Fukuoka, Japan 22 August 2018—A group of experts and government representatives from around the world recently gathered in Fukuoka for the first ever Global Symposium on Urban and Territorial Planning.

This was a follow-up to an event four years ago when UN-Habitat invited international planning experts to conclude the drafting of the International Guidelines on Urban and Territorial Planning (IG-UTP).

The IG-UTP were endorsed in the 25th Governing Council meeting of UN-Habitat in 2015 and in the New Urban Agenda that came out of Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador in 2016. They are an important tool to advance the 2030 Development Agenda, providing guidance for national governments, local authorities, civil society and planning professionals on how to work together consistently towards improved urban and territorial planning strategies and decisions, for neighbourhoods, cities, regions, countries and more. The Guidelines encompass a wide range of urban issues.

The first Global Symposium was co-hosted by the Government of Japan, the City of Fukuoka and its Seinan Gakuin University. While considerable progress has been made since the release of the IG-UTP in 2015, joint efforts must be strengthened to meet the needs for more sustainable urban and territorial planning that effectively contributes to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and interlinked Sustainable Development Goals.

Christine Platt, Chair of the IG-UTP Expert Group and keynote speaker of the Symposium, concluded the address with a call to now focus on the roles and contributions of national governments, local authorities, planning professionals and their associations, and civil society to advance the implementation of the IG-UTP.  In a second IG-UTP expert keynote Bruce Stiftel, Professor at the School of City and Regional Planning of the Georgia Institute of Technology, advocated more capacity development on sustainable planning, making use of existing and new planning schools in both developing and developed countries, and the need to do more cross-border cooperation to improve planning education. In addition, a new IG-UTP-based tool for assessing country and city-wide planning systems was presented during the symposium.

The Expert Group members complemented their contributions to the Global Symposium by participating in three events in neighbouring China.  In Chengdu, they participated in the 2nd High-level International Forum on Sustainable Urban Development on August 1.  Under the overall theme of ‘Urban Transformation and Development’, the China Center for Urban Development (CCUD) in partnership with UN-Habitat provided a platform to discuss the future orientation of China’s urbanisation building on experiences from the past 40 years. The IG-UTP experts contributed by linking the different conference topics with the IG-UTP, in addition to participating in a parallel conference organised by CCUD and APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation platform.

After that, the Expert Group travelled to the Chinese capital city of Beijing for an expert seminar hosted by the China Academy for Urban Planning and Design (CAUPD). The CAUPD showed great interest in advancing the application of the IG-UTP in both urban and rural China, as well as in other developing countries to foster transnational cooperation for more sustainable urban development, particularly under the umbrella of the Road and Belt initiative.

IG-UTP Expert Group in Beijing expert seminar hosted by the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design

Finally, on August 6th, members of the Expert Group took part in an Expert Meeting organised by the Wuhan Land Use and Spatial Planning Research Center (WLSP), in Wuhan city. While the topic of debate here was area-based development focusing on the bifurcation of the Han and Yangtze Rivers, discussions included a city-wide strategy and a cultural and natural heritage-driven planning approach for Wuhan as a fast growing ‘river city’ in the urban heartland of China.

Overall, the IG-UTP Expert Group’s contribution in Japan and China was a useful showcase that international cooperation and exchange is required to advance the promotion and application of the IG-UTP as an essential instrument to implement the New Urban Agenda and related Sustainable Development Goals. Follow-on talks will further capitalize on the foundations laid throughout this IG-UTP expert initiative.