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CAP Achieves Success at CHOGM

08 December 2015

CAP has achieved a great success in securing recognition of the importance of planning and the UNs Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in Malta in November 2015. For the first time ever CAP participated in the main Commonwealth People’s Forum (CPF) programme, and also for the first time our CHOGM representations have been appended to the main CHOGM communiqué. Our key messages about the importance of planning in helping address the huge challenges being faced in the Commonwealth and the key role that planners can have in the implementation of the SDGs have been strongly reflected in the various outcome documents.

CAP has been working for a long time to ensure that the role of planning was acknowledged by Heads of Government and others at CHOGM. The ‘Latest News’ section of CAPs web site identifies some of the preparatory work that was undertaken including representing civil society in promoting the need for Commonwealth governments to act on the SDGs.

CAP was represented at CHOGM by President Dyan Currie and Secretary-General Clive Harridge who attended a variety of events including the CPF, the Commonwealth Business Forum and the CHOGM meeting of Foreign Ministers. Meetings were also held with the Malta Chamber of Planners.

Commonwealth Peoples Forum

The overall theme of the CPF was ‘What makes societies Resilient?’ CAP had the privilege of participating in one of the key sessions at the CPF where Dyan Currie gave a presentation on Planning for Resilient Urbanisation. This is first time that CAP has been directly involved in the main CPF programme. This session was chaired by Vijay Krishnarayan the Director of the Commonwealth Foundation and included contributions from Lucy Slack of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and a Nigerian architect Kunle Adeyemi. In a parallel fringe event organised by the Commonwealth Human Ecology Council, Clive Harridge gave a presentation on planning for biodiversity and food security.

CAPs involvement in the CPF and our key messages around the need for effective planning are directly reflected in the CPF communique entitled “Malta Declaration on Governance for Resilience”. The Declaration includes the following section which picks up on much of what was in Dyan Currie’s presentation:

“Planning for Resilient Urbanisation

22. Urbanisation is a leading global trend with long term impacts. We welcome SDG 11 which calls for cities and human settlements which are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; and which call for processes that enhance people’s participation. Many Commonwealth cities are home to extreme deprivation and environmental degradation. Globally one billion people live in slums, with nearly 70 percent of the world’s capital cities located near water. This together with climate change and risks posed by flooding represents an enormous and growing risk for cities and urban development. Population growth rates, aging population, growing urban unemployment, changes in patterns of human settlements, food security and transport and access to infrastructure are all significant issues of relevance in planning for resilient urbanisation.

23. Achieving resilient urbanisation and planning for sustainable human settlements requires inclusive people’s participation. An ultimate goal in planning for resilient urbanisation is to work with governments and communities to ensure informed decisions are made in a democratic process. Resilient urban planning necessitates working across a range of technical professions; helping governments look at and understand risk; and helping communities by understanding their needs during planning.

24. Planning for resilience is not a neutral technocratic process, but an inclusive one, bringing all stakeholders to the table. New relationship structures need to be built to allow for partnerships between Local Government, women, youth, communities, and the private sector. Also, national/local government coordination needs to be strengthened. Consensus and buy-in can help Local Governments to leverage national government and private funding for continued services and to avoid misappropriation of public spaces and resources. Good practices such as the example of the floating school platform project in Nigeria illustrates the opportunities to plan for resilient urbanisation, highlighting innovation, and the use of adaptive technology.”

There are numerous other references in the Declaration which are directly relevant to planning and the work of CAP, including sections on climate resilience in small states, education for sustainable development, food challenges and health. The full communique is available here.

Commonwealth Business Forum

CAP attended the Business Forum at the invitation of the organisers – the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. Some 1200 business leaders attended the event under the theme of “Adding Global Value – Creating a more Prosperous Commonwealth”.

In CAPs earlier submission to CHOGM we had identified the highly significant role of the private sector in helping secure the successful delivery of the SDGs. The Business Forum discussed a “Commonwealth Vision for Sustainable Growth” and acknowledged the importance of the business community in helping achieve the SDGs over the next 15 years. Clive Harridge spoke up for planning in a plenary discussion focussed on Smart Cities, and in the Business Forum’s closing session HRH Prince Charles spoke about the huge challenges posed by rapid urbanisation and the need to “design cities around people not cars”.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed a Communiqué which took into account prior representations submitted by civil society (including from CAP) as well as the separate communiqués from the parallel fora including the CPF and the Business Forum.   The Heads’ communiqué gives specific attention to sustainable development and the SDGs:

“15. Heads welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an historic outcome which has the ability to transform the world. They recognised that implementation of this Agenda would lead to the eradication of poverty in all its dimensions and ensure no one is left behind. Heads committed to support its implementation by 2030. They reaffirmed their commitment to work together to create an enabling environment to implement the 2030 Agenda in the spirit of global partnership and solidarity.”

Elsewhere in the Communiqué, Heads recognised: the need for good governance, the specific challenges faced by small states, the urgency of tackling climate change, the vital role that young people play, the need for gender equality and the importance of public health. These are all areas in which CAP is working. In addition Heads of Government gave recognition to the role of civil society in the Commonwealth and specifically to accredited organisations which include CAP:

“44. Heads welcomed the continued active participation and support of the eighty accredited organisations. Heads recognised that each had a valuable role in promoting Commonwealth values and principles; providing innovative thinking, advocacy and practical support for Commonwealth citizens; and raising the profile and impact of the Commonwealth as a whole. Heads noted the thoughtful submissions prepared collectively by accredited organisations, as annexed.

45. Heads underscored the need for greater collaboration among accredited organisations … They also encouraged cooperation with the United Nations, particularly its Specialised Agencies, as well as with relevant regional intergovernmental organisations given that they have complementary capacities, so as to promote synergies and significantly contribute to enhanced outcomes within and across the Commonwealth.”

The full CHOGM communique is available here.

It is excellent to see the work undertaken by CAP and other accredited civil society organisations so warmly recognised by Commonwealth Heads of Government. The submission which CAP made to Government Heads and presented in advance of CHOGM to the Committee of the Whole (composed of High Commissioners and Heads of Mission of all Commonwealth Countries) was annexed to the communiqué – a first for CAP. See the ‘Latest News’ section on CAPs web site for further information on CAPs submission prior to CHOGM.

Malta Chamber of Planners

Alongside the formal CHOGM events, Dyan Currie and Clive Harridge met with representatives of the Malta Chamber of Planners. The planning profession in Malta is facing many challenges and discussions were held on how CAP could provide a supportive role and help promote the value of planning in the country.


CHOGM takes place every 2 years and provides an excellent opportunity for CAP to engage with Government leaders as well as other civil society organisations and Commonwealth bodies. The various outcome communiqués provide a framework and agenda for action over subsequent years which is why it is so important for CAP to fully engage with the events and promote the crucial role and value of planning.

CAPs preparations for CHOGM began at the end of 2014 and we have achieved great success. For the first time ever CAP participated in the main CPF programme and also for the first time our CHOGM representations have been appended to the main CHOGM communiqué. Our key messages about the importance of planning in helping address the huge challenges being faced in the Commonwealth and the key role that planners can have in the implementation of the SDGs have been strongly reflected in the various outcome documents. CAP is now working on how best to build on this success and secure effective follow up.

Clive Harridge
CAP Secretary General

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