New National Planning & the Sustainable Development Goals in the Global South: A Theoretical and Conceptual Reflection

by | 20 Jul 2017 | English | 0 comments

Dr. Andrea Zinzani – GDI, The University of Manchester

Since 2015 the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with the aim to strengthen the global agenda towards the support and the achievement of sustainable development. The 17 SDGs and their targets have been included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, designed by the United Nations through a deliberative process involving its 193 Member States, as well as international experts and the global civil society. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs are to be implemented through national development plans that reflect the diverse priorities and contexts of individual UN member states. However, for many countries in the “Global South” the achievement of SDGs will represent a complex challenge unless they commit to produce ambitious, credible and fundable national development plans. Therefore, the analysis and the understanding of planning processes and of how governments make decisions to support and achieve the SDGs represent one of the main aim of our Strategic Network.

In order to analyse planning processes and initiate a reflection on the theorization of New National Planning, a literature review on Planning Theory and related debates occurred over the last decades was conducted. The review identified a main theoretical framework, developed, conceptualized and debated over the last two decades which has been defined Collaborative Planning (CP), or Collaborative Rationality (Healey 1984, 2003; Brand and Gaffikin, 2007; Innes and Booher, 2015; Goodspeed, 2016). Within its main framework, complementary contributions, as the Negotiating Rationality, were developed (Neale and Bazerman, 1992). Collaborative Planning was conceptualised by Healey since the 1980s and was recognized as the overarching theoretical framework since the end of the 1990s, thanks to the work of other scholars as Innes and Booher among others. They recognized the need of a planning theory turn and a paradigm shift from Comprehensive Planning theory, which dominated debates since the 1950s due to its technical, scientific and universal rationale and its neglect of the understanding of current complexities and uncertainties in global planning and governance. Healey, Innes and Booher and other scholars highlight the importance and the need to support an inclusive, collaborative and collective planning and governance decision-making processes which should include not only the state but diverse stakeholders as planners, experts, the civil society and associations. They highlight the relevancy to analyse interactions, negotiations and processes among the different actors, their logics, and to reflect and shed light on multiple power relations, knowledge and practices. They propose this approach as the most relevant and suitable to tackle present and future planning and governance challenges.

The literature review shows that over the last decade the framework has been debated and criticised by diverse scholars according to multiple and heterogeneous angles and perspective. These contributions enabled the theoretical development of CP and fruitful exchanges and debates among scholars. Different authors suggest a deeper consideration and reflection on power, politics, the political arena and the context, and specifically on power asymmetries, domination and marginalization, disputes and conflicts,  identities and power of diverse knowledge (Brand and Gaffikin, 2007; Abukhater, 2009; Fischler, 2014). Others focus on the following dichotomies: processes vs. outcomes, short term (planning negotiation process) vs. long terms (built environment), national scale vs. local scale, state  vs. communities (Innes and Booher, 2015). Regarding empirical case-studies, CP was applied to mega regions and national parks governance, urban neighborhoods and local community level decision-making processes, in diverse national contexts both in the “Global North” and the “Global South”. Despite this heterogeneous range of critics, a paradigm turn have not occurred, or even not proposed, and  today CP still represents the overarching framework in contemporary planning theory.

Therefore, for our strategic network it is relevant to see how CP and related debates might be applied to New National Planning. On the one hand CP might be useful for us to reflect on actors involved in the production of NDPs, their politics, power relations and asymmetries, identities and knowledge, and on how their visions and these diverse aspects influence planning decision-making processes. On the other hand, the adoption of CP to the analysis of New National Planning would contribute to debate the theoretical framework, due to the lack of research in CP adopted to national settings and national development plans processes.

However, while Planning Theory literature enables a reflection on NDPs decision-making processes, it does not provide us analytical tools to understand and analyse NDPs implementation politics and outcomes in the short to medium run towards the achievement of SDGs. Therefore, it is relevant to integrate the focus on Planning Theory with the Political/Elite Commitment and State Capacity frameworks. Over the last five years, these conceptual frameworks have been discussed and reconceptualised by GDI colleagues and other scholars involved in the Effective States and Inclusive Development (ESID) research project (Vom Hau, 2012; Chopra, 2015; Lavers and Hickey, 2015; Lavers, 2016). The Political/Elite Commitment framework, originally developed by Brinkerhoff (2000), together with the budgetary analysis, will be relevant for our Strategic Network to analyse on the one hand the evidence of political commitment in the production and implementation of NDPs, while on the other hand to identify how public expenditures and the release of state funds match with specific plan’s priorities and indicators. In parallel, the State Capacity concept and the analytical framework developed by Vom Hau (2012) will enable us to reflect and analyse the ability of state agencies to deliver services and implement policies in relation to NDPs, through a focus on bureaucratic competencies, territorial reach of the state and state-society ties.

A critical reflection on the interactions between Collaborative Planning, Political/Commitment and State Capacity frameworks, combined one the one hand with the content analysis of NDPs, while on the other hand with evidences from our country case-studies, allows us to understand what is the current context of national development pathways towards the support of the SDGs and their future achievements.