What the local authorities and city halls can learn from WUF 9

KUALA LUMPUR: Being the Advisor for the World Youth Organisation, I was honoured to receive an invitation to the soft launch of the World Urban Forum (WUF) 9 at the newly opened Mayor’s Courtyard, Jalan Tangsi, Kuala Lumpur.

WUF is the world’s premier conference on Cities. It kicked off in Nairobi, Kenya in 2002, and moved on to Barcelona, Spain 2004; Vancouver, Canada 2006; Nanjing, China 2008; Rio De Jenario, Brazil 2010; Naples, Italy 2012; Medellin, Colombo 2014, and now Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 2018.

It is a non-legislative technical forum convened by the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) since 2002. The forum is hosted bi-yearly in a different city to examine the most pressing issues facing the world today – rapid urbanisation and its impact on cities, communities, economies, climate change and policies.

The event attended by over 50 diplomats and NGO’s was well-received with a hearty breakfast of nasi lemak and spaghetti. The briefing was delivered by the Chief Executive of Urbanice Malaysia, who is the organiser under the Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government.

The objectives of the forum included the need to raise awareness on sustainable urbanisation among stakeholders and constituencies, including the public; to improve collective knowledge of sustainable urban development through inclusive open debates, sharing of lessons learnt and exchange of best practices and good policies; to increase coordination and cooperation between different stakeholders and constituencies for the development and implementation of sustainable urbanization.

By the year 2030, five billion of the world’s 8.5 billion population will be living in cities and the scale of population in cities shall be 3-fold more than what it was in 1950, where the world’s largest city was New York with a population of 12 million.

However in 2030, Tokyo will be the largest city with a population of 37 million. Seven out of the world’s ten largest cities will be in East and South Asia.

For Malaysia, as the fastest and busiest city, Kuala Lumpur does face almost all kinds of problems as compared to the other cities in the world.

We have a serious traffic dispersal system, poor waste management system, landscaping with improper maintenance, emerging LRT/MRT issues, reduction of the carbon monoxide, housing issues, improper drainage and flood control, poor river management, hawker management issues, hygiene and disease control, youth issues such unemployment, drugs, ‘rempits’ and the aging population that lack special care homes.

The WUF9 must be used effectively by Kuala Lumpur and all the cities in Malaysia on how they can learn from the other cities in the world. There are wonderful lessons to learn from Tokyo, Singapore, Vancouver, China and many more cities who will all congregate here in Kuala Lumpur.

The city halls and local authorities in Malaysia must clearly outline their concerns and eagerly join the sessions so that there can be learning throughout the forum.

This is not a conference, but a congregation of ideas and solutions for cities. Almost every city in Malaysia faces a common issue of cleanliness. There are loads of rubbish in almost every corner of the city.If the next wave for waste management is Waste to Energy (WTE), then how about adapting to the cities who are doing it so well. Can there be special session for this WTE?

Our landscaping at almost every city is only good when we start. It becomes unkept and a sore sight after six months. The local authorities must take heed of this issue and ensure that there is a complete follow-up program for all our landscaping matters.

There are many cities to follow with Italian cities taking the lead with their wonderfully designed and maintained landscape beauty. Another common grievance is the poor signage on our local town roads and highways.

Can we learn something from the other cities, especially the ones in Vancouver or even London?

We must learn fast as this WUF9  is a golden opportunity to grab on and make improvements. Our city councils cannot assume that they know it all. They must humble themselves to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Our river management programmes also need a fresh and new approach. We have not been successful in revitalizing the rivers nor their water quality.

Can we learn from the European and American cities, or even Singapore that have done well?

We need new ideas which will turn the brown water to blue and make our cities more environment friendly.

The drain cleansing too is a major concern, as studies show that blogged drains are the major cause of flash floods in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and other major cities.

Societal social issues especially with the youths and the aged are also a concern for all. Increased unemployment and the lack of opportunities result in youths diverting their positive energy into drugs, gangsterism, petty thefts and ‘rempit-ism’.

This is a common issue for almost every city in the world. However, we must be able to adopt ideas from cities who have succeeded in addressing such societal issues – Brazil, Naples or even Colombia can share some of their success stories on this.

The booming economy and the super focus on Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Petaling Jaya, Kota Kinabalu, Johor Baru and Seremban have resulted in the multiplying of hawkers in almost every corner of the cities. Though hawker food is part of our Malaysian DNA, we still have developers who build townships and residential areas with appropriate parking and toilet facilities, but without any hawker areas.

The city halls of all the major cities in Malaysia must study this hawker issue and strategically partner with cities to learn and adopt their methods and actions, as this will bring an organised and systematic approach towards hawking in our country.

This WUF9 is a unique event which brings together government leaders, community organisations and individuals to participate in dialogues and discussions on the fundamental need to rethink on the type of city that we all want to live in.

Kuala Lumpur should not be a mere host, treating our guests with goodies and foods which we are known for, but instead pushing on an overdrive mode to learn, unlearn and relearn fresh ideas, views, plans, programmes and methods to build greater cities which will be comparable to the best in the world. It is with sincere hope that all the local authorities, city halls, ministries involved in the betterment of people, the GLC’s involved in LRT/MRT, the Eastern Corridor, the Northern and Western corridors respectively will take this opportunity to meet, discuss and exchange knowledge to enhance the overall well-being of our cities.

This forum is much cheaper than all the ‘rombongan sambal belajar’ or the junkets that most authorities prefer.

The 9 World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur from Feb 7-13 is described by the UN General Assembly resolution 70/210 as the ‘first session’ to focus on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. — Bernama

(This article carries the personal view of the writer and does not in anyway state or reflect on Bernama or thesundaypost’s stand on any points of contention)

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