Social Sustainability Assessments in the Balkans

Project: ECA Sustainable Cities – Social Sustainability Audit

Partner: Co-PLAN Institute for Habitat Development (Tirana, Albania)

Sponsor: World Bank

Project Duration: 2012 – March 2013

Study Team: Dritan Shutina, Aida Ciro, and Darina Kokona (Co-Plan); John Driscoll and Carolina Morgan (I2UD); Sonja Damchevska (Skopje – Coalition for Sustainable Development); Florina Jerliu (Archis Intervention Prishtina); Elma Demir and Nenad Galić (Banja Luka and Sarajevo US Alumni Association in Bosnia and Herzegovina)


  • Reports and publications for the project and for each city are available here.
  • On March 19 and 20, 2013, a Regional Dissemination Workshop was held in Skopje, Macedonia, to bring together study participants together to share best practices and conclude the Assessment.
  • For more information on the World Bank ECA Region’s Sustainable Cities Initiative here.

Project Description
In Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECA) sustainable urban development must grapple with the immense structural changes in economic activities and the accompanying social transitions that have resulted in new territorial dimensions of poverty and social exclusion. To promote and structure socially sustainable and inclusive city development, municipalities in the region find are working to address challenges of marginalization, social inequality; improve urban governance; empower residents to exercise their rights; and become active partners in the development of their communities.

For marginalized groups, a legacy of the rapid transition in the 1990s in the ECA region includes a lack of access to housing and basic services, and institutional barriers to well-being, such as the need for formal documentation to become eligible for services. Furthermore, the continued challenges associated with the economic and social marginalization of vulnerable groups has an impact on the lives and livelihoods of youth, the elderly and ethnic minorities. To address these challenges, there is an increasing awareness among city officials, NGOs and donors of the importance of ‘social accountability’ when developing municipal programs to ensure that vulnerable communities have a voice in shaping programs and services.

As part of the World Bank-Austria Partnership Program for Strengthening Local Governments in southeastern European countries and the ECA Sustainable Cities Initiatives, the World Bank Social Development unit in ECA has developed a Social Sustainability Audit framework that promotes socially sustainable and inclusive urban development by:

  • Increasing Social Accountability and Participation in the delivery of services and programmes
  • Empowering vulnerable urban groups to participate in their cities’ development; and
  • Proactively addressing the challenges of Marginalization to identify the needs of socially excluded groups and associated inequalities.

In 2013, the Social Audit set out to increase the knowledge and awareness of social accountability among city stakeholders and to strengthen the integrity of public services in: Durrës (Albania), Banja Luka and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Prishtina (Kosovo) and Skopje (FYROM). The audit assessed the current social accountability mechanisms in place in the municipalities, and opportunities and constraints to developing new approaches that improve collaborative governance. Information and communication (ICT) tools that work on the city level were also explored as low-cost, scalable methods to work with marginalized groups.

I2UD and Co-Plan worked with local teams in each of the five cities as well as World Bank staff from the ECA Urban and Social Development Offices and the World Bank Institute to:

  • Through focus group discussions and in-depth-interviews with a wide community of stakeholders, conduct an analysis of key aspects of social accountability and sustainability in the city along two categories: (i) social accountability & participation and (ii) social inclusion;
  • Organize Participatory Scenario Development Workshops aimed at discussing suitable social accountability and sustainability mechanisms for the city, envisioning their incorporation in the processes of city administration and public services; and
  • Develop a concise Social Accountability & Sustainability City Note that summarizes the findings and gives recommendations to community groups, city representatives and other stakeholders.

Photo of Sarajevo courtesy of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SADC) Decentralization & Local Governance Network

Last updated: January 2014