Planning for people

TRACK 3: Liveable places and healthy cities

congress team: Jens Aerts, Belgium/USA & Mahak Agrawal, India

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Health, safety, prosperity for all: children, elderly and other vulnerable people

Environmental justice, spatial equity, the right to the city

Digital connectivity and social innovation to improve and measure well-being

Access to urban services and a clean and safe environment

Collective space and building the community (formal and informal)

Frameworks and tools to measure liveability

Planning with people and communities: universal design, co-production and open data

Livability as a universal or cultural value


Migration, unplanned urbanisation and urban inequities affect the well-being of city dwellers on an individual and collective scale across the world. Cities expand more rapidly than can be sustained by infrastructure and services, and the cost of living is rising far more rapidly than wages. Lack of basic services affect a sizeable part of the population. In addition, the physical urban environment introduces new types of vulnerabilities that require a systematic approach through urban planning: obesity, mental diseases and the decrease of play and physical activity, multiple forms of exposure to pollutions and unsafe public spaces. These challenges come with a high cost for the weakest but also for the community, leading to high public health costs, social unrest, fragmentation, urban violence and terrorism, ethnic tensions and more.

Planning for and with people is at the core of creating a viable future: Improving the quality of life together, planning safe spaces and clean infrastructure, promoting child-responsive and multi-generational environments. Engaging communities in the process of planning will spark innovation, improve knowledge and decision making for the best solutions, accelerate change and ensure citizens adopt sustainable behaviours from early age on.  

Is liveability a luxury or a human right? How can it be defined and measured? Can we plan for it? Are there universal principles or different ones depending on culture?  


Session 3.1 (Special Session) UNICEF Opening Session: Children and Cities, Planning for the Future 

Discussions under track 3 highlight the complex relation between urban health issues, spatial inequity and environmental challenges. Especially in large and fragmented urban contexts, this requires a focus on equity and people-centred urban planning approaches, to ensure urban development and upgrading translates in healthy, safe and inclusive spaces. Analysing the evidence, successful initiatives, strategies and projects, this opening session, organised by UNICEF and supported by a panel of experts, will highlight priorities for action in order to build and plan healthy cities for children and their communities.

Session 3.2 Planning and Design for Collective Space and Transport for Children and Communities

Public space networks are the backbone of many planned cities and allow access to the city on various scales and in all its meanings: as a functional place to undertake a journey, but also to meet, play, learn and grow up to become a citizen, to build the community for all generations. If all children have access to public space, cities are successful for everyone. This session shows how crucial planning and placemaking approaches for collective spaces and safe mobility are for children and communities.

Session 3.3 Participatory Planning and Multi-generational Well-being

Community-led planning is more and more recognised as a sustainable approach to address urbanisation challenges, in absence of or as a complement and alternative to formal planning. Various examples show that participatory planning ensures inclusion in decision making and fosters community development on a neighbourhood level, as fundamental building stone of any size of city.

Session 3.4 (Special Session) Planning Sustainable Urban Childhoods for the Youngest

Planning and designing a city to better meet the needs of babies, toddlers and the people who care for them is one of the best investments a city can make. Growing evidence from neuroscience, public health, education and economics makes it clear: Experience shapes the developing brain. One of the best ways to ensure good experiences is to support the people who care for babies and toddlers, beginning in pregnancy. City planners have a big role to play: If you could experience a city from 95cm – the height of a 3-year-old – what would you change?

Session 3.5 Sustainable Mobility and Streets for People

Despite the potential of urbanisation to reduce distances, increase density of activities and enhance walking, biking and mass transit, transportation planning seems to prioritise individual car use. This leads to clogged street spaces, traffic injuries and polluted air. This session explores sustainable urban mobility strategies that prioritise the well-being of people and looks for inclusive solutions for all (gender, ages).

Session 3.6 Data, Indicators and New Paradigms for Public Health

Data is key for sustainable urban planning: to collect it, to use it for decisions making, to evaluate initiatives and to monitor progress. There is quantitative and qualitative data, to be collected with new technologies, but also through social innovation, as this allows communities to engage and to share knowledge. This session explores the sense of open data, indicators, evaluations methods and mapping tools that foster community engagement, to support better planning of healthy and just cities.

Session 3.7 Public Space, Public Life

Public spaces are the core of cities. They can be formally planned, but the public life can be informal at the edges and make unexpected spaces more inclusive and welcoming for specific vulnerable groups such as migrants and women. This session explores the relation between urban form, liveability and values of public spaces and how the latter is also about the daily process of making meaningful places from neutral spaces.

Session 3.8 The Right to Housing and Livelihoods

Housing is more than four walls equipped with basic services of water, sanitation, drainage or electricity. Housing is a human right, strongly interlinked to livelihood, and a critical part in redressing the complex multi-dimensional challenges of poverty, inequalities, inequities and exclusion. The sub-track discusses and reflects upon lessons learnt from housing plans, schemes and projects in different parts of the world. It also explores varied perceptions to housing and livelihoods across various generations in diverse geographies and the feasibility of select tools and techniques that can tackle housing issues.

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