Piotr Lorens, General Rapporteur & Hangwelani Hope Magidimisha, Co-Rapporteur

"New times need new planning. It is not only about new themes and topics, but also a new level of integration. This refers not only to particular issues, but also to the new dialogue between theoreticians and practitioners, between institutional stakeholders and local communities, and finally – between professionals representing various traditions, cultures and having different experiences. Only then we will be able to start getting ready for the future."


H.E. Eng. Fahad AL Qahtani, Undersecretary for Urban Planning Affairs, 
Ministry of Municipality and Environment


The 57th ISOCARP World Planning Congress is taking place in exceptional times – the traditional world social and economic orders we knew for years are changing in our eyes. The pandemic has heavily influenced the way we live and work, has changed our travel patterns and has left our cities and regions facing new challenges. Many of us will have to reshape our professional and personal future, having in mind new perspectives for our urban globe. This will result in introducing the new urban development paradigm, which should be focused on creating more resilient and inclusive communities as well as higher quality and community-oriented places. These issues not only translate into urban development policy, but also into the design and implementation issues. 

Although we are not yet sure what the future world is going to look like, we have to plan ahead for this change. And before we plan – we have to develop new ideas, new concepts, new implementation models. We also have to understand that there is no single blueprint for these new times. Each of us – planners, municipal and community leaders, other professionals dealing with cities and regions – will have to translate these concepts into local plans, strategies and initiatives that will help our communities adapt and transform. 

ISOCARP has a long record of discussion on key aspects associated with reinventing our urban future. We should capitalize on the results of previous congresses – investigating the applicability of issues discussed in Jakarta, Bodø, Portland, Durban, to name just a few. Also, our exceptional experience of the 56th ISOCARP Congress that was conducted entirely online and from the comforts of our homes and offices, will become an important source of inspiration on the scope and form of the future planning debate. All of those meetings allowed us to deal with particular themes and topics within the most appropriate urban and geographical contexts, which were serving as "living labs" for our ideas and "test beds" for new solutions. Now, as we believe, the time has come to reflect on the basics for future planning, and to lay foundations for the new approach to this. So – shortly speaking – we have to "reinvent the future".

In this context, the aims of the upcoming congress are twofold. First of all, we intend to reflect on all of innovative practices that can be identified even in the distant parts of the world. This should translate into focusing on planning practice and how our experiences may be used in this process of reinventing the planning paradigm. Secondly, we should consider how these new realities and new planning paradigms would influence – on one side – the governance and implementation processes, and – on another – what the consequences would be for the planning education and for the process of shaping professional profiles of future planners. The key aspect in both cases is how to translate these into local contexts and how to make the new planning paradigm work in so much diversified realities of various parts of our globe. These issues will be dealt with within pre-defined tracks which shall accommodate key aspects of the new planning and development paradigm.  In each of these cases we should remember about practice, research, education, innovative practices in planning and involving the youth as well as any group that may feel excluded from the process. 

Unlocking the planning profession should not be equated to "re-inventing" the planning wheel – but instead, as a process of self-reflection on the part of the planning profession as it responds to diverse issues. Several divergent factors and groups are seeking audience with the "traditional planning" practice which was a reserve of planning practitioners. At the neighbourhood levels, the democratisation of local space has led to the rise of the "community voice" – through protests and other means of public participation, as they seek recognition in the professional arena. Indeed, the need for public support calls for their recognition. While this may be the case, contestations and diversity in what comprises substantive "planning knowledge" is equally in the spotlight as various planning academic institutions and others that purport to be part of it explore its breadth. It is within such an environment of competing interests (both in theory and in practice) that there is a need to reimagine and rebrand the planning profession in line with the new world's demands. The rebirth being advocated at this platform while being universal in nature, should embrace the contextual reality of the local dynamics which in turn, mirror appropriate solutions or proposed recommendations. What will emerge out of these contestations will not only be tools and strategies that are responsive to the new demands, but also new perspectives which the contemporary world will cherish and support for future growth. Planning as a profession is not static, but a dynamic system that is defined and redefined in line with changes in times, hence the "unlocking of the planning profession".

The paradox of the planning system and its professions is embedded in the political environment. The shifting political arena tows with it practices and responses that go with them. Planning in the public domain is highly responsive to political pressure and party politics whose constituencies operate at the local level. Implementation of planning at local levels at times mirrors the political dynamics. How should the planning profession extract itself from such forces whether for the good or bad? But more so, can the planning fraternity survive in an environment void of party politics and its associated dynamics? This touches on a shifting plane of accountability and authority. History has witnessed and recorded this relationship and it will always be there in the public eye. Hence the implementation process in the planning profession which is always under the public scrutiny calls for the need to revisit and redefine this course to achieve a sustainable future growth.   

Our congress will take place in a truly exceptional place. Doha, Qatar seems to be the perfect location to discuss issues associated with the new planning paradigm. The exact location of the congress venue – the newly reshaped historic center of Doha – provides opportunities not only for going "out of the box" with planning ideas and concepts, but also for bringing the congress to the local urban community. We will have a chance to meet and discuss main issues for our urban future in this truly remarkable location. Such a setting will enhance the interdisciplinary character of future planning and development to be grasped. More so, the unique venue cannot be missed. We sincerely hope that this year Doha will become a place where true urban innovative ideas will be generated and which will become a starting point for the truly innovative urban debate – which shall result in "unlocking" planning profession and giving it a fresh restart.