20 Years in Albania

A brief history of our involvement with the transformation of Albania’s urban development over the past 20 years.
Balthore 1994 Balthore 2014
Balthore in 1994
and in 2014

From 1994 to 1996, we, as the Center for Urban Development Studies at Harvard University, worked with central and local governments to develop a preliminary development plan for the Tirana region. Funded by USAID, we coordinated a team of international and Albanian experts and helped government officials to consider how they were going to address the rapid growth of Tirana and its new suburbs of unplanned communities that lacked basic services.

From 1996 to 1998, at the request of the World Bank and the Ministry of Public Works, we guided the preparation of the Land Management Project funded by the Albanian Government and the World Bank. The Land Management Program provided essential urban infrastructure to under-serviced or neglected areas in Greater Tirana and other municipalities and strengthened the institutions responsible for the delivery of urban services at the national and local levels.

The project helped to introduce more flexible demand-driven community-based approaches that involved residents in the development of neighborhood improvement programs and also to contribute to the financing of much-needed infrastructure. According to a 2005 World Bank report, the land management program provided essential infrastructure and services to an estimated 8,300 families in eight different municipalities. In addition, the investment in primary infrastructure has had positive implications for communities beyond the immediate sites upgraded under the program.

In 2007, now as I2UD, we undertook field research in Bathore, one of the upgrading sites with our local partners from CO-PLAN, an Albanian NGO. A paper entitled Delivery of Security of Tenure, Infrastructure Services and Access to Finance through Community Based Approaches, was presented at the World Bank’s Fourth Urban Research Symposium. The paper discusses the Urban Land Management Program in the Tirana area and its success in creating a partnership between the community, local authorities, and a variety of other organizations for development. The paper was included in a Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) symposium report, Beyond Titling, as one of ten papers to exemplify the prominent themes that emerged from the wide variety of submitted papers.

In 2008 I2UD’s Board visited urban projects in Tirana, Bathore, Durres, Shkodra and Berat. Organized in cooperation with CO-PLAN, the study tour provided an opportunity to also meet senior government officials including the Mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama, who was elected as Prime Minister in 2013. In addition, Board members presented some of their own work at Polis University and later donated architecture, planning and art books to the library.

In 2009 and in 2010 I2UD staff was invited to Polis University to participate in teaching one week studio courses on urban revitalization and give lectures on various urban development topics.

In 2012/2013 we worked with our colleagues in CO-PLAN to undertake a social sustainability audit for the costal city of Durres as part of a larger research project involving five Balkan cities financed by the World Bank.

In October 2014 we participated on a panel at the “Urban Renewal Projects – From Design to City Transformation Projects” in Tirana, Albania. The two-day event supported by the USAID Planning and Local Governance Program reviewed proposed catalytic and transformative projects for different Albanian cities.

A 2014 publication co-authored by I2UD and Co-PLAN builds off of the experience of the social sustainability audit to discuss marginalized groups in ICT-enabled governance. The chapter is included in a forthcoming book by UN-Habitat and FUPOL titled, “E-governance and Urban Policy Design in Developing Countries.”

We look forward to continuing to work with our Albanian colleagues in the future. To support our continued involvement with Albanian communities to plan a sustainable urban future, click here.

To go back to the postcard series, click here.