|dc.description.abstract||This research examines urban planning as a form of governance, considering it a
process where decisions are taken on urban land use, analysing the possibilities for
wider participation of civil society in this process in order to promote potential
sustainable outcomes within their related political, economic and social contexts. The
geographical context for this study is Syria where, along with other countries of the
south, such issues have been under-researched.
Syria is experiencing a transformation period economically and socially. This has been
greatly influenced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This effect
is translated into the objectives of the Syrian national 10th Five-Year Development Plan
(FYP) (2006-2010) of promoting stable economic growth and sustainable human
development as two requirements to achieving a socio-market economy.
According to the FYP, sustainable human development is characterised by empowering
civil society as a partner in the development process and boosting its participation in all
society aspects towards the achievement of ‘good governance’. This is intended to
counter the misperception that urban development processes are limited to formal
institutions of the government, and to include a whole range of society actors from all
state, private sector and civil society spheres. This is consistent with the UNDP focus on
civil society participation as a fundamental prerequisite of sustainable development,
which is an essential characteristic of good urban governance. However, to date, the
extent to which these values have been incorporated in practice has not been examined.
This study adopts a case study approach and uses institutional analysis to examine the
extent to which development institutions in Syria permit the environment needed to
apply this principle in practice. In addition, the research investigates the areas where
possible alternative institutional models can be developed within state-market-civil
society contexts through defining new roles and relationships, mainly between civil
society and the state, in order to promote an effective practice of civil society
participation in urban development decision-making.
The empirical analysis in this research highlighted the shortcomings of international
empowering policies, where neither the role nor the potential of the informal segments
of civil society are recognised. In addition, the analysis showed that the international
policies of participative approach to urban development tend to be limited and do not
sufficiently take into account the fact that structures of power are multi-layered, multirelated,
and change from one context to another. Empowering options for civil society
participation thus need to be informed by in-depth understanding of local contexts. The
research suggests that the adoption of UNDP enabling approaches in Syria has potential.
However, achieving this is a political matter, where issues of how power is structured
and practiced by society actors (the state, the private sector and the civil society) in a
given context should be considered.
Thus, this research maintains a postmodern view of civil society participation in urban
development. It argues for the need to promote a proactive approach to enable civil
society participation in the countries of the South based on an institutional vision of
planning as a form of governance, rather than a normative internationally accepted
approach developed in isolation from the given political and institutional urban