Spatial Planning. Perhaps the most underestimated area of governance, management and control, virtually unknown to the public in general, in most cases relegated to a State Secretariat, yet perhaps the instrument with the highest potential to improve public services, increase security and create jobs and livelihoods. Where is this magnificent tool at a global level?
The first time I heard about spatial planning was when an ex-Secretary of State for Spatial Planning of a European country approached me with a view to publishing an article expounding the importance of this department of government in a news magazine in which I worked. I have to admit that I did not have the slightest clue as to what he was talking about. Being one of those people who likes to read and listen before he writes and speaks, I asked him what spatial planning was.
When he told me that it was the department of governance which controls the national territory, where you place a school, and why (not), where you locate a hospital, emergency services, Government Ministries, local government offices, and so on, I began to see the massive potential of the spatial planning department as the heart and soul of implementation of Government policy.
After an enthusiastic lunch, the said ex-Secretary of State indeed wrote his article and claimed that the Spatial Planning Ministry should in fact be a super ministry overseeing the work of the others, a super ministry to which all other Ministers (or Secretaries) report. For that, the Minister of Spatial Planning should be a person as far away from the lobbies as possible and should be someone with singular qualities.
How many decisions taken by Health Ministries or Finance Ministries are more about pandering to the caprices of the pharmaceutical lobbies pulling their strings than about quality healthcare for patients on a sustainable basis? Why has education become a business? How many directives are given because the model of government is not about planning at all, but rather about the bottom right-hand corner of the Excel sheet? It is called Excel Sheet Governance. There is therefore a need for governance above the level of cliques and lobbies, namely a selfish and inward-looking model which goes nowhere.
In fact, most decisions are taken, and we are not speaking only about the United States of America, but most, though not all, countries, due to a need to follow the lines drawn up previously by the banking, energy, weapons, food and pharmaceutical lobbies which either elect a Prime Minister or President or else close ranks around her/him when (s)he is elected.
Taking a look at the world around us, what is the result? A devastation of global resources, insulting our common host, the beautiful home Mother Nature gave us to live in, murderous contempt for its other residents (our brothers and sisters, the animals we are supposed to share our home with), education and healthcare have become businesses (for example in the USA a patient has to spend hours a day arguing for services with the insurance company, and Europe is following the same path, quickly), insecurity is rife, respect for the elderly seems to have disappeared in some countries, anti-social behavior has become the norm, public services are becoming worse, policies to create jobs have been replaced by policies to install robots and machines (I have a rule - I refuse to use them). The system which gave us free schooling, healthcare, full employment, free housing, public utilities and so on has been replaced by one which some claim is "better". But then why should we be paying for our energy, internet or communications, when these should be basic commodities, like the water we drink or the air we breathe?
And taking a look at the world around us, we see a growing number of small conflicts, we see a world split again between a clique of neo-Fascist pseudo-democracies (the West) and the more socially progressive leaning blocks, the BRICS and to a certain extent the CPLP countries, we see Russia following international law in Ukraine (1) but being hounded by a pack of neo-con wolves crying blue murder because their media has missed the point, misinformed its readers and viewers and has painted the Ukraine (that country which refuses to pay its bills or worse, steals) as the cowboy in the white hat, while the Biden family places a vice around the cujones of Ukraine's resources.
A cowboy, perhaps, but in the black hat.
We see the architects of the worst human rights disasters to have been perpetrated since the Nazis strutted around Europe murdering people in a xenophobic, homophobic and racist wave of intolerance claiming they have right on their side when all they have done is to render large swathes of territory uninhabitable through deployment of depleted uranium, they have sown the seeds of hatred for generations to come, have radicalized the extremist tendencies of under-developed areas, have over-lorded torture and concentration camps, have committed war crimes, and have broken every law in the book.
2015, let us remember, is the benchmark for the Millennium Development Goals, set at a time when the world was supposed to pull together as one. How disappointing to see that fifteen years later, we are further apart than we were in 1999. The fault is by no means Russia's. Did Russia take part in the illegal stand over Kosovo, trying to carve out Serbia's heart? Did Russia invade Iraq? Did Russia invade Libya? Did Russia side with terrorists in Syria?
So perhaps it is time for us all to remember 2015 and to consider a fundamental change in the way our planet is run. As Media Partner with one of the UN Departments, I see first-hand the tremendous work this Organization does at the grass-roots level upwards in so many urgent areas of action, from protecting cultural heritage to fighting for women's and children's rights, protecting refugees, fighting against inequality, against gender violence, sponsoring movements to create shelters for the frightened or abused, bringing education and food to the uneducated or hungry, initiating healthcare projects to save lives and build livelihoods.
Yet at the level of global political management, the UNO is a mix between a white elephant and a headless chicken. Why should the top table be occupied by the first five atomic powers and not by ones which have emerged since then, for example India? Why is Brazil not occupying a place alongside the UK, or France? Why is Africa not represented? Where is South-East Asia? The list could go on and on.
What is missing? Spatial Planning at a global level, one above the cliques and lobbies which dictate a policy based on the navel, one which guarantees inter-planetary sustainable policies of common good and goodwill, policies which favor development over deployment and a body which has the power to resolve crises before they appear.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. He is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights.
(1) The Putsch in February being illegal because it did not respect any of the clauses or causes for the removal of the Ukrainian President under the Ukrainian Constitution, conditioning the ensuing actions since the said Putsch, each and any action from Kiev this year has been void under international law since the armed removal of President Yanukovich. Russia however has always sided with the existing law in force. Movements in Crimea took place after the legitimate President of Ukraine was overthrown illegally, rendering the Legislative Assembly of the Republic of Crimea the duly appointed lawmaking organism. Therefore the ensuing referendum on the Republic of Crimea's status was wholly in line with national, regional and international law.