TERRITORIAL DEVELOPEMENT IN ALBANIA. THE ROLE OF CO-PLAN

dritan shutina

Mr. Dritan Shutina

Interested in understanding how the “glocal” concept has real implications with the territorial development in the balcan area, we had a conversation with Mr. Dritan Shutina, executive director of Co-PLAN – Institute for Housing Development in Tirana, Albania.

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BD: What is the role of Co-Plan regarding territorial development in Albania?

(Qual’è il ruolo di Co-Plan nello sviluppo del territorio albanese?)

DS: Co-Plan, Institute for Habitat Development, is one of the pioneering non-profit organizations operating in the field of territorial development and management in Albania. Facing the urban chaotic development of the early ‘90s in Albania, Co-Plan’s inception was marked with the piloting of several hands-on urban upgrading and informal settlements integration projects in critical areas in Tirana, many of which triggered reactions and debates related to the necessity of reforming the urban planning system along with territorial reform in the country.

coplan1

Image by: Co-Plan

Over the years Co-Plan has reinvented itself to better respond to the dynamic urban environments during the last two decades in Albania. The organization’s approach and contribution in the spatial development sphere has transitioned from one which constituted of direct interventions in highly problematic areas, mainly informal ones, to a more sustainable one, developing strategic planning expertise at city and regional level. During the last years, recognizing the need for qualified human resources in the field of territorial planning in Albania, Co-Plan engaged in many projects with prevalent capacity building dimensions.In this framework, Polis University was found in 2006, by the very founders of Co-Plan, as an education alternative which contributesin the creation of qualified experts and seeks to bring forward contemporary and international practices related to spatial planning and development.

B.D.: What is Co-Plan’s positioning regarding ‘local’ and ‘global’?

 (Come Co-Plan si relaziona con il “local” e il “global”?)

DS: Co-Plan operates mainly at local level, however in a globalizing context, our work has been at the interface of these levels.Our biggest challenge, and at the same time contribution, has been translating international best practices in terms of spatial planning and development into adaptable instruments to promote sustainable development in Albanian urban areas. For instance, the ongoing Albanian quest to integrate to EU certainly implicates necessary reforms in terms of how cities are governed, planned and managed. Having worked in the local context since the early ‘90s and knowing its specificities we are well aware that these reforms require a careful assessment and persistent work with the local actors who are going to implement them. In this respect, Co-Plan has been an active intermediate between the international approach in city making and the local context, and played an important role in the territorial planning reform launched in 2009.

BD: To what extend is the “glocal” concept  present in the territorial development of the conteporary Albanian cities?

(In quale misura il concetto “glocal” è presente nello sviluppo territoriale delle città albanesi contemporanee?) 

DS: Well, Albanian cities are being developed and re-conceptualized at a time of virtual and spatial open borders. As a result, most of the Albanian cities which are facing a development pressure are operating inevitably simultaneously in parallel local and global realities. The development phase through which they are going now is one which most of developed countries’ cities have experienced during very different times and conditions, thus they are more prone to accommodate hybrid ‘glocal’ urban landscapes as part of their morphologies.

However this is a process which must be lead with caution and a lot of sensitivity to local specificities. This is why Co-Plan has been involved and carried out many projects focusing on capacity building in Local Governmental Units, as the lead actors in the urban development course.

BD: Who are the international partners with whom you collaborate? 

(Quali sono i partner internazionali con I quali collaborate?)

DS: Co-PLAN has a broad international collaboration. However, in terms of historical importance its worth mentioning its long standing cooperation with IHS, Institute for Housing and Urban Developments Studies in Rotterdam, with Harvard Graduate School of Design now i2UD Institute for International Urban Development, World Bank, Open Society Foundation, USAID, etc. Being part of Polis University this collaboration is extended more also in academia with universities like Ferrara University in Italy, Anhalt University in Germany etc.

BD: What are the projects that Co-Plan is carrying on currently? 

(Quali sono i progetti che attualmente Co-Plan sta portando avanti?)

DS: Co-Plan organizes its work along three thematic units: Urban&Reginal Planning and Management, Urban Finances and Economic Development and Urban Environmental Management. The work within each unit combines capacity building projects at community/city level with policy influencing at central level. In this respect, Planning and Local Governance Program (PGLP 2012-2016) financed by USAID, is one of the main programs with which Co-Plan has been engaging since 2012. Through this program Co-PLAN supports a number of Local Governments improve their planning processes.

At the same time it provides support at the central level to the government and newly established National Territorial Planning Agency. Moreover we have been involved also in the ongoing discussion on regionalization in Albania. In this perspective, our involvement in the implementation of the Regional Development Program in Northern Albania (RDP) follows a similar philosophy as in the up- mentioned programs: working simultaneously in impacting policy-making level as well as capacity building on regional and local levels.

Seemingly, among projects regarding urban environmental management I would have to mention the project “Development of ENV.net in West Balkans and Turkey: giving citizens a voice to influence the environmental process reforms for closer EU integration”, which is quite self-explanatory from the title, as well as “Develop PPP on Provision of the Municipal Street Lighting System in the Municipality of Fier” in the framework of Assist Impact, financed by USAID, which consist of exploring possibilities for Public-Private-Partnership in developing energy efficiency projects. As cross-cutting we have “Making Policies Work” program, supported by Open Society Foundation, through which we have developed a number of policy papers in our areas of work.

coplan staff

Co-Plan staff

 Besmira Dyca | Co-Plan

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