NST, February 1, 2018
By SALLEH BUANG
THE 9th World Urban Forum (WUF9), in Kuala Lumpur from Feb 7 to 13, is described by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 70/210 as the “first session” to focus on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA). This was adopted by the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador.
About 25,000 participants are expected at the event at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
Norliza Hashim, chief executive officer of Urbanice Malaysia, an urban think tank, said the forum would hold more than 500 events that included assemblies, plenary sessions, policy dialogues, high-level roundtable, training sessions and networking events.
The WUF9 portal states that NUA comes at a critical moment in history because more than half of the world’s population live in cities. The theme is “Cities 2030, Cities for All: Implementing the New Urban Agenda”.
The goal is to “mobilise urban actors” in national governments, local governments, civil society, private sector and academia to share their knowledge and offer innovative and long-lasting solutions to achieve sustainable urban development, and at the same time, encourage stakeholders to continue monitoring the implementation of NUA and to forge strong “multi-stakeholder partnerships”.
The topics during the special sessions, which are of interest to my colleagues (lawyers and urban planners in this country), include the following:
SECURITY of tenure, land market and segregation;
LEVERAGING diversity and culture, shaping cities for all;
HOUSING at the centre;
INFORMAL settlements and slum upgrading;
AFFORDABLE housing for all;
LOW carbon and energy-efficient cities;
URBAN safety and accessibility;
CREATIVE investment and financing mechanism for local governments; and,
CIVIC engagement and participation.
The topics and issues chosen for deliberation in the dialogues and roundtable will demand that professionals in urban planning revisit the national structural framework (policies, laws, regulations, guidelines and standard practices) to determine whether, in the current state, they can facilitate and advance the goals of NUA, or they must be revised, reformed, strengthened or simplified.
For our urban planners, local government leaders and administrators, they will have to determine whether our legal framework (such as Act 171, Act 172, Act 133 and many others) are in good shape or must be revamped if NUA is to be implemented smoothly.
All the three statutes are more than four decades old.
Colleagues in the legal profession and the academia used to remind me that while our corporate law has been transformed under the new Companies Act 2016 (Act 777), the strata law updated under Act A1450 and Act 757 (Strata Management Act 2013), and the property law overhauled under Act A1415 (National Land Code (Amendment) Act 2016), the three abovementioned statues have not been reformed.
In 2016, the National Council for Local Government (whose constitutional duty under Article 95A of the Federal Constitution is to formulate a national policy for the promotion, development and control of local government in the country) approved the Transformation Plan for Local Authorities.
The forward-looking plan contains six thrusts: developing and managing the workforce, boosting service and efficiency, strengthening finances, improving people’s wellbeing, encouraging public involvement, and effective communication.
Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan had then said that local governments will in future hold town hall meetings so city officials “can interact with the public”. Local governments will make its finances and revenues public so that the public will know “how their taxes were spent to prevent allegations of abuse”. A local daily described the goal of the transformation plan as a way to rid local councils of “little Napoleons”.
Bearing in mind the central theme of WUF9 (Cities for All), our federal capital (Kuala Lumpur) was ranked last year as Southeast Asia’s second most liveable city after Singapore, but it was at 70th place on the global ranking of liveable cities, while Singapore is at 35th, and Hong Kong at 45th.
Melbourne was named the world’s most liveable city for the seventh straight year.
Speaking at a forum in October, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau said: “As we move towards 2050, we must put our best foot forward if we are to reinforce our place in the world.”
With 76 per cent of our population living in cities, our city fathers (as one of the “urban actors” referred to in WUF9) have a lot of hard work ahead.