Enabling Meaningful Public Participation in Spatial Planning Processes
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Enabling Meaningful Public Participation in Spatial Planning Processes

The Sustainable Development Goals and New Urban Agenda emphasize the need for inclusive and collaborative governance in spatial planning processes. Thus, rather than advocating for a technocratic and normative model of spatial planning based on standards and regulations, the Goals and the New Urban Agenda refer to spatial planning as a multi-stakeholder decision-making process during which participation is a key governance feature to reach sustainable development.

This toolkit on Enabling Meaningful Public Participation in Spatial Planning Processes has demonstrated that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to public participation. The toolkit features a step-by-step process perspective on how to engage the public and civil society and has a series of mechanisms that can be adapted and aggregated in the form of policy mixes that can better suit the local context, the stage of the process and the available resources. More importantly, rather than using participation as a “symbolic gesture”, with little transformative impact on urban governance structures and systems, it is recommended to foster the empowerment and autonomy of social movements and local stakeholders and entrust citizens and residents with real decision-making powers.

To ensure that all stakeholders, and most importantly priority groups, have the capacities and resources to participate in the whole planning process, the toolkit presents flexible legal, governance, fiscal, and digital tools that governments at all levels can mobilize to regulate the inclusive and effective nature of participation. Overall, rather than just presenting a mere list of tools to follow, this toolkit will provide support for policymakers in mainstreaming meaningful participation when designing planning processes. The implementation of the participatory mechanisms presented here will also assist public institutions to reposition technicians and spatial planners as facilitators of processes of consensus building and collective territorial intelligence construction. Furthermore, the case studies in the text boxes provide insights into the challenges and opportunities of possible solutions for which these urban practitioners can pursue.