Announcement Symposium Urban Planning and Post-Conflict Cities

110408-F-VH329-002 U.S. Army Sgt. Randy Elmore, a team leader with Zombie Response Team, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, guards a reconstruction project along Highway 4 in Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, on April 8, 2011. The construction was part of a reconstruction project funded by a commander's emergency response program that included repairs to 7.8 kilometers of road from the Pakistan border into Afghanistan. DoD photo by Senior Airman Jessica Lockoski, U.S. Air Force. (Released)
U.S. Army Sgt. Randy Elmore, a team leader with Zombie Response Team, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, guards a reconstruction project along Highway 4 in Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, on April 8, 2011.

We are proud to break by hosting the first international symposium on post-war cities at the department of Urbanism at the Technical university of Delft on November 27th.

The objective of this symposium is to draw attention to the issue of reconstruction of post-war cities in the domains of urban planning and policy. Doing so, we aim to gather interested urban planners, architects and policy makers in order to build a network for developing capacity to deal with and advise on these issues.

Today’s wars are fought primarily in and over cities, since to control the city means to control the country in in terms of government, economy and cultural trade. And because the world is rapidly urbanizing, any reconstruction policy inherently comprises urban planning.

For this symposium, we aim to focus mainly on the issues of one city: the reconstruction and planning of Kabul. The symposium will however take the issue of urban planning in post-conflict cities as a general one, and will discuss how solutions being proposed in Kabul, could be applied in other cities as well.

Kabul in 2015 is still led by a plan the Soviets drafted in the seventies. The reality on the ground has however changed dramatically. The continuous change in political sphere, wars, climate change and demographics that have not been planned form critically undermines Kabuls capacity to leverage the benefits that could be gained by adequate urban planning.

The almost 35 years of war in Afghanistan, as well as stalling progression planning agencies’ have resulted in a backlog of planning that has severe consequences for Kabul and its residents. Up to 70 to 80% of inhabitants reside in illegal settlements, on which there is almost no information.

Moreover, as Afghanistan has largely been a rural based-society, the country has little experience with managing large-scale urbanization. As a result, the Kabul’s municipalities plans to stick to the soviet master plan – even if this implies the demolishment of a large part of the informal settlements, whose inhabitants have no legal tenure.

Although the future of Kabul should be governed by elected officials, it is currently shaped more by external parties, unofficial authorities, and land speculation. Moreover, the imposition of models and rules formulated as copies from other countries’ systems have created undesirable conditions for the urban realm as well as how the city is being managed.

In the absence of official planning, local warlords have taken up the task and engaged in planning themselves. By forcefully grabbing land and selling it to ordinary citizens, they have created an economy

Foreign parties literally shape the city by creating relatively safe zones that attract amenities, thus further creating unofficial development dynamics. Yet, as these developments are unmonitored, and uncoordinated, they complicate the creation of a well integrated, connected, resilient and inclusive city.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan is undergoing rapid urbanization. The largest cities attract considerable numbers of IDP’s, returnees, and economic migrants. Current estimations indicate that Afghan cities are growing with a rate of $% a year, which means a doubling of population within 20 years. Since infrastructure and planning choices now lock in pattern of behavior for the medium to long term, this is an unmatched opportunity for Urban Planning to deliver its potential benefits.

But well-informed planning needs context-driven models, and a thorough knowledge of all the factors that influence the cities’ dynamics. Now is the time to formulate an overall urban vision for Kabul, one that is based on an inclusive process and is supported by private initiatives and feedback of stakeholders.

To sum up: the aim of this symposium is to create awareness for the need of a new urban agenda for urban planning in Afghanistan and to foster dialogue on planning in post-war areas.