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01/10/2013

The resilient city

As the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting approaches, Clive Harridge, Secretary General of the Commonwealth Association of Planners, considers the critical role of planners in a rapidly urbanising world.
 
The Commonwealth is home to two billion people and consists of 54 countries from all regions and continents of the world. It represents some of the world’s richest and poorest countries, some of the most populated and some of the smallest nations. 
 
As an accredited Commonwealth organisation, the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP) has the opportunity to meet political leaders and influence thinking at a global level, via access to events such as the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings (CHOGM).
 
The forthcoming 2013 CHOGM – under the theme of "Inclusive and Equitable Development" – is being held at time when the United Nations (UN) is assessing the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and what should replace them after they expire in 2015.
 
CAP is already directly involved in this UN activity and the 2013 CHOGM provides an excellent opportunity to promote the role of planning in a post-2015 world.
 

Resetting the goals

 
The original eight MDGs sought to eradicate extreme poverty, achieve universal education, improve health, ensure environmental sustainability and more (see 'Eight Goals For a Better World at the bottom of this article).
 
There has been substantial progress in meeting some of these goals – for example, the 13 years since 2000 have seen the fastest reduction of poverty ever, with 500 million fewer people living below the international poverty line. In addition, child mortality rates have fallen by 30 per cent and deaths from malaria by a quarter.
 
But it is widely acknowledged that the MDGs had significant shortcomings. The UN’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons reported earlier this year thaty did not sufficiently integrate the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development and lacked sufficient focus on reaching the poorest and most excluded people.
 
In making its post-2015 recommendations, the panel identified the need for “transformative shifts” to eradicate extreme poverty and transform economies through sustainable development. A separate UN think-tank on sustainable cities has advocated a post-2015 sustainable development goal to “empower inclusive, productive and resilient cities”.
 

"In many parts of the Commonwealth, cities are growing at enormous rates ... with little or no appropriate planning"

 

A focus on cities

 
Since the Millennium there has been massive global change. The global population has expanded by more than a billion to seven billion and more than half of the world’s people now live in cities. These trends are expected to continue: experts predict that the global population will increase by another billion in the next 15 years, cities will continue to expand and by 2050, 80 per cent of all people will live in cities.
 
In this global context the focus for a post-2015 world must be cities. Many of the world’s cities face major challenges of extreme poverty, poor living conditions and constraints on productivity due to poor infrastructure. Yet cities are also the drivers of growth and centres of economic activity, and will be where the challenges of population growth will be resolved.
 
In many parts of the Commonwealth, cities are growing at enormous rates, with extensive areas of informal settlements combining inadequate or non-existent infrastructure with extreme poverty and with little or no appropriate planning.
 
CAP is very active in developing thinking around these themes to ensure that the value and role of planning is recognised at the highest levels. As well as contributing to the UN consultation earlier this year and participating in a UN Expert Roundtable consultation in Geneva, CAP has established an expert group to research and advise on a post-2015 urban agenda. The expert group will report later this year in time for CHOGM and provide a roadmap for action through to the next World Urban Forum and beyond.
 
In addition, we are to hold a ‘thought leaders’ workshop at the Commonwealth People’s Forum in the wings of CHOGM to finalise our key messages to governments. At CHOGM itself we will meet with Commonwealth Foreign Ministers and others to stress the value of planning in addressing the approaching global challenges  in a post-2015 world. 
 

Chogm 2013

 
What? Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
Where? Colombo, Sri Lanka
When? 10-17 November, 2013
Theme: Inclusive and Equitable Development
Find out more: www.chogm2013.lk
 
 

Eight Goals For a Better World

 
All 189 United Nations member states agreed in 2000 to achieve eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015:
 
• Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
 
 
• Achieve universal primary education
 
 
• Promote gender equality and empower women
 
 
• Reduce child mortality rates
 
 
• Improve maternal health
 
 
• Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
 
 
• Ensure environmental sustainability
 
 
• Develop a global partnership for development.
 
 
Clive Harridge is Secretary General of the Commonwealth Association of Planners
 
CAP is an alliance of national associations that represents 40,000 planners from all regions of the Commonwealth. www.commonwealth-planners.org

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