The position on the issue of the closing down of the UN Habitat Warsaw office

Sunday, 20 February 2011 23:05 Zarząd Główny

The Society of Polish Town Planners and the Country Spatial Development Committee are deeply alarmed by the information that the regional UN Habitat Warsaw office would no longer be situated in Poland. The invaluable contribution of the UN Habitat Warsaw office in the disciplines of spatial development, urban policy, environment integration, exchange of experiences and international cooperation ought not to be squandered.

It is worth reminding that UN Habitat is a branch of the United Nations focused on the issues of human settlements development, the quality of life and sustainable development. The UN Habitat Warsaw office is one of only four European missions (with other ones located in Brussels, Geneva and Moscow) of that organisation. In recent years the office has not only intensely cooperated with Polish institutions and organisations dealing with currently very imporant, and very emphasized within the EU, issues of urban and regional development, as well as the broader sense of sustainable development.

The conference and publishing contribution of the UN Habitat Warsaw office is also remarkable. It has been especially active in intensifying cooperation within Central and Eastern Europe. A number of extremely valuable initiatives that have presently reached its highest operational and efectiveness level are threatened to extinct together with the office. We are sad to emphasize that at the same time the role of our country as an important actor in organising the debate in these key areas will be diminished. UN Habitat has been developing the area which has been very important for Poland as the leader of European debate in key topics concerning modern development. This role can only be partly played by a different organisation, because UN Habitat holds a global mandate to its mission, which allows it to serve a unique role of a catalyst of the processes initiated by the Istanbul Declaration of 1996. Speaking on behalf of the international community, the UN Habitat Warsaw office has also been strengthening Poland’s position as the host and initiator of many enterprises and events, which no national organisations can manage.

The UN Habitat Warsaw office’s part in organising educational initiatives is also worth emphasizing. For example, last year the first edition of the European Urban Summer School, an enterprise prepared with the cooperation with the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP), a summer school for young European planners, has taken place. It was in Poland where nearly sixty young planners perfected their skills and developed their understanding of the European context of urban growth under the eyes of experienced practitioners and academics from many European countries. Today, applications for the next editions of this event are already flowing in from Spain, Portugal, Great Britain and the Netherlands. A measure of success may be the declaration of cooperation from major European institutions such as International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP), European Urban Research Association (EURA), International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP) and European Council of Town Planners (ECTP) which holds together all professional national bodies, including the Polish Urbanist Associaton. It is important to highlight that the initiative of this innovative enterprise has originated in the UN Habitat Warsaw office and has been largely funded by the office.

Poland has benefited from international help for many years. Now the development of Poland is generously supported by EU funds. It seems that our history and current international position present us with a moral obligation to host international institutions and organisations, which apart from realising goals of great importance also contribute to the image of Poland in the international arena. They are also a proof of our gratitude and a declaration of our commitment.

The Society of Polish Town Planners and the Country Spatial Development Committee are voicing their great disappointment in the decision of the Polish government, which has pointed to the closing down of the office of an institution as valuable as UN Habitat. From our perspective, Poland will lose a partner with whom it has cooperated with great benefit for our institution and our country. This will also weaken our potential in influencing the Eastern and Central Europe region and our voice in debates on urban policies and Europe’s territorial coherence.

The Society of Polish Town Planners and the Country Spatial Development Committee call to the Prime Minister of Poland for reconsidering the decision of the government and the consequences it will bring for many organisations in the country and to the prestige of Poland. We firmly believe that good will of all the partners will allow us to continue the work over the started enterprises and develop new ideas with benefit for Poland and Europe.


The Society of Polish Town Planners and the Country Spatial Development Committee

Tags: Opinia