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Victoria Hills: Global issues take centre stage at WUF

We live in an evermore interconnected world. The challenges and opportunities our profession faces are increasingly global.  Increasingly we need to look out as much as we look in.

Planners, be they working in Burnley or Buenos Aires, are at the leading edge of tackling and responding to existential issues such as rapid urbanisation, climate change, conflict and the pressing challenges unveiled by the global pandemic, such as the well-being of communities. We are, however, not operating in isolation. We are globally connected. The global nature of our era means that not only are we faced with worldwide issues, but the ability to learn from and share with planning professionals around the world. 

It is for that reason that RTPI felt it was important to attend the World Urban Forum in Katowice in Poland last week. The forum was established in 2001 by UN Habitat to examine one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanisation and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and society as a whole. As the secretariat for the Global Planners Network (GPN), it was crucial that we led a delegation to get a clear sense of global activity, reaffirm our commitment to working alongside our global partners to deliver the New Urban Agenda.

That is why our President Timothy Crawshaw, supported by our head of policy Richard Blyth, and myself made our way to central Europe last week. It was our opportunity to understand the issues and share our own thinking in these spaces.

As GPN secretariat, we co-hosted a reception with the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) which gave us the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the leaders and members of our sister institutions around the world.

We also hosted an important session – Planning for a New Urban Agenda – to explore the future of urban planning after the pandemic. This session included some of the leading voices and experts from around the world:

  • Timothy David Crawshaw, RTPI President in 2022
  • Professor Piotr Lorens, Head of the Department of Urban Design and Regional Planning at the Gdansk University of Technology, Poland, and representing the Polish Institute of Planners
  • Olafiyin Taiwo Chair of the Commonwealth Association of Planners Young Planners Network
  • Eleanor Mohammed, President, Commonwealth Institute of Planners

Engaging internationally is one of the foundation stones of our international strategy and as a result we certainly felt we had something to add to the conversation. And we know from Planning is Global that we have members working around the world to make a positive change while also publishing insightful policy papers on some of the most pressing issues of our day, such a displaced peoples. Working with our global partners we look forward to publishing a declaration from Katrowice 2022, setting out planners and planning important role in delivering the new urban agenda.

I know I have returned brimming with new ideas and with a deeper understanding of where the profession stands on the global stage. We were able to renew old connections and make fresh links with planners and other professions from across the globe, which at a time of when global cooperation is so important feels like a valuable way to spend our time.

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