Habitat III Update for Fall 2017

September 19, 2017

Report on the World Urban Campaign and Habitat

The World Urban Campaign brings together a variety of interests, disciplines, and geographies to support the efforts of UN Habitat to improve the quality of urbanization globally. This report focuses on the American Planning Association (APA) and APA partners’ activities to promote planning in shaping and responding to urbanization at all levels.

The World Urban Campaign is led by Rose Molokoane and Sandeep Chakra along with a steering committee made up of member organizations. The importance of planning is emphasized in Sustainable Development Goal 11 and is also among the goals in the New Urban Agenda, adopted at Habitat III.


Since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda were adopted, APA’s international efforts have focused on six areas:

  • Awareness among members
  • Influencing decision makers
  • Building partnerships and alliances
  • Practical application examples
  • Integration of APA reports and policies
  • Understanding and action in local, state, and national policies toward global urbanization

Awareness of the value of planning has grown over the period since the adoption of the SDGs in late 2015. This is evidenced by increased participation of urban planning experts in meetings and in the incorporation of language that reflects goals and objectives reinforcing APA policies and objectives in urbanization. In terms of partnerships, one example is the concept note we prepared with the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) that has achieved wide recognition and continues to inform, influence, and expand awareness.

At recent high level meetings in New York on the future of urbanization within the United Nations, representatives from member states reflected the increased influence of planning in their comments. The APA Board of Directors is pursuing a thorough review of APA’s International Program to develop alignment with our development plan and activities and our participation in the World Urban Campaign and related programs.

One of the major breakthroughs in the New Urban Agenda and subsequent conversations is a recognition of the key importance of local government. United Nations members are nation states, so this recognition is not without debate or difficulty.  Governance models around the world vary widely and many do not accord much independence to local government in terms of power and finance. This issue is one of the defining elements of the future of urbanization: whether governance can adapt and reinforce the value of decentralization of managing urban areas and providing local financial tools to implement that management. This issue will shape how well policies and practice can support human-scaled, culturally and historically informed development of cities.

Recent and Upcoming Activities

An SDG steering committee meeting in Istanbul in cooperation with UNESCO and ICOMOS developed an integrated approach to planning and laid out objectives for public education, professional practice and governance. The following events reinforce our role and objectives:

The most recent activities involved the High Level Meeting on the Future of UN Habitat in New York, noted earlier. Genie Birch, FAICP, former chair of the World Urban Campaign and now co-chair of the General Assembly of Partners, spoke at this event emphasizing governance and its fundamental connection to planning and urbanization as well as the role of civil society in advising and implementing the New Urban Agenda. A meeting of several allies after the UN session compared and refined joint efforts.

A meeting with Ege Yildirim and Andrew Potts in Washington, D.C., reinforced this collaborative agenda and laid out a variety of upcoming efforts. Coming in October is the UN Habitat and World Urban Campaign Meeting in Dubai. APA is sponsoring a session on the SDGs in cooperation with APA’s International Division at the ISOCARP Conference in Portland, Oregon, held jointly with APA’s Oregon Chapter. APA will also participate in the World Design Summit in Montreal.

These and other events lead up to the next World Urban Forum February 7–13, 2018, in Kuala Lumpur.  APA will be submitting session proposals and continuing to collaborate with the partners assembled for the effort at Habitat III to maintain and strengthen partnerships and outreach.

At each of these events and in private meetings with allies and influencers, APA emphasizes the value of planning as a fundamental requirement for sustainable urbanization.

Please contact APA Director of Outreach Jeff Soule at jsoule@planning.org to provide ideas and information relating to objectives and efforts to promote planning within the World Urban Campaign.

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