City planning, urban management and the concept of human oriented smart cities are the main themes of the Democracy Education Program activities of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) this year.
The issue of urban management has regained its significance in the light of Tbilisi natural disaster on June 13 of 2015. The flood, which claimed lives of people, caused the destruction and the damage of buildings, eroded the streets, destroyed the zoo, aggravated the perception of our problems and triggered the demand for more discussion and the search for effective ways to find the solution.
Within the framework of the network of Democracy School graduates NIMD creates a work environment for active citizens working in Batumi, Gori, Kutaisi and Telavi and stimulates them to develop long-term vision for urban development.
The attractiveness of city lifestyle leads to the steady growth of the role of cities. When mismanaged, the fast pace of urbanization has a potential to create many problems, especially for developing countries; In particular, implementation of urban planning without strategic analysis and cost-benefit analysis for the purpose of encouraging large-scale investments on an expedited pace did not ensured necessary conditions for human life. In addition, this will result in the spoiling of cities’ appearance, environmental pollution and the creation of uncomfortable living conditions.
It is obvious that majority of those challenges to our current urban environment has been evaluated and overcome at different stages of development in cities in the world. At present the General Plan for the development of Georgia’s big cities does not exist in Georgia. Accordingly, functions of particular cities are not perceived in the context of the country’s long term social-economic development vision.
NIMD planned several large-scale activities for the purpose of studying, discussing and solving the aspects of urban politics. Democracy School graduates from four cities of Georgia were invited to participate in types of activities: meetings with representatives of political parties, small grant projects and Democracy Boot Camp “Cities”.
Main objective behind the joint seminars of representatives of political parties and Democracy Schools was to construct the space and process in which political parties and politically active citizens engage in policy discussions, would establish contacts and explore possibilities for further cooperation. The issues of city planning, city management and search for functions of their cities were the focus of those two meetings conducted in March and May 2015. Representatives of each Democracy Schools made presentations on their cities, outlining the current problems of urban development in the light of city planning, transportation system, green spaces and waste management issues. Political party panelists analyzed the efforts their parties have made in a given policy area, what they consider as key challenges in improving the policy and what are their propositions and plans for the future.
For the purpose of improving their own cities, Democracy School graduates are implementing advocacy projects which concern different issues of urban management.
The importance of considering cultural aspects in the creation of a city’s new urban fabric became a main idea behind the project - “Modern Appearance of an Old City”. The project covers four Georgian cities and features modern photography of historic buildings and their comparison with old photo versions. The photographers have already captured the current condition of historic buildings in Batumi, Gori, Kutaisi and Telavi while the old images of buildings are being searched in the archives. At the final stage of the project, photo catalogue will be posted on the dedicated webpage, launches specifically for this project. So that the users will be able to juxtapose how buildings looked like originally, what was their original function and how it has changed up to his moment. Simultaneously, photo exhibitions were held in these four cities. Government officials, researchers, city residents and other stakeholders were invited to the exhibitions.
The main idea underlining the web catalogue is to highlight a decay of historic buildings, important for the identities of the four cities and to draw the attention of relevant authorities and mobilize public support to address the issue.
Another project - “Switch the City On” was implemented for the organization of Gori’s biggest park amenities and aims at providing wireless internet and internet radio broadcast on the territory of the park. The authors of the project are Graduates of Gori Democracy School who launched internet radio “Newradio.Ge” under the framework of NIMD Small Grants Project. Problems of youth, education policy issues, green politics and the findings of active citizens are the main topics of the broadcast of the radio. One additional radiocast “My City” was added to the radio program net which will report about the urban development and offer active discussions with the repreentatives from the self-government to locals in Gori.
Democracy Camp was the culmination of the work on the issues of city development. By involving experts, practitioners, city Mayors and active citizens in the discussion, a week long agenda of NIMD Democracy Boot Camp was dedicated to create the some basic development visions for the four cities of Telavi, Gori, Kutaisi and Batumi.
Through its activities NIMD aims at connecting activist citizens with the policy-makers and encouraging their joint work - oriented on solving specific problems of these cities and remaining functional and active beyond the Democracy Camp as well.