News in 2022

FIG and the Sustainable Development Goals -
Commission 8

June 2022

FIG Task Force on FIG and the Sustainable Development Goals together with the ten Commissions have worked on their role on the sustainable development goals relevant for their Commission.

Commission Chair Marije Louwsma gives her Statement on the sustainable development goals in relation to Commission 8 - Spatial Planning and Development


Commission 8 focuses on a sustainable spatial development through a spatially balanced land use. A long-term focus contributes to finding pathways for development that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future (Brundtland commission, 1987). Facing the impact of climate change, this definition of sustainability is challenged. Is it still possible to make sustainable choices not compromising the needs of both current and future generations? Contemporary challenges urge land use planners, surveyors and politicians to make difficult choices regarding the spatial distribution of activities and land uses in view of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

Which SDG is most relevant for spatial planning and development?

Spatial planning deals with different sectors and disciplines on the way to sustainable spatial developments. That makes that multiple SDG’s are related to the work of FIG’s commission 8. Optimising land use from a spatial perspective contributes to several SDG’s such as food security (zero hunger), no poverty (e.g. control over land), gender equality (e.g. equal access to land and other resources), sustainable cities and communities, climate action and life on land.

Although climate change is on the radar for a considerable time already, nowadays its impact becomes apparent in all its forms (drought, flooding, cyclones, sea level rise, melting glaciers etc.) around the globe. It is time to act and prevent further pollution in a fair and sustainable way. The impact of the most polluting countries and regions is felt far beyond their territory. Actions to further reduce pollution and emissions should be taken (mitigation), just like actions to adapt land use to minimize the negative impact of climate change (adaptation). Both mitigation and adaptation are important pillars for a sustainable approach in spatial planning. Therefore, cooperation among stakeholders and involved authorities is needed at various governance levels (local, national and supranational). The voice of the vulnerable and those living and working on the land should be heard in this regard.

How to integrate the SDG's in spatial planning and development?

Spatial planning looks at the spatial arrangement or distribution of land, people and functions (land use). It can be subdivided in different layers; the natural physical layer (e.g. geology, soil, water), the network layer, and the occupation or land use layer. Key to a sustainable development is balancing the various interests and relate these to the situation and social, economic and environmental context. This is not an easy task, as developments in one sector might have a negative impact on other sectors. Mining resources for batteries, solar panels and the like, negatively impacts the society and environment at the local level but batteries contribute to the transition to renewable energy. All in all, it is very important to have transparent and inclusive decision-making processes where all aspects and interests are well-balanced. Surveyors can provide decision-makers and those involved in participatory planning processes with the needed information to discuss expected future developments, directions for development and possible solutions regarding the spatial arrangement of land use.  Yet, it is acknowledged that any spatial planning process has to face insecurities about expected future developments irrespective how much data is at hand.

How the FIG commissions work to advance the achievement of the SDGs

Fostering the exchange of knowledge among experts in spatial planning and related fields is an important pillar of commission 8 its work within FIG. Since climate change is an overarching phenomenon, transcending administrative borders, it is key to work together and find the best way forward. Food security, production of goods, services, transportation networks can all be addressed at several levels, from the local to national to global. FIG is an important network to address the supra national level yet taking into account the geographic variations across regions.

Naturally, the annual Working Weeks / Congress and commission 8 meetings contribute to the exchange of knowledge among countries, regions and continents, among practitioners and academia, among governments and industry, and among disciplines. These are the occasions where peers meet, build relations and exchange knowledge and experiences that are brought home again for inspiration and further development.

Some members of this professional network joined forces and decided to bundle their knowledge into a FIG publication. In the term 2019 – 2022, commission 8 has published three FIG reports: one on water governance in Africa, one on land consolidation and a joint one with commission 3 on the role of geospatial data. Authors from FIG Commissions 3 and 8, the FIG Young Surveyors Network, and the Volunteer Community Surveyor Program contributed to the latter publication titled 'Geospatial Data in the 2020s - transformative power and pathways to sustainability’. The publication highlights the impact of geospatial data for spatial planning, health, diversity, volunteerism, cadastre, and the property market in the 2020s. It was officially launched at the FIG Congress 2022 in Warsaw, Poland. All reports relate one way or the other to the SDG’s and to sustainability in particular.

Above mentioned examples indicate the benefits for the FIG network and its members and highlight the role of FIG and commission 8 in view of a better – more sustainable - world. The SDG’s encompass a diverse range of aspects of sustainability. As such it provides guidance for themes and topics to focus on through the lens of a spatial planner and surveyor.

Marije Louwsma and Paula Dijkstra
December 2022