Municipal councils in Saudi Arabia nowadays don’t have local authority, and municipalities run cities in a centralized system, yet that was not the case before the 1970s. This shift started in that decade for many reasons, most notably, the shift in socio-economic status. Central government started to rely heavily on oil financial resources rather than resources coming from the different regions.
Public participation plays a fundamental role that enables dwellers to face these urban problems. In contrast, urban planning and development in Saudi cities is centralized in almost all cases and in the central government’s hands including municipalities. Usually, lacking local people involvement has been formulated by some values inherited form the local culture and the existing social norms such as the level of trust within the society, nomadic social hierarchism that have been converted into systems, urban policies and legislations that run cities in a totally centralized manner. Consequently, restricting the society involvement in cities and the municipalities became an inevitable result.
The research aims to discover and discuss the link between the local culture and social norms and the existing urban policies. Moreover, the research focuses on empowering people to be part of the decision-making process as one of the most significant principle that influences and enhances urban sustainability through satisfying the society’s different segmental interests and needs. Additionally, the research studies and measures the existing livability criteria in an empirical and quantitative way taking an objective, data-driven, analytical approach to assess the built environment and ascertain the cause and the effect of limited citizens contribution. As a comparative measure methodology, the study will look at how urban policies in the Netherlands have achieved an outstanding record in public participation in city development. That will help to compare them with the urban legislations in Saudi Cities. Finally, Theories from sociology, anthropology and urban-ology will guide the deductive reasoning in exploring the root causes of the existing urban laws.
Fouad Alasiri is an urban planner with an experience of 20 years. He worked in many public and private sectors including municipalities, regional development authorities and mega projects. His role was to assess and support in master planning, sustainable urban mobility planning, urban policies formation, and real-estate financing and insurance. Fouad last job was an urban planning consultant in the Saudi Investment Fund in two mega projects project. Fouad holds a master in City and Regional Planning from King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals.