Urban transformation and policies in Southeast Asia: Pathways towards or away from sustainability

Panel organised by: Frauke Kraas (Universität Köln), Tabea Bork-Hüffer (Universität Innsbruck)

Panel description

The rapid urbanization process in many Southeast Asian countries (to a variable extent) with often limited levels of control, without integrated spatial planning approaches and regulation of building standards, caused the restructuring of inner urban areas and fragmented landscapes at the increasingly expanding urban fringe. Inadequate infrastructure supply, environmental degradation, displacement and increasing socioeconomic disparities are just some of the consequences of urban growth. Further challenges constitute climate change, national and international migration, political stability and security.

The importance of cities for the global transformation to more sustainable development and the urgent need to improve the life of city dwellers has been analysed and recognised in several reports (e.g. UN-Habitat 2016 , WBGU 2017) and international agreements such as the Sustainable Development Goals with one specific goal for cities (goal 11) and the New Urban Agenda (UN 2017). Although the urban challenge is of a global scope, developing countries as in the Southeast Asian region are facing specific challenges (e.g. through rapid growth and because of the heterogeneous political systems in the region) and have less financial and human resources to solve them. This specific context of cities, which is determined by political, economic and sociocultural factors, is globally not explicitly addressed.

While the European Union for example has developed a regional strategy for sustainable urbanization, and Germany has its national urbanization strategy within the framework of the Leipzig Charta, the countries of the Southeast Asian region are yet missing comprehensive national strategies related to urban sustainability within the ASEAN. The Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 underlines the importance of liveable and sustainable cities and the need for related know-how. It frames the target to ‘increase the deployment of smart urbanisation models across ASEAN’ and to ‘develop sustainable urbanisation strategies in ASEAN cities’ (ASEAN 2016: 44). The concept paper of the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASEAN 2018) shortly refers to key challenges of sustainability and urban development in Southeast Asia and frames digital and technological developments as main solutions – the sustainability potential of which, however, is abated in the academic literature.

Against this background, the panel aims at discussing the needs, priorities and future visions of urban development in Southeast Asia into a sustainable direction.

Paper proposal

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