A Commentary on Turkey’s Habitat III National Report – Sustainable(?) Urbanisation in Turkey

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Find below the report named “A Commentary on Turkey’s Habitat III National Report – Sustainable(?) Urbanisation in Turkey” prepared by Ulaş Bayraktar, Bediz Yılmaz, and Ali Ekber Doğan.


From the introduction of the report:

The National Report prepared for submission to HABITAT III, the Human Settlements Summit to be held in Quito, Ecuador on 17-20 October, draws predominantly on outputs of the study KENTGES (Integrated Urban Development Strategy and Action Plan). The KENTGES Report, which was prepared by the Ministry of Public Works and Settlement within a framework of broad participation, has unfortunately been condemned to stay on shelves since it has no consequences and is in no form binding. Especially, the radical “clean slate”-approach which the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization was founded upon has rendered the country’s institutional and sectoral experience in this field completely nonfunctional. It could be assumed that this institutional change plays an important role in lack of any reference to HABITAT II or especially to the Istanbul Declaration in the HABITAT III National Report.

From this point of view, the most general conclusion that may be drawn in the evaluation of the HABITAT III Report is that it is a text far from being a study conducted as a result of participatory processes, which pays no attention to scientific concerns, nor to the themes and principles, which were emphasized in previous Habitat meetings. Instead, we are faced with a report which comprises of the practices and legal regulations largely implemented during the 14-year rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) however neglecting any critical assessment of them and which forgets or forces us to forget Turkey’s former experiences.  Another important point to be emphasized is that the emphasis on participation and locality which marked the HABITAT II Summit which was held in Istanbul in 1996 is remarkably secondary in this report.

In today’s Turkey, the most important matter that determines urbanization and therefore the development of human settlements are urban plans and regulations due to their specific importance in creating an increase of value in land and its distribution among social classes. Although the subtitle of the report is “Land and Urban Planning”, it is observed that explanations on this matter are very limited and implicit. It is observed that urban design which is addressed in Chapter Two of the Report is understood as a dimension of planning and presented as a greater problem, although it is generally considered as an area of specialization that is separate but nevertheless completes the field of spatial arrangements. The fact that planning, which is more determining in terms of social and spatial development and a central issue of urban politics, resources and rent distribution is only briefly addressed, while design, which is rather encountered by city-dwellers in aestheticized form of public spaces in some central places and well-off neighborhoods, is treated as the most important problem indicates how far away the report is from an understanding of spatial justice. Socio-spatial justice, one of the principles of Habitat, is only briefly referred to in Chapter 5 in a disconnected manner.

We think it is necessary to discuss some prominent headings in the report in order to substantiate these general assessments more.


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