Brussels hosts the ISOCARP International Congress for Healthy Cities

Brussels hosts the ISOCARP International Congress for Healthy Cities

How can health be put front and centre in urban planning? This is the question that urban planners from all over the world will address at the ISOCARP World Planning Congress in Brussels (3-6 October 2022).

Wednesday 7 September 2022 - ISOCARP (International Society for City and Regional Planners) is an international organisation with over 700 members (individuals or organisations active in the field of urban planning) from 85 countries. Each year, a host city and a theme are chosen for the ISOCARP Congress. The aim is to make an academic and political contribution to the ways in which the city is shaped.

From Wealthy to Healthy Cities

In every big city, there are many factors influencing the health of the inhabitants. These include the high concentration of activities, social inequalities, mobility patterns, air quality and the impact of climate change. These factors impacting the citizens’ health must be taken into account in an integrated way in urban planning, particularly in terms of public and green spaces, housing, mobility...

The theme of this 58th edition of the ISOCARP congress ("From Wealthy to Healthy Cities") had already been set at the end of 2019, before the start of the pandemic. Since then, academics and policy makers from all over the world have been able to reflect on the city in the post-pandemic era. Brussels is also engaged in this reflection and will continue it thanks to the organisation of this international congress. The idea is quite simple: our environment is decisive for our health!

The programme has 4 main themes:

  • Healthy people - the health of people, with a focus on local food chains, prevention and the impact of the living environment on our physical and mental well-being
  • Healthy planet - from local to global, with a focus on energy transition and carbon neutrality for example
  • Healthy governance - integrating health into urban planning and participation processes
  • Healthy economy - recognition of a paradigm shift from a growth economy to a localised circular economy


Brussels as host city

Pascal Smet, Secretary of State for Urbanism, will act as master of ceremonies at the congress. He will be supported by Minister-President Rudi Vervoort and Minister for the Environment and Health Alain Maron., and Brussels Environment are joining forces for the practical organisation of this event.

“I am very pleased that this important conference will be organized in Brussels. After having received the Isocarp Award for Excellence for the Canal Plan in 2016, we now have the opportunity to host its flagship event in the same canal zone, at Tour & Taxis. The theme of this year’s event, chosen even before the COVID pandemic, is particularly relevant. Health protection and promotion for all citizens is nowadays at the heart of territorial and especially urban development policies, whether they are related to housing, quality public space, collective facilities or mobility,” said the Minister-President of the government of the Brussels-Capital Region.

"Brussels is the European capital, one of the most international cities in the world, and a few years ago it started its transition to a forward-looking and human-sized city. Brussels is therefore the ideal place to organise a major congress on the main challenges facing metropolises.
I am very excited and proud to be able to welcome experts and decision-makers from all over the world to our beautiful city to get to know each other and exchange experiences," says Brussels Secretary of State Pascal Smet.

“As Minister of the Brussels Region in charge of Climate Transition, Environment, Social matters and Health, it is very important for me to host this World Congress as it is at the heart of the policies I’m leading. I deeply believe that cities have to be healthy and provide well-being for their inhabitants. However, the crises that we’re now facing, whether they are covid, climate or energy-related, they all show us that we urgently need to build another world to ensure a healthy living environment to all. We are at a turning point where we need to bring all innovative and creative minds together to draw new pathways to reshape our cities. The Brussels region has set itself the goal of being carbon neutral by 2050 and is redesigning its territory in that sense. I’m thus happy to hear the ideas of the Congress members in this direction!” said Alain Maron, Brussels Minister for Climate Transition, Environment and Energy.

“Cities and urban communities must be planned and managed in a healthier way to mitigate the compounded crises of pandemics, climate change and biodiversity loss. How can we enable both health and wellbeing of all citizens and our planet? What shift do we need in governance and economy? I look forward to our Congress to exchange innovative theories and practices to turn unsustainable spaces into healthy places. I invite you to join the congress journey and make new connections. The world is coming to Brussels, a truly diverse and inspiring place, to research together  a new and fair planning agenda and to encourage healthy change and action” says Elisabeth Belpaire, ISOCARP Congress Director.


Dialogue and exchange between cities at European and international level is indeed essential, also for the Brussels Region. The organisation of this congress is in line with the priorities of the Region, whose spatial planning policy aims to improve the living environment, particularly in the densely populated areas of the centre. Public and open spaces fulfil many functions, including making the city healthier and more pleasant to live in.

Various themes and projects in Brussels will be highlighted at the congress.

The Canal zone is a perfect example of a Brussels neighbourhood in full development where health must take centre stage.  The Tour & Taxis site was therefore chosen as the venue for the congress (Maison de la Poste).

And because it is important to be active, also during the congress, the programme includes several formats. In addition to the traditional plenary sessions and round tables, there will also be field trips by bike, on foot or even by jogging!

There will be a bike ride along the canal and a visit to CityGate and Tivoli.

The European Quarter, the Neerpede ponds and the conversion of the Wielemans brewery will also be on the agenda.

For more information on the conference and participation:



About Pascal Smet

Brussels Government, Secretary of State for Urbanism and Heritage - European and International Relations - Foreign Trade - Fire fighting and Emmergency medical Assistance

Member of the Board of the Flemish Community Commission (VGC), responsible for Culture,Youth, Sport, Community Centres, Living Together and Diversity

Pascal Smet
Koning Albert II laan 37 - 12de
1030 Brussel