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Urban Planning Capacity: Certification of Individuals and Building Resilient Planning Institutions

Learning Event during the World Bank Urban Week, March 12, 2009

The session was part of the Urban Week 2009 and featured findings of research carried out in WBI on the importance of certification in urban planning, as well as presentations by planners from Mexico, China, and Guatemala.  To address the importance of resilient planning institutions presentations were made on the history and current state of Municipal Planning Institutes in Brazil and Mexico.

Why is urban planning important?  As developing countries implement their decentralization policies the need for qualified urban planning professionals is growing to ensure effective planning policies are in place.  In decentralized countries it is difficult to control the quality of urban planners, especially in times of growing urbanization (when more and more people move to cities and neighborhoods grow wildly) planning is needed to guarantee the quality of municipal services.  Professionalization of urban planning through development of certification programs can help to establish a level of quality for effective service delivery.

When we look at the role of certification as a mechanism for capacity building of local government institutions, we shall reflect on the two dimensions of capacity building: human and institutional.  Institutional development encompasses the legal and regulatory framework in which organizations, institutions and agencies at all levels and in all sectors operate.  It embraces different aspects, including financial management, borrowing and trading capacity of municipal authorities; land use policies, and democratic legislation that enables and encourages communities to take responsibility for the management of their neighbourhoods and services.  Institutional development is as important as human resource development (i.e. skills building, access to information, incentive mechanisms, and opportunities for continuous learning, among others), as only the complementarity of both dimensions brings about effective change at the local government level.

Please, click here for the agenda (pdf file, 80 kb) of the event, and here for the Certification of Urban Planners Compendium (pdf file, 240 kb). 

Please, find the presentations of the event, and a related description in the following:

Hernando Garzon presented the institutional infrastructure that is in place in selected developed countries.  In USA, Canada, Australia the certification systems for individuals and for institutions rely strongly on the institutional capacity of associations of professional planners (i.e. American Planning Association, Canadian Institute of Planners, Planning Institute of Australia).  Certification appears to have greater credibility and recognition when operating under the authority of an independent (non-profit) third-party.  It can be expected that developing nations with urban planners associations have a much greater chance of success with the implementation of certification systems than those countries lacking such an institution.  The presentation revealed the challenges facing developing countries as they move towards professionalization of the urban planning profession.
Click here (.zip file, 30 kb) to view Mr. Hernando Garzon's presentation.

Xiaohui Chen highlighted the challenges facing the newly established professionalization of the urban planning profession in China, as planning transitions from a pure government function to a market-led function.  She emphasized the importance of coordination and dialogue between the different agencies to align their interests and approaches.
Click here (.zip file, 1,100 kb) to view Ms. Xiaohui Chen's presentation.

Jorge Calvo illustrated the challenging political and institutional environment facing Guatemala in its decentralization process, and the need for strong leadership at the top, as well as coordination among all stakeholders.  He emphasized that decentralized planning requires certification and that the increased number of OMP professionals require critical skills to implement effective urban planning policies. Municipal and local governments and administrations are key actors in advancing the urban agenda at the sub-national level, however, they are oftentimes constrained by obsolete legislation or a legislation that does not warrant the needed decision making power.  This has been a significant challenge in Guatemala's decentralization process, as part of which the Local Development Councils were appointed to induce change at the local level while the actual decentralization of decision making was not yet happening.  Divergence of interests between the local and municipal levels poses yet another challenge local government institutions have to confront.  Active dialogue to overcome the information barriers is a key element in this process.  On the other hand, local government institutions are constrained by inappropriately trained staff, which calls for re-building, re-tooling and re-structuring of capacities to face the changing urban environment.  The human dimension is equally important in this respect.
Click here  (.zip file, 150 kb) to view Mr. Jorge Calvo's presentation.

Carley Pennink's presentation set the stage for both, certification of urban planners and professionalization of planning institutions, by emphasizing the importance to develop and deliver urban management professionalization programs in developing countries.  The effectiveness of collaboration comes through partnerships but building partnerships takes time. 
Click here (.zip file, 50 kb) to view Ms. Carley Pennink's presentation.

Maria do Rosario emphasized the importance of professionalization of planning institutions as exemplified by the successful case of Curitiba, recognizing that the planning process is anchored in strong (and creative) institutions.  Effective urban planning requires a constant dialogue between political and technical institutions.  As stated by Ms. Rosario, planning is an activity and not a profession in Brazil.  The Municipal Planning Institute in Curitiba (IPPUC) recruits interns from multiple courses from local universities and through hands-on training these young professionals apply their expertise on likely aspects of the planning activity. This way they are prepared to take entry exams upon their graduation to be hired by the City.  Thus, it is key to develop capacities of urban planners who truly understand the multiple disciplines needed to manage the urban environment effectively.
Click here (.zib file, 11,400 kb) to view part I Ms. Maria Rosario's presentation; and here (.zib file, 8,300 kb) to review part II.

Luis Felipe Siqueiros illustrated the importance of professionalization of planning institutions as exemplified by the successful case of Ciudad Juarez.  He emphasized the four pillars of effective planning practice: citizen participation, technical excellence, innovation, and sustainability, and the importance of comprehensive institutional reforms to build the capacity of urban professionals to achieve effective planning processes.
Click here (.zip file, 1,700 kb) to view Mr. Luis Felipe Siqueiros' presentation.


Gabriel Todd's presentation focused on the importance of professionalization of planning institutions as exemplified by the successful case of IMPLAN San Pedro, Nuevo Leon.  He emphasized the key role of municipal planning institutes in promoting citizen participation in urban development, and in forging a dialogue at the community and municipal levels as a more effective way to developing sustainable planning policies.
Click here (.zip file, 4,600 kb) to view Mr. Gabriel Todd's presentation.

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