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Asia and Pacific: UN-hosted meeting urges more action on 'people-centred' cities

Asia and Pacific: UN-hosted meeting urges more action on 'people-centred' cities

Less talk and more action are needed to make cities in the Asia and Pacific region more liveable and friendly for residents, according to the mayors and other government officials who participated in a United Nations-backed meeting this week in Bangkok, Thailand.

Over 200 participants took part in the CityNet Bangkok Congress 2001, organized by CityNet, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) from 29 to 31 October. CityNet, which meets every four years, is the Regional Network of Local Authorities for the Management of Human Settlements, an independent network of local authorities with over 100 members in Asia and the Pacific.

The theme of the meeting focused on people-centred cities which the organizers define as "economically productive, socially just, politically participatory, ecologically sustainable, globally connected and culturally vibrant." However, as Erna Witoelar, former Minister of Settlements and Regional Development of Indonesia, noted in her keynote speech, few if any cities in Asia and the Pacific are truly people-friendly.

Recommendations advanced at the meeting included proposals to create partnerships among local governments, the poor and the private sector; share knowledge, experiences and resources through Internet-based networking to find better solutions to urban problems; and give voice to youth and children about how to make cities more child-friendly.

Participants also recommended that cities work together to address HIV/AIDS as not only a health issue but as a development problem and to pursue decentralized development cooperation between cities rather than countries as a way to develop new answers to today's urban problems.