UNDP's Mayors Roundtable Discussion
By Maurice Shawndefar and Priska Marianne
As Indonesia continues to strengthen its global standing through rapid macroeconomic growth, Indonesians will continue to migrate to urban areas in search of economic opportunity and prosperity. This shift in Indonesia’s demographics has resulted in rapid urbanization across the country and has strained cities’ capacity to efficiently provide public services. Currently, Indonesia is urbanizing at a much faster pace than the global average. More than 55 percent of Indonesians reside in cities and this figure is projected to exceed 73 percent by 2030 based on the current rate of annual growth.
We are also witnessing increases in total urban poverty numbers primarily due to urbanization, expansion of cities, and inflation rates higher than wage increases. In addition, Indonesian cities are facing major infrastructural challenges due to insufficient infrastructure investments that have prevented cities from maximizing the gains from rapid urbanization. Consequently, cities have begun experiencing heavy traffic congestion, inadequate waste management facilities, lacking access to safe and clean water, and increasing demand for access to energy.
These current conditions are a result of a late response to urbanization. However, there is also a lack of effective coordination among local governments and their communities in city planning that could otherwise improve public services and access to those services. Improvements in access and quality of public services can support municipalities to mitigate the increasing urban poverty trend in Indonesia. Therefore, the challenge for governments isn’t infrastructural investment alone, but also enhancing the quality and efficiency of existing systems as well as increasing citizen engagement that can improve access to services.
For example, development in safe and efficient transportation systems can ensure connectivity for urban dwellers and reduce barriers for women and persons with disabilities to access services and opportunities. Increased public awareness of responsible consumption can enable consumers to reduce, reuse, and recycle waste, which would increase the lifespan of landfills and contribute to the circular economy. Improved coordination among municipalities and the prioritization of human-centered solutions can reduce the existing knowledge gap at the local level, which can allow cities to adopt best practices and learn from each other.
UNDP recognizes these challenges and opportunities, and is working to increase direct engagement and collaborations with cities. To this end, in December 2017, UNDP convened a discussion with seven cities from across Indonesia (including Banda Aceh, Bandar Lampung, Bogor, Kupang, Mataram, Pematang Siantar, and Semarang) to discuss UNDP Indonesia’s Sustainable Urban Development Strategy to better assess their needs and priorities and initiate discussions around UNDP’s potential role. The strategy highlights UNDP’s role in supporting cities to develop best practices and supporting the central government to develop national policies based on these innovative solutions.
During the discussions, the cities recognized the urgency to meet the rising demand for better and more efficient urban infrastructures and service delivery. There was agreement that technology has been a key factor in improving conditions, whether in terms of public service delivery or internal processes such as procurement, budgeting, monitoring, etc. In addition, some governments have also worked on turning waste into energy to reduce landfill dependency, while others are working to integrate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) to improve access to clean water and nutrition programmes.
Furthermore, the discussion highlighted much the same issues presented in UNDP Indonesia’s urban strategy - access to clean water, unsustainable waste management practices, and inefficient transport networks. But, some cities also highlighted the need for more effective solutions to increase social capital and citizen engagement. Just as importantly, they also expressed the need for more coordination with central and local governments that can support cities to seize the opportunities of rapid urbanization.
Moving forward, UNDP will remain in contact with each city to develop projects in collaboration with the local government. Currently, UNDP has ongoing collaborations with Makassar and Bandar Lampung to improve their transportation network and waste management practices respectively. UNDP views its role as a facilitator that can support the strengthening of governance systems, increase opportunities for marginalized groups in urban settings, and reduce the human impact on the environment. In doing so, UNDP will rely on its comparative advantage and expertise to support city governments in addressing complex urban challenges and their implications on the environment.