Elisabeth Belpaire, Congress Director

Board and Executive Committee member ISOCARP

Warm welcome to the 58th ISOCARP World Planning Congress in Brussels, Belgium! 

Also this year 's congress puts forward a critically important theme that speaks to our challenging times. One that needs your and our collaborative out-of-the box thinking, critical reflection, learning and advancement. The exchange across borders, cultures, sectors, generations, genders, and experiences from South and North are much needed and the WPC offers this unique value. 

Cities and urban communities must be planned and managed in a healthier way to mitigate the compounded crises of pandemics, climate change and biodiversity loss. How can we enable both health and wellbeing of all citizens and our planet? What shift do we need in governance and economy? 

I look forward to our Congress to exchange innovative theories & practices to turn unsustainable spaces into healthy places. I invite you to join this promising congress journey, meet friends and make new connections. 

The world is coming to Brussels, a truly diverse and inspiring place to together go in search of a new and just planning agenda and to bring about healthy change and action.

General Rapporteur, Zeynep Enlil

Professor of urban planning at Yıldız Technical University and the Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Urban Regeneration and Planning. Her teaching and research interests include resilience and healthy cities, sustainable development, planning theory and history, neoliberal urbanism, urban transformation, gentrification, role of creativity and culture in urban and regional development, urban conservation and tourism. She has been a consultant for the 2006 Istanbul Metropolitan Plan, co-leader of the "Istanbul Cultural Heritage and Cultural Economy Project" and "Istanbul Tourism Master Plan." She has been team leader in a number of international research consortia funded under JPI Urban Europe and Horizon2020 ERA-NET Cofund.

We are going through turbulent times. With extreme climate events, escalating crises of social, economic, health, spatial and environmental inequalities we are at the verge of socio-ecological collapse. Time is ticking; the world as we know it is changing and "everything that is solid is melting into the air!" 

With this congress theme, ISOCARP and the Brussels Capital Region aim to respond to this urgency. Ours is a quest for an economy that prioritizes people, places, and the planet and moves beyond profit and growth to prioritize social and ecological wellbeing. We shall explore how we could shift our mindset and decouple prosperity and wellbeing from economic growth. How can we build with nature and not against it? We will discuss strategies for enhancing the quality of life with tangible improvements of our living environment embracing everyone. We shall take a rights-based approach reclaiming affordable housing, mobility, water, energy and access to basic goods and services as rights with equal access to everyone, and not commodities confined to the privileged few who are able to afford it. We shall search for a new planning agenda with equity, wellbeing and health as the compass in building a better world for all.

I would like to welcome you to this year's World Planning Congress in Brussels, where we will discuss how we can re-imagine planning with progressive values in mind and "unlock" its potentials to move us towards alternative futures where "cities are built not for profit but for people," towards an alternative future that is decarbonized, healthy and just for all. 

Pietro Elisei, President of ISOCARP

International expert in urban regeneration policies, integrated planning for small-medium sized cities and topics related to smart cities and strategic planning. A collaborator with EU universities and research centers, he works as international expert with international institutions (European Commission: URBACT and UIA Secretariats, UN-Habitat, UNECE) for important urban and territorial planning research/planning tasks. Dr. Elisei also routinely holds keynote speeches in international conferences and publishes a number of scientific articles on topics related to urban planning. Founder and Director of URBASOFIA.

The well-being and health of cities are not conflicting themes, but synergistic. Issues that require an integrated approach towards the vision, planning and management of the city. The contemporary city is not resolved through planning and visions based on too simple solutions, good panaceas for every context, slogans, principles that discern between good and bad. Creating "health" in the city, nowadays, requires a structured and coordinated commitment of several institutions, requires complex urban governance and the ability to propose tools for a continuous mediation of the many controversies linked to the planning practice. A healthy city is first and foremost a city that gives space to listening to diversity, those that are present and active, those that are new, latent and often still marginalized, relegated to the edges of the civic and city fabric.

Many transitions (ecological, digital, housing, cultural, relational ...)  are underway in the cities of this beginning of the century, tormented by various crises, not least the pandemic that inspired the title of this ISOCARP congress (From wealthy to healthy cities): The city that generates well-being, the engine of economic development, social elevator is a story known to all, but all this has a price that puts into play the health of natural and urban ecosystems, in which we humans are inserted as protagonists, and not as observers.

Thinking in an innovative, creative way and proposing concrete and shared solutions for new management models of urban and territorial contexts is the challenge posed by this congress in Brussels. The air of the cities still makes us free, but this air must be breathable, it must host development models that give space to a more equitable and respectful development of natural resources, of tangible and intangible cultural heritages, of economies that are not measured only through the indicators of quantitative production.

Sustainable planning requires investments in urban policies that go beyond hierarchical and regulatory systems and/or the stale and indisputable procedures that often oppress the creativity that is naturally and daily generated by cities and make them sick. The treatment, the way to health, perhaps passes through the ability to open up to listening to the diversity generated by the urban narratives and make them realizable. The healthy city should not be a new model of ideal city, but it should be a system capable of self-determination through the ability to give space, to welcome, to generate opportunities to take risks in proposing development models that focus on the many qualities that make an urban context worth living.

Frank D'hondt, ISOCARP Secretary General 

Founding member and director of the Territorial Capital Institute, a knowledge-based platform to exchange theory and praxis of integrated territorial development and placemaking, drawing upon his experiences on localising the New Urban Agenda and the International Guidelines on Urban and Territorial Planning. He has worked 15 years in the European Union, mainly on cross-border and transnational planning issues, followed by another 15 years outside the EU.

We welcome urban planners from all over the world to share your experiences and innovative ideas with the entire planning community during our 58th World Planning Congress, hosted by the Brussels Capital Region. We invite you all to take advantage of the theme to jointly explore the responsibilities and roles of planners in the transition from wealthy cities for some, to healthy and climate-friendly cities for all.

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