Workshop in Belgrade for sustainable urban planning

Ana-Karin Municio and Klas Klasson from SKL headed up the training programme in cooperation with Programme Director, Lars Lööf, from ICLD. The aim of the programme is to boost individuals’ and organisations’ knowledge of how to develop a sustainable town or city, and to teach them tools and methods that can be used effectively in the local context. The ultimate goal is improved health, safety, comfort and quality of life for people living in urban environments.

The participants from the various towns and cities were asked to present the different challenges they face and it became apparent that these challenges are actually more or less the same.

“One of the practical exercises involved learning various methods by going out into Belgrade and analysing different places. Our cities face similar challenges – that’s quite clear when we meet up like this – so it’s important to focus on the factors common to all towns and cities, says Ana-Karin Municio.

One of the aims of the course is for the participants to learn from one another. The participants’ different backgrounds, expectations and skill sets didn’t create a problem – rather they helped ensure lively discussions and meaningful exchanges of experience.
“When we summarised the workshop, everyone was very positive, which feels great. It can be difficult building a cohesive group, but it feels as though we’ve made good progress in that respect, says Ana-Karin Municio.

What challenges did the city walkabout pose for the participants, in your opinion?
“They probably haven’t worked like this before, so we enjoyed showing them that this type of tool or method isn’t actually all that complicated.”
Dialogues with the local community proved to be a shared challenge, but is it possible, in general terms, to identify some key areas that must be addressed in enabling gender equality and integration in urban districts?
“We can’t talk about technical solutions; more about how municipalities can work to include both citizens and various key players into the planning and implementation work. Taking on board locals’ views of the challenges faced is important – we all see our city in different ways.

Rich or poor, male or female, young or old – people’s perspectives differ and these different perspectives are important in gaining an aggregated picture of the measures needed to create a sustainable urban environment.
“You have to start with an analysis of “who we need to have on board in this work,” says Municio.

The ITP course has clear goals of developing concrete and robust plans – but it’s also important to create an environment and networks that encourage the participants to support each other.

The participants had brought their own cases with them to work with, and they went home with a fairly substantial amount of homework.
“Yes, they’ve already made good progress, but there’s still a fair way to go. If the course is going to yield the desired dividends, the objectives bar needs to be set high. The participants also need to continue the work once they’re back in their home cities, if they are going to achieve results. The work involved in creating sustainable urban environments is unbelievably wide-ranging and squeezing every aspect of it into this type of course is a real challenge.”

Personal contacts and a secure setting in which to ask questions would seem to have laid some solid foundations on which the group can build sustainable cities.
The final comment by one of the participants highlights how well the Belgrade course turned out: “The ITP-system is good, we learn from each other. Now we are family”.
“Once the course is over, we’d like them to feel that they are part of a network, that they can mail a colleague with a question when an issue arises. We don’t really know how we’ll achieve that – maybe we need working groups that have joint ownership of a project.”

The group will meet up for a regional workshop in May, now that this initial round of training in Belgrade is complete. They will meet up again in October, and then round off the course with workshops in February and June 2019.