Introducing the Habitats Professionals Forum (HPF)
Diana Fitzsimons, Co Chair of the HPF and International Ambassador of IFHP introduces us to the work of the HPF and their role in implementing the New Urban Agenda.
Planning and the influence of planners in achieveing sustainable urban development worldwide is very important to the IFHP (International Federation for Housing and Planning) and its international membership. We are part of a global economy and live in an environment which is impacted by what goes on elsewhere across the world in terms of serious issues like climate change, pollution and migration. If, as expected, more than three quarters of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030, it is essential that cities function much better than they do now. It is in our best interests to collaborate across countries and across professional groups to ensure that rapidly changing cities maintain certain minimum standards and implement ambitious improvement programmes.
Introducing the Habitats Professionals Forum
The Habitats Professionals Forum (HPF) has been in existence since 2009 and is a voluntary affiliation of international and regional associations of human settlements professionals involved in sustainable urban development. The full member organisation list has many acronyms but they include, next to ourselves: the American Planning Association (APA), Union of International Architects (UIA), the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP), the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) and the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP). Currently the international professional groups who have joined the Forum represent housing professionals, planners, engineers, architects, landscape architects, geographers, surveyors, land economists, lawyers and womens’ groups involved in cities.
HPF and the UN Habitat
HPF’s aim is to foster cooperation between these professionals and UN Habitat through dialogue and partnership and by providing leading edge information and expertise that will contribute to the UN Habitat agenda. Specifically since the UN’s Habitat III summit on cities in Quito in October 2016, HPF is focusing on how it can help to achieve implementation of the agreed New Urban Agenda (NUA) and Sustainable Development Goal 11. Some 170 countries have signed up to these commitments for the next 20 years and it is our job to help central and local governments across the world to follow good practice and ensure the right expertise to obtain these goals. Otherwise all the discussion over the last four years and all the hard won internatonal agreements will be just hot air.
SDG 11 is “to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. The 24 page New Urban Agenda document is wordy and hard to summarise but it includes all the principles that planners would naturally endorse. It has been lauded for its focus on a strenghtened role for local authorities in spearheading urban development; its progressive view of equity and rights in the city; and on the prospects of strong urban planning principles to create cities that are socially, environmentally and financially sustainable. Advice is given in the NUA on matters such as pubic participation; cultural heritage; inclusive economic development; built environment form; access for all to the city; adequate housing; urban ecology; resilience; climate change; urban finance; and effective governance.
UN Habitat and its World Urban Campaign have been obtaining advice and views from a wide range of interest groups including the voluntary sector, NGOs, politicians, the business sector, farmers and groups representing minorities, but HPF has a specific role of looking at matters from the professionals’ perspective and disseminating best practice, professional advice and knowledge. We’ve got the education, skills and experience of working on complex projects, separately and together, both in and for cities around the world and we need to share this for the greater good of all world cities.
IFHP as Co-Chair of HPF
At the HPF bi-annual business meeting in Quito, Ecuador last October those attending elected ISOCARP as Chair (CEO Didier Vanscutem taking the role) for the next two years and IFHP as Co-Chair (where I, International IFHP Ambassador, took that role). A draft strategy for the next few years was presented and discussed at a virtual meeting of HPF on 26th January 2017 and with some amendments the Strategy was adopted. The key actions are to refresh the HPF webpage on the UN Habitat Website; undertake a membership drive; arrange webinars every three months plus two physcial meetings per year; put together an activities programme/events calendar from all the programmes of members and keep this updated on the HPF webpage; and prepare for the next World Urban Forum (WUF) meetings in Kuala Lumpur 2018. Three HPF working groups will be set up shortly each with a clear work programme and timescale for delivery: one will focus on preparations for WUF 18; one will focus on HPF activities; and one will focus on HPF products such as publications. Many member organisations of HPF are developing ‘Urban Thinkers Campuses’ across the world, each endorsed by UN Habitat. One such will be in Belfast in May 2017 organised by IFHP in partnership with RTPI and others, and on the theme of the ‘inclusive city’.
As the IFHP is truly international with a membership spanning over 20 countries, we have influence worldwide but we have even greater influence through our partnerships with other worldwide organisations including the Global Planners Network who are also members of HPF. Through many means in addition to our own IFHP programme of workshops, conferences, webinars etc and especially working with partners in the Habitats Professionals Forum, we can disseminate best practice in housing issues and urban governance worldwide. Of course countries have major differences economically, culturally and politically but if we really want to help other countries meet sustainable development goals and follow the advice contained in the New Urban Agenda then we must focus now on implementation and sharing both best practices and failures. Your input to that process of knowledge dissemination would be very much welcomed.
This blogpost was written by Diana Fitzsimons, Co-Chair of the HPF. For questions or comments about this blogpost, you can write her on firstname.lastname@example.org