The Challenge of Rapid Urbanization in the Commonwealth

On the 19th of April, the Royal Town Planning Institute organised a policy roundtable on behalf of the UK Built Environment Advisory Group at the UK Houses of Parliament. It addressed the lack of planning and architectural capacity in Commonwealth countries. The event was held during the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting – CHOGM, and was attended by representatives of UN Habitat, the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development.

The RTPI joined a number of national and Commonwealth organisations in a pledge to help build capacity in Commonwealth countries struggling with the impact of rapid urbanisation. In a joint statement released following the roundtable, Commonwealth and UK built environment professions declared more needs to be done to train a greater number of built environment professionals and ensure professional standards are high and well maintained. The statement says that building capacity amongst the built environment professions, including planning, architecture and engineering, will be critical if the Commonwealth is to tackle its most pressing issues.

The results of the Survey of the Planning Profession in the Commonwealth, which the RTPI has supported the Commonwealth Association of Planners in designing were released. Preliminary findings show a significant shortage of planners in some of the countries most affected by rapid urbanization and climate change.

Bangladesh has one planner for every 600,000 people, while East African countries like Tanzania and Uganda, among the most rapidly urbanising in Africa, have one planner for approximately every 450,000 people. In the UK the ratio is one planner every 4,421 people.

After the event Michele Vianello, the RTPI International Policy and Research Officer said:

“The institute is commissioning new research and new actions to address the shortage of planners.

The UK Built Environment Advisory Group, a collaboration between the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Institution of Structural Engineers, is working with UN Habitat a training programme for city officials from 19 global cities. 7 of these are in the Commonwealth. One of our objectives is to help align Commonwealth built environment policy with the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda”

During the CHOGM summit the RTPI promoted the engagement of young professionals in Commonwealth built environment policy. It supported young planners and architects across the Commonwealth to write a manifesto which was presented in London on the 17th of April. ‘Urbanism in the Commonwealth: a Youth Manifesto’, published by the Commonwealth Association of Planners Young Planners, reminded Commonwealth leaders of the important role young professionals play in helping to deliver a sustainable future.

Janet Askew, MRTPI, Chair of the RTPI International Committee, as final remarks of the roundtable said:

“Planning is about the power of persuasion. We need to put planning on the political agenda of Commonwealth leaders. Education needs to play a key role in addressing this worrying lack of planning capacity. In order to effectively address this challenge, we need more dialogue across the built environment professions in the Commonwealth and the engagement of a younger generation of planners.”

In order to raise awareness on the lack of planning capacity in the Commonwealth the RTPI organised a series of events across the UK during the week of the CHOGM summit:

  • RTPI Commonwealth Summit Lecture at University College London by Sir Terry Farrell, Gold Medalist of the RTPI, planner and architect with vast international experience,
  • RTPI West Midlands seminar at the University of Birmingham ‘Think Planning-Think Global: Planning Challenges in the Commonwealth’ with the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Association of Planners,
  • RTPI West of Scotland Chapter event on the legacy of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games
  • RTPI London panel event targeting professionals titled 'Urban Challenges across the Commonwealth'

Image: UN-Habitat

Source: World Urban Campaign

This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.