Congress Declaration

Urbanism and Planning for the Well-Being of Citizens

A New Planning Agenda for Urban Health, Socio-Spatial Justice and Climate Resilience



The 58th ISOCARP World Planning Congress has been hosted by Brussels Capital Region on 3-6 October 2022. Participants met in times of multiple and interrelated crises including the Covid19 pandemic, climate crises, wars, increasing economic, social inequality and triggering new environmental disaster. These times have a dramatic impact on cities and urged Congress participants to rethink how we build our cities. These times call planners to have an active and courageous role in affirming that a different city is possible that ensures quality of life for all.

With the congress-theme 'From Wealthy to Healthy Cities', the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) and the Brussels Capital Region highlighted the need for conceiving another world where collective wellbeing is put at the centre of political agendas and no one is left behind. Even before the Covid19 pandemic many cities lagged and the gaps continue to widen. Therefore, it is essentially a quest for an economy that prioritizes people, places, and the planet and moves beyond profit and growth to prioritizing social, cultural and ecological wellbeing. Hence, it is time to take a rights-based approach and reclaim affordable housing, sustainable mobility, viable water and energy management and access to basic goods and services as rights, not merely as commodities. We need to overcome all the barriers to diversity and equity, ensure socio-cultural and economic inclusion and strive for attaining socio-spatial justice, including an equitable use of spaces and a just land use management. 

Discussions at the Congress confirmed the need to search for alternative ways of organizing socio-cultural and economic relations beyond the principles of pro-growth economic policies and its related wellbeing indicators. Consequently, it is time to redefine our notion of progress and foster a paradigm shift towards an economy that observes planetary boundaries and decolonizes nature. Such an economy necessitates decarbonizing cities and city-regions, circularity and de-growth. The multitude of interrelated crises induced by longstanding growth-oriented thinking brought humanity to the verge of a planetary socio-ecological collapse.  An ethics of protecting the common good should be brought back to the new planning agenda with equity, wellbeing and health as the overriding principles for building better cities for all.

Certainly, one of the biggest challenges of our times is climate change. To attain planetary health, long-term sustainability and resilience, we need to reframe our thinking and focus on revitalizing and regenerating our natural world, prioritizing nature-based solutions, climate adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity, and integration of natural and urban systems. Moreover, a greater emphasis should be placed on planning in a more cooperative way, including co-planning development strategies, co-designing urban spaces and investing in all co-creation oriented planning processes. On the other hand examples like Brussels with its new 'Shifting Economy' strategy provides a promising context for new pathways towards a transition to an economy that responds to the ecological impasse and the multifaceted social and economic challenges of our times. More cities of this kind are needed as champions inspiring other cities and show casing the resilience cities can develop.

The Congress Tracks – Healthy People, Healthy, Planet, Healthy Governance, and Healthy Economy – explored the above background and driving forces necessary to planning that can bring us closer to an economy that is socially, spatially and ecologically just. The following points are outstanding and are therefore highlighted in this declaration:

  • The multiple and interrelated crises and their related ecological impasse and multifaceted social and economic challenges call for integrated research, planning and development. Certainly, planners have to keep developing their education, framework, tools and processes of planning but due to their long experience in cross sector, multi stakeholder and multi-level integrated planning and cooperation they are uniquely qualified to support governments and society in responding to challenges and overcoming barriers to diversity and equity, ensure social inclusion and strive for attaining socio-spatial justice through integrated and sustainability planning. 
  • The Congress is saddened by the fact that the United Nations Agenda 2030 with its SDGs and the New Urban Agenda are off track and urges national and especially local governments to acknowledge in these dynamic and disruptive times the importance of integrated urban and territorial planning to achieve achieve SDGs, New Urban Agenda and other development goals through resilient and healthy cities.
  • Cities matter! In a rapidly urbanizing world, the future rests with cities and city-regions, but also in the capacity to rebalance the territory keeping the polycentricity of regional urban-rural tissues. That is why it is time to shift our mindset from the usual globalization discourse of competitive cities towards shaping networks of cooperative cities and city-regions. There is a need to open up new avenues of collaboration and diplomacy among cities and city networks.
  • The Congress calls all members of ISOCARP and beyond that all urban planners, urban designers, architects, place-leaders and other urban and regional experts to creatively engage with communities and their local contexts searching for ways to co-create and collectively organize new modes of living and working. 
  • The Congress highlights that ISOCARP through its diverse membership is uniquely qualified to address the complexity, diversity and the interrelations of urban challenges. Therefore, it suggests to ISOCARP, its Scientific Committee and other bodies to put in their programme of work a stronger focus on the linkage between integrated and creative planning and the challenges of our times. Through its congresses, scientific cooperation, planner workshops and other activities ISOCARP should further strengthen its position as professional organization and advisor to city networks, local, national and international authorities and be a light tower projecting innovative and collaborative ideas and planning methodologies with high level of applicability.  

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