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Conferences Overview


3rd Joint Planning Conference


The 3rd Joint Planning Conference on

Rapid urban growth
and opportunities for sustainable Development

Duhuk, September 30 – October 3, 2012




Joined Planning Conference in Iraq
„A very beneficial exchange for both sides“
Interview by Caroline Lindekamp

Already three times Dr.-Ing. Thorsten Heitkamp, senior researcher at the Faculty of Spatial Planning at TU Dortmund, has travelled to Northern Iraq. Since 2009 he joins the annual Joined Planning Conferences of the PLIQ Project. This year the conference focused on the challenges of the rapid urban growth in the country. Over the years Dr. Heitkamp has noticed perceptible improvements of the Iraqi partners. But in the interview he points out that spatial planning in Iraq still has a long way to go.

Dr. Heitkamp, which are the specific challenges for regional planning in Iraq?
Heitkamp: I think first of all the political situation in general. The political and economic background is very complex and these interests are often different from what is sensible from an urban planner’s point of view. So far we have only been to Kurdistan and the Kurdistan region is de facto a more or less independent region within Iraq. That is why it was evident to establish institutions for regional planning but they are not fully developed. The administrative units on the different levels – local, regional and national – are not sharing the same views. To some extent their activities are lacking coordination and an overall vision for the future development.   

You went to Iraq for the first time three years ago. Could you realize any improvement over the past years concerning the efforts of the institutions or your partners in Iraq?
Heitkamp: I think the universities do improve – although slowly. Iraqi students are coming over to Germany trying to understand the German planning system and there are attempts to install study programs in spatial planning in Iraq. Concerning the conferences itself you can realize positives steps forward: Since the first conference I attended in 2009 the organization has improved, the debates are becoming more focused and we achieve good results in the different working groups. Of course we also met representatives of the local, regional and national government but after a brief stay in the country it is practically impossible to assess their progress.

But if there is progress to be realized on the educational level that might – if only in a long-term basis – implement new structures within the ministries and other institutions.
Heitkamp: Of course, that is the idea. But so far there are only few planners. The universities try to establish new academic programs – such as the master and the bachelor program of spatial planning –, which in the long run might have an impact on spatial planning in Iraq.
Very promising for Iraq is the fairly large number of returnees: There are many countries all over the world where highly skilled people are leaving to immigrate to more prosperous countries such as the USA, Great Britain or Germany for instance. But in Northern Iraq quite a number of highly skilled professionals are coming back to their home country. For example I’ve met people who returned back home from Germany and occupy high positions in the administration now. This is important for the development of the country because it provides an influx of know-how from outside.

You mentioned the different workshops at the conference. Could you give an example of a workshop?
Heitkamp: We organized workshops focusing on strategic integrated urban planning, housing, sustainable urban mobility, revitalization and cultural heritage for example. I was chairing the housing workshop. The workshops constitute a learning process for both partners, the conference participants from Iraq as well as from the visiting countries. We learned about the needs of our partners and the other way around. Attending the conference is a beneficial exchange for both sides.

Which are the aspects where Germany might take an example from Iraq?
Heitkamp: It is very hard to compare these two countries because they are totally different: The culture, the political background and the current economic situation are different, the political context with Syria, Turkey and Iran makes a difference and so on. These are only some of the reasons why you can't compare Germany and Iraq. What might be interesting is that Northern Iraq is sort of a planning lab for regional planning. There is the opportunity to do something new in a completely different way – but they have to jump at the chance. If this unique opportunity is really being seized, that is the big question.






Dr. Mahmood Khayat


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