In many countries, government officials determine how municipal space is used, which means that citizens often do not get the chance to tell officials what matters to them before plans are approved for that space. For instance, without getting citizens’ input, officials might inadvertently start to plan a new community center in an area in which women do not feel safe at night.
But now, hundreds of citizens across five municipalities in Kosovo are interacting with local and national government officials and providing input into the design of public spaces. In September 2013, the Law on Spatial Planning was passed in Kosovo, calling for public participation in spatial planning. “Spatial planning” is a method that synchronizes funding, regulations, and decisions around land use, differing from “urban planning,” which focuses more on regulating the use of urban and rural areas. Spatial planning has a significant impact on citizens, because the use of small and large spaces affects people’s movement and safety, the ability of businesses to obtain construction permits, the provision of public services, and even the success of economic development projects.
Now, in accordance with the new law, Kosovo’s Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning is working with local government officials to increase citizen participation in municipalities’ plans for using public spaces, as well as how public and private spaces are connected. To support these efforts, USAID’s Partnerships for Development program, implemented by Chemonics, awarded a grant to Cultural Heritage without Borders (CHwB) to help five municipalities develop and implement outreach programs. These programs will increase citizens’ opportunities to express their needs and desires to officials who make decisions, bringing about change in their community that has a positive impact on their lives.