Planning plays key role in Commonwealth local government conference

Commonwealth Local Government Conference 2015, Gaborone, Botswana


1.Conference background and theme

The Commonwealth Association of Planners was invited to participate in the 2015 Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) Conference held in Gaborone, Botswana on 16 – 19 June 2015. The 3 day conference was hosted by the Botswana Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to look at how local government can help improve the lives of the 2.2 billion people who live in the Commonwealth. The theme of the conference was “Local government 2030: Achieving the Vision” and it focussed on priorities for local government to play its full part in improving local governance and effectiveness, promoting sustainable local development, and developing strategies for inclusive, resilient and sustainable cities.

The conference also marked CLGF’s 20th anniversary. 


 Gaborone international Convention Centre - venue for the conference

The conference was attended by some 550 delegates from 51 Commonwealth and other countries. Attendees included key policy and decision makers; national, state and provincial ministers; mayors; academics; and representatives of civil society and the private sector. Keynote speakers included Hon Dr Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta, Rt Hon Helen Clark, Administrator UNDP, Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Director Mo Abrahim Foundation, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, Executive Secretary, South African Development Community.

The President of Botswana, HE the President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, officially opened the Conference. The President’s address focussed on the way forward for local government to play a key role in delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) once agreed later this year – local government will be critical to success in meeting the SDGs.

2.Address by HRH Prince Charles

A recorded video address from HRH Prince Charles was played to delegates at the opening session of the Conference. Prince Charles noted that 2015 was a pivotal year for local government and that the 21st century would be an “Urban Century” with already over 50% of the world’s population living in cities. Prince Charles stated that it was necessary to break the mould of conventional planning and design and there was a need to create new approaches to address the challenges of the 21st Century. He stated that citizens should be at the heart of the design process and neighbourhoods should be designed at a walkable scale and served by public transport with a mix of uses and people. In commenting that modern urban planning based on zoning often led to soulless cities, Prince Charles identified three principles that should prevail in the planning and design of cities:

-          Local culture, knowledge and identity should inform the planning process;

-          Places should be designed on a community based approach to enable all types of people to live together in harmony; and

-          People and nature need to be at the heart of the practice of planning.

If these three elements are looked at in an integrated way then Prince Charles said this would benefit the health of people and the planet. In addition Prince Charles identified the need for closer integration between urban and rural areas. In conclusion, the Prince stated that a ‘business as usual’ approach cannot continue and that a more integrated approach based on the three principles should be progressed.

The Prince’s focus on planning was welcomed and provided an excellent basis for the CAP- led workshop held later in the conference.

3.Commonwealth Association of Planners Workshop

CAP led one of five workshops each addressing particular aspects of the SDGs. The overall theme of the CAP workshop was “Connecting, urban, peri urban and rural areas through Development planning”.   More specifically the workshop provided opportunity for delegates to discuss the importance of long term planning in ensuring that the SDGs can be effectively localised and cities are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Two of the SDGs were seen as particularly pertinent:

Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture


The session looked at the importance of planning and the role of urban agriculture in achieving sustainable cities, and in ensuring access to land for urban agriculture, access to affordable food, provision for markets and food security.

In opening and chairing the Workshop CAPs Secretary-General, Clive Harridge set the scene for the discussion by stating that effective planning was crucial in achieving sustainable cities. He reminded delegates of the opening remarks of HRH Prince Charles and agreed that new approaches to planning were necessary. Harridge noted that the huge and rapid unplanned growth of cities creates massive challenges for achieving sustainable development as has been repeatedly acknowledged in global policy over the last decade. For example:

-          The World Planners Congress Vancouver Declaration in 2006 (CAP was a contributory author) states “there can be no sustainable development without sustainable urbanisation and no sustainable urbanisation without effective planning; political will and investment is required for effective planning”.

-          Commonwealth Heads of Governments in their communiqué following the 2009 CHOGMat Trinidad & Tobago stated: “Heads recognised that rapid urbanisation was posing a significant challenge ... and that new and inclusive approaches to urban planning and management were central to achieving the MDGs”.

-          The UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post 2015 Development agenda (May 2013) stated that  “Cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost.”

-          Most recently UN Habitat at its Governing Council meeting in Nairobi in April agreed International Guidelines on Urban and Territorial Planning (IG-UTP) as a “ global framework for improving policies, plans and designs for more compact, socially inclusive, better integrated and connected cities and territories that foster sustainable urban development and are resilient to climate change.”

There is huge potential for urban and peri-urban agriculture to make a substantial contribution to helping achieve sustainable human settlements through improved food security as well as helping address urban poverty, poor health and environmental degradation.

Harridge concluded that properly planned cities provide a foundation stone for the route out of urban poverty, an avenue to economic growth, a basis for profitable investment in urban development and a recipe for social and environmental sustainability.  Effective planning, including planning specifically for urban and peri urban agriculture, will be essential if we are to meet SDGs 2 ad 11.

The workshop continued with presentations on urban and peri urban agriculture from:

-          Professor A.C. Mosha - Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Botswana.

Copies of the presentations can be found at the end of this report.

Takawira Mubvami gave an extensive overview of RUAFs experience of urban agriculture in 38 cities across the globe. RUAF supports local and regional government and other partners in development of urban agriculture and food systems policies and programmes, through providing resources for planning resilient urban food systems, food security and social inclusion, short food chains and local economy, resource recycling and City adaptation to climate change. The presentation emphasised how the City region perspective is key to concieving the role of urban and peri-urban agriculture in sustainable food security.

Mr Mubvami ended with the following recommendations:

  • Local governments should protect and enable access to and tenure of land for food production in urban and peri-urban areas, e.g. by limiting building projects on agricultural urban and peri-urban land and renting public areas to farmers, including cooperatives.
  • National and local governments should develop regulations to make (commercial or non-commercial) food growing areas mandatory in new development plans, new or renovated housing settlements and building projects, e.g. rooftop farming, community gardens, allotment gardens.
  • Local governments, private sector (housing management and corporations) and civil society organizations (CSOs) need to allocate space for organic waste storage and recycling (such as small composting sites) in current and new housing units and projects.
  • Local governments should support, improve and expand local food markets and food hubs, both physical and on-line.

Professor A C Mosha gave an overview of urban and peri-urban agriculture with a particular focus on Botswana. He concluded that unlike in many countries in Southern Africa, urban agriculture in Botswana is not well represented. However urban agriculture is often a survival strategy for the poor; it also contributes to productivity in urban areas and creates employment for its participants especially those employed in large scale/intensive urban farming like the keeping of chickens.

Professor Mosha recommended that given the increasing importance of UA in urban food security, there is need for policy intervention to guide and regulate this industry in a number of focus areas:

  • Local governments should protect and enable access to and tenure of land for food production in urban and peri-urban areas.
  • Urban and peri-urban agriculture should be integrated with the planning of green infrastructure in cities.
  • Land for urban and peri-urban agriculture should be identified in city development and land use plans.
  • The best soils in city regions should be preserved for agricultural uses.
  • Governments should develop regulations to make food growing areas mandatory in development plans and building projects.
  • Local Governments, developers and civil society organisations should allocate space for organic waste storage and recycling in new housing projects.
    • Governments, health workers, churches, schools and local politicians should work together to disseminate information and educate people on urban agriculture making full use of TV, local papers and other media channels.



Left to right: Professor A.C. Mosha, Clive Harridge, Takawira Mubvami

To help the workshop discussion following the presentations the following questions were posed:

  •   What role does planning play in ensuring inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities?
  •  How can cities plan for and support urban agriculture as part of their long-term growth strategies and what are the benefits to local citizens of this approach?
  •   Should urban agriculture be part of national urban policies?

The workshop concluded with a lively discussion on the key messages that should be put forward to those drafting the Gaborone Declaration. It was agreed by all that new approaches to urban and rural planning were required to address the increasing pressures arising from the continued rapid urbanization being faced in many Commonwealth countries. In addition it was recommended that special provision should be made for urban and peri-urban agriculture to help provide improved food security for those living in urban (and rural) areas. It was recognized that local governments had a key role if we are to meet the SDGs including though improved planning approaches.

4.Conference Outputs

The CLGF web site gives a report on the conference (, but a few of the key points made are outlined below.

Over the course of the three days there was much discussion on the UN SDGs and what local government’s role will be in their implementation. Reference was made to the need for the SDGs to be monitored from the bottom up. The SDGs must be localised to be effective. Also it was acknowledged that urbanisation trends will continue as cities will remain as the engines of economic growth and the focus of rural to urban migration – as a result city governance is going to become even more significant as more people move to cities. The UNs Helen Clarke identified, jobs, health and education as the three top issues ranked by the world’s citizens; she also noted that the decentralisation of governance is important for the delivery of the SDGs – but there needs to be adequate funding for this to be effective. Several contributors commented that the needs of Youth must be specifically addressed as they make up such a large proportion of the commonwealth. Throughout the Conference there was also reference to the need to address corruption in local government.

The principal output from the Conference was “The Gaborone Declaration – Local Government Vision 2030” ( gaborone declaration final.pdf ) This was adopted CLGF member local governments for implementation over the period 2015 – 2030 with the overall aim of helping achieve the soon to be agreed SDGs. It was acknowledged by all that effective Local Government working with local communities was essential if global ambitions are to be achieved over the next 15 years.

There is much in the Declaration which is directly relevant to our work as planners in the Commonwealth and CAPs participation in the event has been reflected in part by specific reference to planning in several parts of the Declaration.

Of particular significance is the section entitled “Creating Sustainable Cities and Local Governments” which identifies specific actions identified in the box below.

Gaborone Declaration – Actions related to “Creating Sustainable Cities and Local Governments”


• There is an urgent need for holistic national urban policies to provide for effective planning which recognise the importance of reducing urban sprawl, strengthening urban-rural linkages, the need to provide for and protect urban and peri-urban agriculture and counteract mass migration.

• It is critical for sound planning to know the city and the community, promote consultation, and ensure that data collection and analysis supports planning compliance and effective monitoring of improved service delivery.

• There is a need for new and locally based urban and rural planning approaches, which include mixed use policy, green space and urban agriculture, to adequately plan for the many dimensions of urbanisation.

• Cities and local governments are at the forefront of dealing with the causes and impacts of climate change. Cities should focus on building resilience, planning for low carbon economies and effective disaster management and responsiveness.

• Cities need to build capacity to deal with the threat of extremism and urban terrorist attacks.

The Declaration will be presented to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held on Mata in November 2015. It will also be used as a basis by CLGF to develop ideas to localise the SDGs for implementation by local government. Working with its partners and other organisations the Declaration will be used to reinforce local government’s role in supporting the achievement of the SDGs, the preparation for Habitat III and the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.


CAP played a key role on developing the Gaborone Declaration, and planners have a major responsibility in helping its implementation and so towards achieving the SDGs. CAP is now in discussion with CLGF staff as well as others to explore ways in which we can support CAP members in fulfilling the aspirations set out in the Declaration.


Clive Harridge

Secretary-General, Commonwealth Association of Planners