Iman Mahditama, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Experts gathering at the third biennial World Cities Summit in Singapore have urged city administrations all over the world to develop strong, transparent leadership as cities are deemed critical in the establishment of a sustainable future.
“Many of the world’s cities are actually bigger than countries so city sustainability is critical. It should be the main drive in the attempt to create a sustainable world,” United Nations Development Program (UNDP) administrator Helen Clark said.
The former New Zealand prime minister then went on to say, “In light of this, city leadership is critical, as well as capacity building and public-private partnership. You can’t make good decisions with poor governance.”
She was speaking in a seminar on governance in sustainable development, held on Monday, the second day of this year’s summit. The four-day sustainable urban development summit is being attended by more than 3,500 delegations and more than 100 national government officials from all over the world.
During her speech, Clark urged city governments to work more efficiently, keeping in touch with the public and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and make certain their roles in helping create sustainable cities.
“The key to sustainable urban planning does not lie only on technology. It is much more about good governance, good leadership and sheer political will,” she said.
“Most of the time, government branches have trouble finding agreement among themselves and getting left behind by their own people, who are already ahead with their own sustainability plans.”
Experts during the day’s seminars also agreed that it is next to impossible to put a stop to the influx of newcomers into cities all over the world, as ideas of better opportunities in big cities has always proliferated and will continue to be so.
The best thing the cities’ administrations can do is to bear this in mind when planning the cities’ development, they said.
Singapore’s Minister of Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said that blue skies, clean drinkable water and clean streets are three criteria that must be met by a city in order to become “a city of the future.”
“The future of humanity is in cities, which have to be sustainable. So, what I will tell you is that you must build the most beautiful city you can. Plant many trees, conserve the environment, and, above all, elect an honest and competent leadership,” he said.
According to him, Singapore can flourish as a city state because it has a corruption-free government with residents’ best interests at heart.
“In Singapore, we don’t subsidize consumption. We don’t subsidize energy, water and transportation. However, we give cold hard cash to parts of society that are less well off,” he said. “It’s up to them to make use this money, along with their own hard-earned money, in a way they think will be best for them.”
Indonesia’s Minister of Public Works Djoko Kirmanto, another speaker in the forum, reported during his speech that cities in Indonesia have experienced significant progress in recent years in terms of creating a livable and sustainable environment.
“Every city in Indonesia is encouraged to develop 30 percent of its area into an open green space. I admit that this is still far from reality. I believe it is a challenge for local administration to obey the master plans,” he explained.
According to him, 60 cities have taken part in the nation’s green initiatives, with Jakarta serving as the pioneer.
Palembang mayor Eddy Santana Putra, who attended the forum, said that the size of Palembang’s open green space has been increasing over the years. “Currently, some 10 percent to 15 percent of the city is open green spaces. We will continue to expand the space until it reaches 30 percent or maybe even more.”