Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: UC academics participate in the creation of the first National Policy for Territorial Planning

During 14 months of work, a multidisciplinary team of experts from UC developed, together with representatives from 11 ministries and SUBDERE, a document that will help establish a strategic vision for the organization and territorial administration of our country for the next 30 years. The policy, recently published in the Official Gazette, will be a key instrument for the new regional governors.

Since the sixties, Chile has promoted various initiatives to organize and manage its territory. Although there have been advances to promote decentralization, such as the installation of Regional Governments (GORE) and the increase in the regional budget, it has not been possible to establish a political-administrative structure that addresses the various challenges of the territory in terms of investment and development.

In this complex scenario, where more and more problems arise related to the availability and use of natural resources, the Interministerial Commission of City, Housing and Territory (COMICIVYT), which brings together 11 ministries plus the Undersecretary of Regional and Administrative Development ( SUBDERE), commissioned through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) a consultancy to develop the first National Policy for Land Management (PNOT) , which was awarded by the UC.

Thus, through the Directorate of Extension and External Services of the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urban Studies (FADEU UC) scholars, academics and researchers from the Institutes of Geography and Urban Studies and Territorial and Forest Engineering , among other units , developed a study that allowed establishing a 30-year vision for the country in terms of land use planning. This consulting team was led by Federico Arenas, UC Geography director, and Arturo Orellana, professor at the Institute for Urban Studies.

“What is sought is to guide the decisions made regarding investment and development in the country, generating a harmonious, integrated, safe, resilient and inclusive territory in the vast and wide geography of Chile . The aim is for the result to be a space where quality of life is the characteristic, ” says Federico Arenas.

Multidisciplinarity and work with territories: keys for politics with present and long-term impact
During the almost 14 months that the PNOT lasted (between December 2016 and January 2018), weekly working meetings were held with all the stakeholders involved and each one of the regions was visited to learn about the experience and points of view of the authorities, professionals and technicians linked to the work of the Regional Governments.

“What is sought is to guide the decisions made regarding investment and development in the country, generating a harmonious, integrated, safe, resilient and inclusive territory in the vast and broad geography of Chile” – Federico Arenas, director of Geography UC.

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“ The PNOT is a macro policy that offers tools applicable to all of Chile and that contributes to provide coherence to the interaction of various instruments, policies and sectorial and regional plans . In addition, it provides the regions with an instrument such as the Regional Plan for Territorial Organization (PROT) for the operationalization of the vision, objectives and guidelines of this macro policy ” , explains Arturo Orellana, adding that it will allow establishing a hierarchy for the planning system territory in the country “which will favor multilevel governance and reduce socio-environmental conflicts.”

This policy will help the regions to have tools to guide their strategies in 5 axes : a human settlements system that tends towards a better quality of life for people, through a safe and inclusive territory; economic-productive system for a dynamic, productive territory with opportunities; natural system for a diverse territory rich in natural and cultural resources; infrastructure and logistics system to strengthen networks, services, connectivity and communications; and an integrated socio-territorial system that promotes territorial complementarity and synergy.

For the development of the policy, coverage work was carried out throughout Chile, through workshops with the public sector and civil society in each of the regions.
For the elaboration of the policy, a coverage work was carried out throughout Chile, through workshops with the public sector and civil society in each of the regions (Photo credits: DESE UC).
A very important nuance of the PNOT is that it was carried out with a strategic environmental assessment , that is, it was open to the participation of different citizen actors and also from the private sphere.

“We did coverage work throughout Chile, there were workshops with the public sector in each of the regions and also with civil society,” adds Professor Arenas.

What will be the impact of this policy on regional governments? Arenas explains that “these new authorities will have key instruments for their work: they will be able to define the sector’s own challenges in a regional development strategy and implement important issues in terms of locating waste treatment plants. This task will be made easier for regional governments thanks to the installation of this policy.

Interdisciplinary contribution from the academy
Faced with the challenge of formulating a policy of this nature, Professor Orellana explains that the investigative work of the academics, added to their professional experience in the evaluation and formulation of public policies, allowed the creation of an interdisciplinary team that understood that territory is a concept quite wide . “We live in a country with geographic and climatic diversity where human settlements on a metropolitan scale are located to small rural locations, with varied socio-economic and cultural realities and diverse economic-productive developments, increasingly exposed to the needs of greater adaptation to the climate change ”, he details.

“It seems to me that it is a key contribution because it is effectively a policy that has to be installed from a multidisciplinary perspective. The territory is an object of complex intervention and analysis where the answers will never come from a single discipline, or from a single ministry ” , adds Federico Arenas, emphasizing that the entire Chilean state has to contribute to the transformation of the geographic space of this country results in more harmonious, welcoming territories and greater opportunities for all.

The investigative work of the academics, added to their professional experience in the evaluation and formulation of public policies, allowed the creation of an interdisciplinary team that understood that territory is a fairly broad concept.

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Implementation challenges
Although the PNOT was available in its final draft in January 2018 and was sent to the Comptroller’s Office just before the change of administration, which occurred in March of that same year, it was only published in the Official Gazette in July 2021 .

” It is a recognition of the current administration, because that is what corresponds in a country: that long-term jobs that have implications for development are not cut off or interrupted every time there is a change of government” admits Professor Federico Arenas.

The context and the challenges faced by the regions and their territories have reinforced the need for a policy that considers not only the economic development of the communities, but also guidelines that point strategically to future development.

“We are not going to see the practical effects of this policy right now, but in the coming years, but for now a void that the country had in this matter will be filled , ” explains the academic.

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