This case explores the ethical planning dilemmas that can arise from client-driven, private sector development. The case takes place in the 2000s in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), during a time of exuberant investment and rapid expansion of luxury urban development, despite the prevalence of extreme poverty and environmental concerns. Students will take on the role of a recent Master of Urban Planning graduate whose first assignment with a US planning firm is to help plan a villa complex in Sana’a, Yemen, targeted to Yemen’s small elite and military class. Students must weigh their long-term career goals and personal ethics when deciding whether to challenge or meet questionable client desires.

Planning Topics

advocacy planning, economic development, environmental planning, social justice, planning ethics, private-sector planning

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the dynamics of, and difficulties with, reconciling one’s own values with diverse planning challenges, directly and indirectly.
  2. Explore the potential conflicts inherent in client-driven urban development projects where maximizing return on investment is the dominant development criteria (versus government-led or community-based development).
  3. Recognize the short and long-term implications of promoting exclusive residential development in the context of widespread poverty and environmentally sensitive lands (i.e. the intensification of spatial segregation).
  4. Consider the role and influence of international financial flows in local development.

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Suggested Readings

  1. Frank, L. (1997). Chapter 26, The development game, 263-273, in Rahnema, M. (ed). The Post-Development Reader. London: Zed Books. Read the book summary
  2. Coy M and M Pohler. (2002). Gated communities in Latin American megacities: case studies in Brazil and Argentina. Environment and Planning B, 29: 355-370. Read the abstract
  3. Vanessa, V. (2003). Conflicting rationalities: implications for planning theory and ethics, Planning Theory and Practice, 4(4): 395-407. Read the abstract