Involving Local Communities in Kosovo’s Spatial Planning Efforts.

"It is very important for us to be part of this process since now it is in our hands to plan better access for our community.”

Sabrije Zeqaj

And there are already concrete results: In 2014 and 2015, more than 920 citizens in five municipalities took part in 30 public meetings. Additionally, 1,300 people shared their opinions by participating in a door-to-door survey that asked respondents about their needs and views of the current use of spaces. Citizens provided input on topics like traffic, the livability of their neighborhoods, and the accessibility of public services.

It may seem like a small logistical step, but involving different groups in planning meetings has helped set a new tone for broader community participation, especially among youth. When the municipality of Malishevë/Mališevo in central Kosovo began drafting its Municipal Development Plan, it also created a public outreach campaign to involve youth in the draft discussions. More than 100 young people contributed to these meetings, expressing their desires for more open spaces; affordable public transportation; and facilities for cultural, sport, and youth centers. Not only were these young people able to contribute to the strategic plan for their communities, but they were also introduced to local government processes.

In Pejë/Peć, in western Kosovo, 75 citizens joined discussions at the municipality’s first information meeting about drafting the municipal zoning map. At later meetings, participants included minority groups, urban and rural representatives, and citizens with physical special needs who advocated for greater accessibility in town. Sabrije Zeqaj, a representative of this community, said, “It is very important for us to be part of this process since now it is in our hands to plan better access for our community.”

Citizens in these municipalities who attended spatial planning meetings for the first time expressed how pleased they were to talk about their desires and influence the municipality’s spatial plans.

“It was very important to express the need for new locations in order to improve medical service delivery,” said the director of the Vushtrri/Vučitrn Medical Center in northern Kosovo.

Because of the director’s request, which he made at a meeting to revise the Municipal Development Plan, the Department of Urbanism worked with the medical center to find possible locations for new centers serving the surrounding villages. This is just one example of the enormous impact that citizens’ feedback can have on improving municipal services, such as health care.

75

citizens joined discussions at the municipality’s first information meeting about drafting the municipal zoning map

920

citizens in five municipalities took part in 30 public meetings in 2014 and 2015

1,300

people shared their opinions by participating in a door-to-door survey

Following the success of engaging citizens in spatial planning discussions in these five municipalities, USAID and Chemonics are encouraging more community involvement elsewhere in the country. In 2015, with support from the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning and the Partnerships for Development program, CHwB established a set of guidelines that instructs municipalities on how to involve their citizens in future spatial planning. Municipalities were also given techniques and methodologies for conducting surveys and other public participation activities, concrete tips for budgeting for these activities, and lessons learned from the pilot activities in the five municipalities. These guidelines were distributed to all municipalities in Kosovo in three languages: Albanian, Serbian, and English.

The pilot activities in these municipalities are already having larger effects on how community members are involved in spatial planning across all of Kosovo. Using their new guidelines, municipalities are sharing experiences and lessons learned across the country and ensuring that pilot activities will be continued for years to come. For instance, the Gjakovë/Ðjakovica municipality designed a citizen advisory board as a long-term body — with a designated office and budget — to formalize public participation in their spatial planning efforts. As citizens learn their role in government planning firsthand, they are more likely to contribute again in the future. Although the grant activity was originally designed to focus on activities in five municipalities, it is clear the activities will have a much larger impact, both geographically and in terms of citizens’ view of their role in shaping their communities.