|Yim Geun-hyeong, CEO of CityNet / Courtesy of CityNet|
By Bahk Eun-ji
Yim Geun-hyeong, CEO of CityNet, said the importance of urban diplomacy, meaning city- or other local government-level diplomacy, is growing as it can deal with the specific needs of each region that central government-level diplomacy often fails to fulfill.
In this regard, Yim, who served as the ambassador for international relations at the Seoul Metropolitan Government from 2018 to last year, said he has high expectations for Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, who played a role in moving CityNet's secretariat to Seoul while serving as the mayor previously, from 2006 to 2011.
CityNet, a coalition of local authorities in the Asia-Pacific region, is committed to helping local governments build more sustainable cities and facilitate cooperation between members. It started with 26 members in 1987, but now includes 173 municipalities, NGOs, private companies and research institutions. Yim is the chief of the secretariat.
"CityNet moved its secretariat from Yokohama, Japan, to Seoul in 2013. But the decision to move to Seoul was approved in September 2009 when Oh was mayor of Seoul. So it is natural for our members to expect Seoul's role and contributions to CityNet will be further expanded with his comeback," Yim told The Korea Times.
The mayor of the city where the CityNet secretariat is located becomes its president.
Yim also stressed the role of CityNet in helping local governments achieve the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). "Achieving the SDGs is the biggest common objective of the international society, trying to implement 17 main goals and 169 policy targets before 2030."
In 2016, CityNet launched the Urban SDG Knowledge Platform in collaboration with the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) to come up with appropriate solutions for SDGs that meet specific regional conditions.
On the platform, the member cities share their knowhow and policies so other cities can refer to them for their own policy decisions.
"This serves as a communication platform where policymakers and city officials can exchange and introduce specific urban policies for targeted SDGs and recommend knowhow regarding budget, manpower, stakeholders and time frames," Yim said.
He expressed hope that Seoul City will encourage members to more actively share their exemplary policies, adding Seoul's COVID-19 quarantine response, which gained international acclaim, could be one such example.
CityNet also holds various seminars every year where participating city officials share best practices of their cities with other members.
Before joining Seoul City and CityNet, Yim worked as Korean ambassador to Denmark and Hungary.