Public at a Distance – Democracy in Crisis
The period of the COVID-19 pandemic in Serbia has been marked by hindered participation of the public in the procedures of preparation and adoption of urban plans. Nevertheless, in Belgrade, in the first year since the state of emergency had been declared, as many as 99 plans have been on public display.
Our research encompasses analyses of the procedures for preparation and adoption of urban plans in Belgrade in the period of the COVID-19 pandemic; legal and institutional frameworks; case studies (Makiško polje, Avala film / Košutnjak) including the reactions from the public and officials; records of the Planning Commission, and concrete recommendations for improvement of participation. The results serve to provide a specific overview of the conditions of our institutions at the time of crisis and, based on the practice exposed by the crisis, recommendations for improving the governance of the system of public policies once the emergency situation is over.
Research by the CZKD, Polekol and Tačka komunikacije, conducted by the professional organization New Planning Practice / Nova planska praksa supported by the program For an Active Civil Society Together – ACT, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Helvetas Serbia, and supplemented in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Stiftung – office in Belgrade, focuses on the procedures of public access to information in Belgrade and the range of public participation since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through analysis of the procedures of preparation and adoption of urban plans; selected case studies (Makiško polje and Košutnjak); ways of informing the public and possibilities for its engagement in these procedures; participation observed in terms of the legal framework and proposed recommendations, as well as through study of the processes and procedures of preparation of urban plans and planning itself as a professional and political endeavor, this research provides knowledge and tools necessary for strengthening public participation, for good and transparent governance of spatial development.
The pandemic, among other things, has disclosed and aggravated all the weaknesses of the existing practice of public participation. Based on those experiences, in the forthcoming period, serious and fundamental reexamination of the procedures, scope and content of public participation should be undertaken, and subsequently, within the legal possibilities, optimization and improvement of citizens’ participation in the planning process. This should result in raw data for lasting interventions in the urban tissue. The results of this research serve as a call and platform to achieve this.
An urban plan is an instrument of implementation of municipal policies in the area of urban planning.
The decision to prepare a plan and the plan itself is approved by the Belgrade City Assembly, namely the members of the Assembly as representatives of the political parties. In all the phases of preparation, decisions are made by the Planning Commission founded by the Belgrade City Assembly to deal with the matters of urbanism. The president of the Planning Commission is at the same time the chief city planner, which is a position created within the mayor’s office. Decisions made during the process of preparation of the plan are based not only on professional, but also on political concerns. Accordingly, an urban plan is both a professional and a political document.
Get acquainted with the process and procedures of preparing a plan.
Towards Collaborative Governance
The unit Towards Collaborative Governance is focused on the problems of spatial development provoked by the current issues in Serbia, and therefore on the systematic and early inclusion of the public in the urban planning processes through dissemination of knowledge, information and encouragement of dialogue.
Complex urban planning processes, (in)visible places of decision-making, causes and escalations of conflicts, but also space for their solving and essential civic participation, are observed and interrelated through an integral approach to understanding urban development – through research of case studies, public discussions, presentations and training for individual reading of plans and retrieving information of public interest.
The unit Towards Collaborative Governance is a collaboration between experts from the CZKD, representatives of the academia (Faculty of Architecture, University of Belgrade) and its alumni network (program of master academic studies Integral Urbanism).
During the year 2019 the first phase of the project, Urbanism of Conflicting Interests, was realized. It included integral analyses of chronological developments in five case studies as models for understanding the created conflicts; public discussion with the representatives of different (public, civil) sectors, and information through an online platform.
During the year 2020 the second phase, In Search for Public Interest in Urban Planning, was realized, focusing on the questions of defining and defending the public interest in urban planning through analyses of three case studies, public conversations and a publication addressing the topic of public interest in urban planning.
During the year 2021 the third phase, Demystification of Planning, was realized. It included practical (video) training, diagrams of research and planning procedures, focused on providing knowledge and tools for individual access and understanding of information of public interest.
It aimed to promote the contemporary concept of spatial development as a platform for understanding the present conditions and encouraging informed opinion, development of a new culture of communication, strengthening of public participation and democratic government, and reexamining the professional framework in the area of urban planning.