"If we dare to come closer to our fellow human beings, we will be able to see and understand them better."
Kjell Magne Bondevik
I have been in Ramallah, leading a small group of experienced planners who have been asked by UN-Habitat to review the planning of the rural area of Palestine. The West Bank of the River Jordan has been occupied by Israel since the war in 1967.
Young Eyes is a new IC project. It looks to me like it will be a good one. I was at the kick-off meeting in a cold and misty Warsaw in January. All the partners were there – Jelgava and Rauna from Latvia, our Polish friends from Suwalki, and from the far north came the delegation from Robertsfors in Sweden. In addition there was PAS from Edinburgh, bringing a lot of experience in youth involvement in built environment issues.
Across Europe the centres of small and medium sized towns are facing serious challenges. Retailing was the key function that drew people to these places. But we shop differently nowadays. A generation ago the big retailers began to move their businesses out of town centres and to edge of city retail parks.
A new OECD report, Regions and Cities: Where policies and people meet, makes the point that regional disparities in income are widening. It calls for a place-sensitive approach to policy making, in other words it recognises that policies need to be tuned to specific characteristics of places, rather than being uniform.
The eyes of the world are on Scotland this week. The referendum on Scottish independence looks like it will produce a close result. It’s been a long campaign, which the rest of the United Kingdom has largely ignored until the last couple of weeks when suddenly the gap between “yes” and “no” in the opinion polls has narrowed.
It’s been a busy summer. In particular I have been involved in work on “measuring success” for Scotland’s Historic Environment Strategy. As Chair of the Built Environment Forum Scotland I am chairing a “workstream” on this topic, with a brief to report to the Scottish Government and to the historic environment sector by the end of August.
In the next few weeks some important decisions will be taken. The UN is coming to the end of a process that will result in the General Assembly adopting a set of Sustainable Development Goals for the period 2015-2030. These were focus on eradication of poverty and are sure to commit the governments of the world to action on topics such as health, water and education – rightly so.
In the early 1990s Yugoslavia began to disintegrate, triggering a series of vicious wars as ethnic groups contested territories. I have been doing some work looking at current development in the countries of the Western Balkans. Although conditions have certainly improved over the past decade, and the World Bank now rates them as “upper middle income countries”, it is clear that long-lasting economic and environmental damage has occurred.
For over 30 years EU programmes have supported students so that they can spend some time studying at a university in a different member state. Now a new ERASMUS+ programme opens such mobility opportunities to many others. The kind of youth camps that IC has delivered over several years would seem to be eligible for support. The programme includes Norway.