Featured in Town Planning Review 92.4: Planners and the New Urban Agenda: will we lead the agenda, or will the agenda lead us?

The editors of Town Planning Review (TPR) have selected the following paper as the Featured Article in TPR 92.4.

This paper will be free to access for a limited time:

‘Planners and the new urban agenda: will we lead the agenda, or will the agenda lead us?’ by Bruce Stiftel 

When asked to describe the paper and highlight its importance, the author stated the following:

The U.N.’s New Urban Agenda is positioned as a playbook for implementation of SDG 13: Sustainable Cities and Communities.  It has the potential to elevate the profile of urban planning in many countries and to spread the so-called reinvention of urban planning as inclusive, bottom-up, and integrative.  Yet the Agenda has clear roots in a government-centred,  modernist practice of planning that has been discredited by planning theorists in recent decades, and any global template for planning runs the risk of tone-deafness to the unique characteristics of individual countries.

“Planners and the New Urban Agenda: Will we lead the agenda, or will the agenda lead us?” reviews the origins and development of the Agenda, examines its planning components, assesses its challenges, and recommends strategies for maximizing outcomes that emphasize broad stakeholder engagement, cross-sectoral planning integration, and national and sub-national choice in the design of planning processes and solutions.  Critically, the article considers the demands of corporate power, the new regionalism, and growing theorizing in the Global South, as contests to dominant planning paradigms of the 20th Century that demand responses if planning is to fulfill the needs of today’s cities and regions.

Author Bruce Stiftel urges planning agencies, firms, associations, and individual planners to seize the momentum created by the New Urban Agenda to take bold steps to promote new planning programs and to reinvigorate and redirect existing programs: “We need a  substantial increase in global planning capacity, broadening of the engagement of the full range of stakeholders in planning processes, recognition that planned action involves far more than plan making, and most importantly, commitment that planning must be locally- or nationally-determined while informed by international experience.”

This is a pivotal moment in global urban development.  Rapid urbanization, climate change, and economic restructuring are pressuring environmental, social, and fiscal resources near breaking points.  International sharing of planning ideas, tools and methods is critical to success, but to work well must be done with respect for political, economic and cultural contexts.  The New Urban Agenda, endorsed without dissent by the United Nations member states, provides a powerful framework for the needed context-sensitive, professionally-informed policy making and design.

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