Seoul and neighboring cities such as Suwon. During one of my lunch breaks, I walked to Gwanggyo Lake Park next to the conference center and photographed the massive apartment buildings that were built around this lovely park.
Overall, the conference was a great opportunity to not only learn more about the Republic of Korea’s housing strategy but also to learn how other countries are tackling the toughest issues in housing and urban development.