by Mike Barthelmeh
Like so many meetings these days, the 2020 IFLA World Council meeting was held virtually on 25-26 September, since we could not meet in person in Penang as planned. Delegates and observers from IFLA’s 77 member associations were able to connect once more, although at a rather unsociable time of midnight to 3:30am on both days for New Zealand!
James Hayter, the IFLA President, opened the meeting with his reflections on the theme of the meeting, about healthy and inclusive landscapes, suggesting that delegates consider developing a formal meeting declaration relating this theme to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. James noted that the recent fires in Australia and the US, floods in South America and SE Asia, the dramatic consequences of the covid-19 virus, all point to a change to the ways in which we use our cities to socialise, work and communicate. He further noted that landscape architects were in a unique position to be at the forefront of disaster recovery operations, considering this in the same way as our response to climate change. IFLA’s focus over the next year is to advocate for healthy environments, including ecological health, connections between ecosystems, food security and safe communities, both physically and mentally.
James then summarised a long list of IFLA achievements over the last year, before highlighting four areas of focus for the coming 12 months: establishing a global awards programme, finalising a global landscape programme recognition procedure, working on assisting emerging associations to gain better professional recognition in their nations, and participating in joint ventures with other global bodies such as the UIA (Union Internationale des Architectes).
He then handed over the meeting to Jeremy Dennis, the IFLA Treasurer, who as chair of the Finance and Business Planning standing committee presented the financial reports and budget for 2021. A key matter in the budget was of course income, from sponsorship and the fees paid by member organisations, with a commitment to finally adopt a fees model based on the World Bank gross national income index. We will now have a fees calculation system based on the relative income levels in different nations across four income bands, and the size of each organisation, a much more equitable system than is currently in place.
Each of the IFLA executive team who were standing again for their respective positions were confirmed as being re-elected, a good result providing for continuity during a time of rapid change globally. It was particularly pleasing to see James Hayter continue as president for another two years; he has provided excellent leadership for IFLA over the last two years and is keen to continue that leadership to maintain IFLA’s new directions, in particular with a stronger connection to the UN sustainable development goals.
The second half of day one comprised a series of thematic workshops or presentations on aspects of health: community, mental, and ecological, with our very own Bruno Marques leading one session. The workshop presentations can be found here....
Day (night!) two began with reports from the chairs of the other three IFLA standing committees (Education and Academic Affairs, Communications and External Relations, and Professional Practice and Policy (PPP)). The chair of the Education and Academic Affairs committee Salma Samaha reported on progress with IFLA’s capacity building programme for developing landscape education programmes and then introduced the work of a group (I’m a member) which has been developing a global structure for the assessment of landscape programme quality. This is a key initiative for IFLA, attempting to develop standards which can be applied to any programme in the world as a global benchmark. The proposal is for a two-phase system, with programme recognition as phase one and programme accreditation as phase two. Phase one would enable student mobility, while phase two would enable reciprocity of qualifications and mobility of graduates.
There has been some confusion over these terms, but basically phase one recognition is about programme inputs or a review of the delivery of an approved curriculum, while programme accreditation is focussed on outputs, or graduate attributes, a more detailed and comprehensive review of the programme curriculum, resources, staffing, student abilities and employer feedback. NZILA undertakes accreditation reviews of landscape programmes in New Zealand, with the Asia Pacific Region (APR) undertaking accreditation reviews for programmes without national systems in place in our region. At present, there is no ‘recognition’ system in place for landscape programmes anywhere in our region.
A significant development from the PPP committee was a report on preparing an updated code of ethics for landscape architects. The code shared with attendees is available here...
A governance review has been underway for some time, to provide IFLA with a more contemporary business approach suited to a global organisation. There has been some concern that the current executive structure may be too large for effective decision-making, and that perhaps a Board of Directors may be a better model to consider to manage day-to-day matters. It was noted that our cousins in the AILA have successfully moved to this model; the meeting confirmed that the governance review should be concluded quickly with recommendations for action.
James reported on work with the ILO on updating the definition of the profession of landscape architecture, which can be found here...
The presidents of each of the five IFLA regions presented their reports on significant achievements or milestones in each of their regions. Takano-san, our APR president, noted that his initiative in encouraging more of our APR nations to join IFLA had borne fruit, with observers from Tonga, Cambodia, Palau, and Vietnam attending the recent regional council meeting. His push for an internship programme across the region is moving more slowly, given the travel restrictions currently in place, but there are quite a few companies in Japan, Thailand and Malaysia offering positions for recent graduates once people can travel more freely. Perhaps some more NZ companies could consider joining their regional colleagues in offering such opportunities to young landscape architects?
Panellists who had led sessions during the earlier thematic workshops then joined forces for a review of their presentations. Bruno’s presentation, with a focus on mental health, discussed the role of culture on well-being and the connection of people to land through an indigenous lens during a participatory design process.
The final session of the World Council meeting discussed the intent and wording of a declaration on strengthening the global focus of the profession on health. The declaration was finalised and can now be found here:
The next World Council meeting is planned for Penang next year, in August 2021, but that is contingent on so many factors at the moment that it should be seen as indicative I suspect. Nevertheless, like so many I am keen to see the world return to some semblance of normality in the not too distant future!
NZILA IFLA Delegate