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Leading Change: New free book points way for planning
across the Commonwealth

05 March 2018

Traditional planning has to change and change quickly. This is the message that opens a new, free-to-download book. Leading Change: Delivering the New Urban Agenda through Urban and Territorial Planning was launched at the Ninth World Urban Forum in February 2018. It provides a short, easy to read advocacy of the way that planning practice can contribute to addressing some of the major challenges that the Commonwealth, and so also the world, faces in the 21st century.   

The book argues that planning systems, and many of the practices and assumptions they embody, were largely formed in the last century, before concerns like climate change, human rights, food security or resilience came to the fore. The New Urban Agenda, agreed by the governments in Quito in 2016 at Habitat III, identifies urban and territorial planning as one of three key areas for action. It says “The quality of urban planning and design has a determining impact on the value generated by human settlements through efficient and equitable public space, streets and building areas”. So how can we rise to this challenge?

The book sets out a Manifesto for Planning. It says that urban and territorial planning needs to:

  • Be global in outlook;

  • Be based in human rights;

  • Integrate development with infrastructure;

  • Be informed by budgets and be robust;

  • Secure political legitimacy;

  • Be tuned to subsidiarity and diversity;

  • Be clear, simple and rapid; and

  • Respect and capitalise upon the special characteristics of places.

Chapters contain questions addressed to national governments, local governments and their associations, civil society organisation, and professionals and their associations. For example, the chapter on governance asks professional planning institutes whether women, young planners and members of minority groups are fully involved in the governance of the association? Is the Code of Professional Practice fully attuned to a human-rights based approach to practice?

The International Guidelines

UN-Habitat has published a set of International Guidelines for Urban and Territorial Planning. Their preparation was the result of cooperation amongst an international group of experts led by former CAP President Christine Platt. Leading Change is a sister volume to the Guidelines. It takes them and explains in a more narrative form just why they are important and how planners and others can use them. 

For example, the Guidelines point to the part that planning can play in increasing human security through management of natural and environmental hazards and risks. Leading Change then discusses the issue of food security, drawing on the work that CAP has done in this field. It notes that the New Urban Agenda identifies urban planning and design as a way to strengthen food system planning and urban resilience. The book then drills into more detail in discussing peri-urban development and urban agriculture, with a mini-case study, before concluding “By nurturing and sustaining local food networks, planners can boost local incomes and reduce the “food miles” travelled between producer and consumer, thereby contributing to reducing carbon emissions.

They are “intended to be a framework for improving global policies, plans, designs and implementation processes, which will lead to more compact, socially inclusive, better integrated and connected cities and territories that foster sustainable urban development and are resilient to climate change.” CAP and its member associations can play a big part in raising awareness and using this document.

Leading Change challenges us all to do what we can

Some planners will find Leading Change uncomfortable; all will find it challenging. The book argues that detailed regulation of land use change is expensive, not affordable in some countries, and difficult to deliver effectively and equitably under conditions of rapid urbanisation. The authors argue that in much of the world informal development and informal economic activities are facts of life that are integral to the survival of some of the poorest people, and so should be tolerated by planners. Similarly, gender is seen as an important planning matter, though it has attracted little attention in the past. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women is one of the core human rights: planning practice should embed it in the design of transport infrastructure, the planning of employment opportunities, and the structuring of public involvement, to give a few examples.

The book was commissioned by the South African Local Government Association and the South African Department of Human Settlements and UN-Habitat. In a Foreword they collectively say “We hope that this book will help national governments, local and regional authorities and their networks, professional associations, and civil society networks, across the globe, to engage with planning and use it as tool to deliver sustainable, inclusive, resilient and safe cities and human settlements.”

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