Human beings only thrive through cooperation in communities. While humanity can only thrive through cooperation of communities, we need to understand that there is also a strong element of competition between different communities distributed over habitable territories.
Territorial pacts are needed to balance out the access to primary resources against the carrying capacity of the ecosystem. While the political system is created to deal with these policies ‘on our behalf’, territorial communities need to be better understood, respected and capacitated as the basic human drivers of sustainable development.
Therefore, civil society and its diversity of associations should be seen as the second most important stakeholder in any kind of urban and territorial planning activity and process. Area-based communities and their civil society associations should be empowered to initiate planning activities and co-produce and co-implement territorial plans and projects, in particular at local and regional level. But also not-area based community interest groups such as environmentalists, human-right-based organisations, women groups, youth groups etc must be empowered and if needed supported to take part in territorial development and planning.
However, not all onon-governmental and non-profit organisations, both local and international should be considered as part of the civil society. Larger organisations such as Oxfam for instance are quite hybrid. While they advocate (territorial) rights-based development, they also operate as developers and/or social entrepreneurs. While there’s no problem with involving Oxfam or alikes in participatory planning, this should not be at the expense of engaging grassroots organisations and ordinary citizens and residents.