Ukraine: joining forces to shape the cities of the future
A sustainable approach to urban planning that takes account of locals’ views is improving quality of life and coexistence in Ukrainian towns and cities.
A group of adults are leaning over a map of the city, children are moving around and a woman is giving a talk – there is plenty going on in one of main squares in the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr. The annual ‘Urban Fest’, which is held in a different place each year, has enticed the locals onto the streets to discuss their city’s future. The citizens can play an active role in helping to shape the decision-making process – through questions to the deputy mayor, proposals for changes or ideas for redesigning a park. And this kind of participation is something people in Ukraine have fought hard for. During the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, they took to the streets to demand greater democracy, self-determination and transparency in politics. A lot has changed since then – including the planning and use of urban spaces.
Cities worth living in for better coexistence
‘When people are able to participate in planning processes, this helps make places worth living in for everyone, not just for privileged groups,’ explains Andrii Zuiev, a project manager at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
GIZ has therefore been commissioned by Germany’s Development Ministry (BMZ) and Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) to help eight Ukrainian cities adopt a sustainable and – most importantly – citizen-focused approach to their development to make them more attractive. Working with town and city councils and local government, GIZ has already drawn up a strategy that involves residents in all phases of planning processes.
With the ‘Urban Fest’, GIZ has created a platform for dialogue that is held once a year in various Ukrainian cities. The idea is for locals to learn more about the concept of integrated urban planning in an entertaining and informative format. Fact-finding events are also held throughout the year, for instance in pedestrianised zones or at sports or cultural events. As a result, some 60,000 people have already helped shape their town or city in the course of just four years.
From an inclusive playground to a water tower used as a cultural space
In addition to major infrastructure undertakings in Ukraine, GIZ is also supporting projects in their immediate vicinity. These are particularly important for people living in residential districts as they get to see the desired results right on their doorstep. In Poltava, a new, inclusive playground is giving a neglected park a new lease of life.
In Vinnytsya, meanwhile, safety measures such as traffic islands have helped reduce road accidents by 70 per cent in just 18 months. And in Zhytomyr, the city’s most famous landmark – an old water tower – is being converted into a lively venue where people can come together. It now hosts art exhibitions and concerts, amongst other things, and offers free history tours that are enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.