Lahore (Muhammad Yasir) Elected representatives from across Pakistan, top government figures, foreign diplomats, policy strategists, social sector experts and other eminent personalities came together at a three-day international conference which kicked off on Tuesday to bring to spotlight the crucial role local governments can play in the implementation of the sustainable development goals in the Asia and Pacific region.

Themed “Think Globally, Act Locally – SDGs’ Implementation through Local Governments,” has being organised by the United Cities and Local Government Asia Pacific (UCLG ASPAC) in collaboration with the Local Councils Associations of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab Provinces of Pakistan.

The conference is supported by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

GmbH and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The heads of district governments in the four provinces of Pakistan and Islamabad Capital Territory (mayors, chairmen, chairpersons, nazims) showed up at the event. In addition, 60 delegates from over a dozen countries worldwide including mayors of the cities of England, Russia, Turkey, China, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal and Afghanistan, directors of United Nations agencies, envoys of European Union and other regional and international cooperation agencies are scheduled to attend the moot.

Mayor of Jakarta (Indonesia), Hangzou (China), Tai pie (Taiwan), Jeju (Korea), Kazan (Russia), Fuzho (China) amongst others are attending the conference. Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr Shahid Khaqan Abbasi would be presiding over the conference today (Wednesday).

Speaking on occasion, President Local Councils Associations of Punjab (LCAP) and Co-President UCLG ASPAC Syed Muhammad Asghar Gillani said the increased recognition of the roles and importance of regional governments in a growing number of developing countries is being undertaken to strengthen democracy and to improve the quality and effectiveness of government and service delivery at local level.

”We all know that centrally-led, top-down development policies and programme cannot alone succeed in addressing the complexities of sustainable development and fighting poverty. Public and private actors have their role to play especially at local level.”

In his televised message, Won Hee Ryong, Governor, Jeju Special Governing Province, South Korea and President UCLG ASPAC said the conduct of the international conference on SDGs’ implementation through local governments would significantly held in sensitising the authorities in Pakistan at government level regarding the importance of SDGs and their effective implementation.

Dr Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi. Secretary General – UCLG ASPAC said local government bodies have a critical role to play as a bridge between national governments and citizens as well as in global partnership to improve wellbeing of the citizens.  ”The current development challenges facing the countries in the region are inequality, unemployment, poverty, climate change, rapid urbanisation and these require the local governments to play a more developmental role for policy-making. ‘Think Globally, Act Locally – SDGs’ Implementation through Local Governments’ is extremely relevant to the sustainable development discourse in the region.”

Deputy Mayor Islamabad Zeeshan Naqvi said sustainability in cities can be achieved through harnessing of cooperation, political vision and governance through projects with themes revolving around sustainable development goals.

Divided into different sessions including speeches, presentations, interactive sessions, group discussions, study tours and informal discussions, the conference discusses the important role of local governments in responding to Agenda 2030 and the challenges local governments face in the implementation, monitoring and financing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It provides insights into best practices to serve as an opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue, form partnerships and create networks.