Planning, Civil Society and Human Rights: Analysis of a Non-Governmental Planning Organization

Rachel Kalus, Tomer Dekel and Nurit Bird-David

This research presents an examination of the NGO “Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights”, a civil society organization active in multiple issues connecting between planning and human rights, democracy and social justice, throughout Israel/Palestine. The study aims to add to planning literature concerning human rights and planning practice. It discusses planning by a third sector organization (since professional planning has mostly been attributed to the state or market) and its capacity to confront social and professional issues, and the democratization of planning processes. The study of Bimkom is based on participatory observation, in depth interviews with members of the organization, and the analysis of organizational texts. The findings present the complex relations Bimkom maintains with state actors and institutions, communities members, the academy, other NGOs, donors and foundations. They reveal the actual experience of Bimkom acting inside the complex geopolitical reality of Israel/Palestine, and how within this reality it designs its objectives and methods of operation. The conclusions of the research are that despite common skepticism in the literature, a non-governmental planning organization can succeed in promoting new and interesting agendas, although these are still limited in scale, appear only within certain circumstances and are subject to many forms of material or ideological compromises. Secondly, the research shows that no clear cut idea of non-governmental planning organization is valid in all contexts. Rather, such organization should be analyzed through an explanatory prism of complexity and dynamism, considering a complex and multilayered dialectic relationship with a variety of actors with different ideas and ideologies, in changing contexts. Bimkom adopts this dynamic reality and adjusts a highly pragmatic way to gain as much influence it can to promote its agenda and values.