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UK planners show international leadership

Planners have a part to play in responding to natural and human-made crises around the world, says Peter Geraghty

While the focus of planning in the UK is on the housing crisis it is easy to forget the role planners play internationally. Urban settlements account for only 2 per cent of the Earth’s surface, and yet are inhabited by more than half of the world’s population and consume 75 per cent of the world’s natural resources. By 2050, the world urban population is expected to double, making urbanisation one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends. 

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development underpinned by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seeks to create a sustainable future for all citizens (of particular interest to planners is SDG 11 –relating to cities). This places planners at the heart of delivering the 2030 Agenda. 

The RTPI recently endorsed the Commonwealth Association of Planners’ Fiji Declaration (November 2016). It urges Commonwealth governments to implement the New Urban Agenda and SDGs, calling on them to recognise the crucial role of planning to deliver these international commitments. The Fiji Declaration developed at the first major international planners’ conference after Habitat III, draws attention to SDG11 in particular. 

"By 2050, the world urban population is expected to nearly double"

The RTPI, with RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) and IStructE (Institution of Structural Engineers), has formed the UK’s first advisory group to offer built environment expertise to global humanitarian crises. UKBEAG (UK Built Environment Advisory Group) was launched at an event in October 2016 attended by the British Charge D’Affaires during Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador. UKBEAG brings together the expertise of more than 100,000 built environment professionals in more than 150 countries.

Through UKBEAG, the institute is playing a key role in the Global Alliance for Urban Crises. Launched at the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, Istanbul, this is an innovative partnership of 65 groups – from local authorities, the humanitarian sector, professions, and academia – that have joined forces to prepare for and respond to urban crises. 

Rapid and unplanned urbanisation is exacerbating the effects of a range of natural and human-made disasters. Armed conflict in densely populated areas causes death and injury among civilians, and earthquakes inflict devastation on cities, as does severe weather. The alliance promotes a vision of inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities and towns, as expressed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

It recognises that planners can play their part in achieving this by providing valuable expertise not only at times of crises, but also in helping to future-proof urban settlements and supporting sustainable development.

Peter Geraghty, is former RTPI president and current director of planning for Southend Borough Council

Photo | iStock


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