People and cities are dependent on one another: the city influences its inhabitants, and the people in turn shape the city they live in. Effective and sustainable urban development thus benefits when citizens participate. This is the only way to meet the needs of a city’s residents and to anticipate and systematically support their concerns. Being part of development processes can increase acceptance of decisions. At the same time, residents identify more with their living environment and social cohesion is strengthened. Citizen participation is thus a basic prerequisite for the sustainable design of cities. It makes a city liveable and attractive.
It is necessary, but not enough, to create a basic infrastructure for life in cities to function. For our democracy, it is essential that citizens are involved in specific local decisions. Every democracy is dependent on the co-determination of its citizens and can only function and come to life if as many people as possible are willing to become involved. New technologies can advance the growing number of possibilities for participation, as digital platforms and communication spaces simplify interconnectivity.
KfW supports projects that strengthen citizen participation.
A new era in Potsdam-Drewitz
The high-rise housing complex in the Drewitz district of Potsdam dates back to the 1980s as one of East Germany’s last urban development areas. Back then, the district was characterised by drab grey buildings, poor-quality materials and noisy traffic. A concept to redesign and modernise the district was developed as part of an integrated urban development project. In addition to the refurbishment and accessible design of buildings and apartments, green spaces and sports facilities were created, a four-lane road was deconstructed and connections to the public transport system and car-sharing schemes were created. And that’s not all: since then, energy has also been supplied from renewable sources, and energy-saving improvements have reduced consumption. Citizens were involved in planning at an early stage in the process. Funding for the project was provided by KfW’s “Energy-efficient Urban Rehabilitation” programme.
The measures have made it possible for an entire district to flourish. With citizen participation, a whole new era has been ushered in.
Through a variety of workshops and citizens’ meetings in all phases of the process, projects were discussed, ideas developed and individual needs considered. Professional intermediaries made it possible to find compromises and increase acceptance for the measures. One key issue was the deconstruction of a four-lane road that had claimed a large number of parking spaces. Through intense dialogue and the development of convincing alternatives that met the needs of residents, a solution was identified that satisfied nearly everyone involved.
The process is not yet complete. The plan is to create a carbon-neutral district by 2050. More information about the project
Municipal development in the Palestinian territories
The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are plagued by violent conflict. To improve the lives of local residents, the Municipal Development Program aims to strengthen municipalities in the Palestinian territories. The programme offers a combination of practical assistance and merit-based grants to priority sub-projects that improve the provision of municipal services. It focuses on the social responsibility of municipalities in terms of the four pillars of transparency, participation, monitoring and response.
Citizen participation is at the heart of this programme. As a result, the quality of life of the residents in the municipalities can be sustainably improved.
The municipalities identify and define measures and projects that are particularly effective in further developing local services. The citizens play an essential role in this process. In addition, the introduction of a municipal complaints system makes it possible to take people’s complaints and concerns into account during the implementation of the sub-projects – and to respond directly to them if necessary. Satisfaction surveys are also conducted to capture citizens’ views and adjust measures wherever the need arises. The feedback has already significantly improved the programme design.
The measures implemented are regularly evaluated by experts in order to optimise the programme. Find out more at: „A Journey Along the Walls of Palestine“.
Local recreation in Kabul
After years of destruction and neglect, Chihilsitoon Garden, a 12-hectare park situated in the centre of Kabul, Afghanistan, was completely in ruins. On behalf of the German Federal Foreign Office, the site was to be transformed into a green oasis once again, thus creating a meeting point and attractive space for the residents of the surrounding districts in Kabul. The aim was not only to rehabilitate the park, but also to redesign it and include the surrounding neighbourhoods. The needs of the residents were a central element in this context.
A needs analysis at the beginning of the planning phase provided information about the citizens’ personal circumstances, needs and wants. The findings served as the basis for restructuring and developing the measures. This made it possible to systematically meet concrete needs in the newly planned park.
We surveyed citizens about their expectations so as to be able to implement targeted measures.
In the next step, residents were trained in areas such as tailoring, carpet knotting, carpentry as well as gardening and landscaping as part of six- to twelve-month training courses – so that they could subsequently support the redevelopment of the park. At the same time, people were trained in how to improve their livelihoods even after the limited period of restructuring.
Find out more at: „Revitalisierung Chihilsitoon-Garten, Kabul“ (German only)