Urban Ecological Planning
Urban Ecological Planning (UEP) is a practice based program that enables students to develop skills and knowledge to address complex urban issues in rapidly changing social, cultural, political and environmental contexts. The program stresses an integrated approach to strategic spatial change, with a specific focus on participatory, inclusive and developmental planning practice.
The program is relevant to urban realities in both developed countries and the Global South. Developed countries face challenges such as aging and declining population, health hazards and exclusion of ethnic minorities. Low- and middle- income regions struggle with rapid population growth, socio-spatial inequalities, deficient infrastructure, environmental degradation and weak institutional capacity. The majority of inhabitants in Global South cities live in slums and will continue to do so in the future, if these issues remain unaddressed. There is thus an urgent need to change outdated laws and regulations and the technocratic approaches that are still prevalent in many countries around the world. We believe that urban planning should be focused on the people and that the only way to address urban challenges effectively is by working directly with the communities.
Consequently, the program focuses on the complex interdependence between people, institutions and the built environment in pursuit of equity, efficiency and sustainability. The main research themes in Urban Ecological Planning include:
- Various aspects of informality in urban areas,
- Access to land, housing and basic services for the urban poor,
- Planning in situations of crisis, such as natural disasters and post-conflict reconstruction,
- Participatory processes in planning for excluded and marginalized communities,
- Institutional alternatives for planning in resource scarcity.
A sustainable approach is adopted to concentrate on building local responsibility and capacities for a strategic action planning. In the first semester, our programme starts right in the field, with a rich mix of international and local students. Students spend around 8-12 weeks in the field to understand the strengths of neighbourhood within dense cities, and evaluate possibilities for spatial, environmental and livelihood improvements. In subsequent semesters, the students undertake various other courses designed to address theoretical and practical aspects of urban planning. With on-site exercises and extensive fieldworks over the last decade, the programme has addressed various situational topical issues which are globally and locally significant.
The work undertaken by UEP students and staff is closely related to the agendas and principles of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and other UN agencies, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA). As a member of UN-Habitat’s UNI network for academia and research (previously HPUI – Habitat Partner University Initiative), UEP has received financial and logistic support from UN-Habitat to conduct student fieldworks.