Global Planners Network at the
World Urban Forum

September 2-6, 2012
Naples, Italy

By Richard Summers, BA MRTPI
Chairman of the International Committee of the UK Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)


Sustainable  Schoolyards The sixth meeting of the World Urban Forum (WUF6) was held in Naples, Italy, in September 2012 and attracted more than 5,000 international delegates. It was entitled "Our Urban Future" because "the future of humanity is urban." 

The World Urban Forum, held by the UN Habitat agency that leads the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, was a prominent showcase for the UN Habitat World Urban Campaign (WUC).

Previous meetings of the World Urban Forum have all faced the many challenges of the rapid urbanization of the world's populations. WUF3, held in 2006 in Vancouver, Canada, focused on "sustainable urbanization and inclusive cities." WUF4, held in 2008 in Nanjing, China, focused on "harmonious urbanization." WUF5, held in 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, took up the theme of "the right to the city: bridging the urban divide."

Global Planners Network (GPN) held a business meeting on September 2, and it ran a Networking Event within the conference program on September 3. GPN also drew up the "Naples Declaration" to highlight the role of planning in securing sustainable urban development. This was issued by Paul Farmer, FAICP, CEO of the American Planning Association, to the UN Habitat Professionals Forum (HPF) on September 5.

GPN Networking Event

The GPN Networking Event on "Building Planning Capacity for Communities" focused particularly on the developing world and was very well attended in the face of strong competition from various parallel events. It was run by the UK Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), chaired by Richard Summers BA MRTPI, and organized by Janet O'Neill, MRTPI, with Trudi Elliott, CBE, as one of the speakers. It ran for 2 hours and included 45 minutes for questions, answers, and a lively discussion. Press notices appeared on the GPN and RTPI websites the next day.

The Networking Event supported GPN's role as an international network of national planning associations that aims to promote and support planning around the world. Speakers included Mitchell Silver, AICP, president of the American Planning Association (APA); Andrea Gabor, FCIP RPP, president of the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP); Ashraf Adam, South Africa vice-president of the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP); and Dyan Currie, MPIA CPP, president of the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA), in addition to Trudi Elliott of the RTPI.

The plenary discussion began with a focus on getting people on the ground to help build planning capacity for local communities in the developing world. The PIA video of planning support for disaster recovery and planning for resilience in Sri Lanka highlighted the role of planners in securing sustainable development. Planners must deal positively with politicians and local corruption. There is a need for a code of ethics for planners supporting local communities and for more accredited degree courses for planners around the world.

An interesting feature was that planners can learn from the local communities they are helping. The roles of the public and private sectors are both important in securing funding and practical implementation. Recipient countries often expect conventional master planning but then come to realize that they need much wider planning support for local communities and for national governments alike. Spatial planning enables local communities to integrate the many different aspects of sustainable development and project delivery.

The Naples Declaration

World Urban ForumThe Global Planners Network (GPN) initiated a review and update of its 2006 Vancouver Declaration at its business meeting at the APA Conference in Los Angeles in April 2012. GPN members attending the World Urban Forum in Naples met several times during the conference to draw up a new "Naples Declaration" building on the Vancouver Declaration. The RTPI acted as the coordinating author for this declaration as initial drafts were developed and finalized and the APA launched it at the Habitat Professionals Forum.

The "Naples Declaration," entitled "Joining Forces, Joining Voices and Taking Action," confirms the original principles that "there can be no sustainable development without sustainable urbanisation and there can be no sustainable urbanisation without effective planning." It affirms that the role of planning is to propose forms of sustainable development to accommodate the world's increasing urban populations to provide the essentials of housing, sanitation, education, and employment.

GPN is committed to tackling the economic, carbon, water and governance conundrums of modern international development and it is dedicated to help build local planning capacity and to work with others to deliver the solutions required. It will work with its partners in UN Habitat and in associated professions in a spirit of open-mindedness to fulfil collective and individual global responsibilities and to promote these principles to national and local governments, international development organizations and local communities.

Press notices and copies of the "Naples Declaration" appeared on the GPN website, the RTPI website and other GPN member websites early the next week. GPN members at the World Urban Forum agreed that it is essential to inform practising planners around the world as well as national governments and international organizations about the importance of planning and planners in tackling global issues such as rapid urbanization, economic recession, urban and rural poverty, natural resources, and climate change.


GPN was asked by UN Habitat in Naples to suggest how its members could contribute to the aim of the third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) to be held in 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey, to help "reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable cities." APA and RTPI are considering whether to join the World Urban Campaign (WUC) as Associate Partners, and GPN will discuss the opportunities at its next teleconference.

The World Urban Campaign (WUC) is a global cross-sectoral coalition that is raising the international "urban agenda." It forms the basis for cities to share and learn from experience in initiatives, actions, and policies to drive positive change. Its goals are to demonstrate that investing in cities is essential to our future, to facilitate coherent and strategic coordination between partners, to enable the development of creative, resilient and sustainable communities and to establish benchmarks to monitor progress.

The seven key principles of the World Urban Campaign are to achieve ...

  1. Accessible and pro-poor land, infrastructure, services, mobility and housing;
  2. Socially inclusive, gender sensitive, healthy and safe development;
  3. Environmentally sound and carbon-efficient built environment;
  4. Participatory planning and decision making;
  5. Vibrant and competitive local economies promoting decent work and livelihoods;
  6. Assurance of non-discrimination and equal rights to the city; and
  7. Cities and communities that can plan for and effectively manage adversity and change.