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Olafiyin Taiwo: Young Planners leading the way on sustainable urbanisation

Olafiyin Taiwo is the Chair of the Young Planners Network, Commonwealth Association of Planners and a member of the RTPI General Assembly and International Committee.

Rapid urbanisation and a large youth population are increasingly impacting the way cities and human settlements operate. It is therefore critical that the role of urban planning and active partnership with built environment professionals and relevant stakeholders is emphasised on local, national, and international stages. 

As a major global platform for intergovernmental engagement, the Commonwealth Heads of Government and Ministers Meeting and associated forums held in Kigali, Rwanda in  June provided a significant opportunity to advocate for sustainable urbanisation and foster collaboration amongst all relevant stakeholders. It also marked the formal launch of the 13th Commonwealth Youth network of the Commonwealth Youth Programme – Commonwealth Youth for Sustainable Urbanisation.

The Commonwealth Youth for Sustainable Urbanisation network was established as a direct response to the Call to Action on Sustainable Urbanisation across the Commonwealth, launched by the Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Initiative in 2021.

Following the recommendation of the young Cameroonian Architect, Martin Fouda, the members of the Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Initiative recognised the need to foster interdisciplinarity between youth interested in or beginning their careers, in sectors related to the built environment, such as the technical professions across all sectors, local governments, and academia. Thus, the purpose of the network is to provide an interdisciplinary platform that empowers Commonwealth Youth to support, contribute to and advocate for sustainable urbanisation in the Commonwealth. We aim to provide opportunities for cities and human settlements to better reflect the needs of the youth.

"The main objective is to integrate a diverse youth voice into Commonwealth policy and programmes and advocate for strengthened youth leadership and integration into decision-making to support sustainable urbanisation."

The network aims to build the capacity of youth to advocate for sustainable urbanisation, shape the future and re-design their environment. Recognising the remarkable contribution and wealth of experiences of the older experts, the need to strengthen the intergenerational connection and mutual support heritage of the Commonwealth identity to maximise resources and achieve outcomes sooner was acknowledged. Therefore, intergenerational knowledge sharing is a key principle that will be guiding the operations of the network.

The main objective is to integrate a diverse youth voice into Commonwealth policy and programmes and advocate for strengthened youth leadership and integration into decision-making to support sustainable urbanisation. In the last few months, we've contributed to several commonwealth policies across different disciplines communicating the importance of youth-friendly and youth-aware sustainable urbanisation.

The complexities involved in managing cities and human settlements require a collaborative approach, therefore the network will provide an opportunity for young people from across different disciplines/constituencies relating to sustainable urbanisation to come together for knowledge sharing, active participation in decision making and to exchange ideas, tools, and learnings. The network will establish relevant specialised working groups to address sustainable urbanisation's complexities. For instance, a working group focused on sustainable energy, Commonwealth Sustainable Energy Team has been formed to focus on scaling youth-led solutions to generating clean and sustainable energy.

Steering committee members from over nine disciplines, including young elected political leaders across the commonwealth, have been actively involved in setting up the network. We're committed to ensuring the active involvement and participation of young people and young professionals in designing and building cities and human settlements that responds to the immediate needs of the youth without compromising their future. Young planners William Steel, Simeon Shtebunaev, Alice Preston-Jones, and I , all of whom are from the Royal Town Planning Institute, have contributed significantly to the formation of the network.

Practical action and implementation are core to this network, that aims to proactively collaborate with relevant stakeholders to implement innovative solutions and generate a pipeline and entrepreneurial environment for projects. The network defines youth as high school, college and university students, young professionals, young city leaders in local government and young people interested in urbanisation.

If you are interested in joining the network or learning more about its activities, kindly visit the website -

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