I2UD’s work in urban and regional planning is underpinned by a commitment to development that is accountable and responsive to the needs of citizens, including the most vulnerable populations. Fostering citizen engagement and establishing two-way dialogue with communities is critical to ensuring the sustainability of urban areas. In South Eastern Europe, accountable local governance and citizen-informed policy making in cities has the potential to transform the urban environment and increase the quality of life in a region of the world that continues to reconcile complex political and economic transformations.
Under the World Bank – Austria Urban Partnership Program (UPP), I2UD is working with longtime friends and partners Co-PLAN Institute for Habitat Development to deal specifically with these issues through the Social Sustainability and Citizen Engagement (SSCE) Project. The project, which lasts until December 2016, had its first Technical Workshop last week, bringing together the Co-PLAN/I2UD consortium, the World Bank team, and Local City Teams from across South East Europe to discuss methodologies and activities to be carried out through the project cycle. The activities of the project range from comprehensive research to determine levels of vulnerability, opportunities for citizen engagement, and transparency of local government to the formulation of “Action Plans” to improve social sustainability at a municipal level by leveraging ICT.
The workshop was hosted by Co-PLAN at Polis University in Tirana, Albania and moderated by Co-PLAN Project Manager Aida Ciro and I2UD Research Associate Maren Larsen. The SSCE project builds off of the first phase of the Urban Partnership Program’s Social Sustainability Audit, which I2UD and Co-PLAN undertook in collaboration with the Coalition for Sustainable Development (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Archis Interventions Prishtina (Kosovo), and the U.S. Alumni Association in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The consortium looks forward to continuing Phase II with colleagues from these organizations and expanding the regional scope and partnership to include Citizens Organization to Oversee Voting (GONG) in Croatia, the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED) in Serbia, the Network for the Affirmation of the NGO Sector (MANS) in Montenegro, and the newly established Association for Research and Social Innovation (ADT) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.