Chapter 8 Self-Organised Citizens’ Groups and Urban Space: Challenges in Planning Paradigm

In: Intervening Spaces

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The decades of transformation from government to governance have increasingly been about redistributing political power and citizens’ participation in decision-making processes, both on national and local levels. The rationale behind this institutional redesign is the benefit of direct participation of those affected in the decision-making process. In the more immediate relationship with the citizens and the more fragmented sources of power, cities are able to democratise the public space from below and include diverse publics (and not only those skilled and vocal in their claims) into deliberation over redistributive process of public goods. Various theories of policy-making seek to encapsulate the new relation between the citizen(s) and the institutions, such as: collaborative policy-making, communicative planning, the Just City approach, multicultural planning, to name but a few. While being quite distinctive and drawing inspiration from different disciplines, they share some common features, such as disappointment with technocratic planning and beliefs that the civil society and self-organised citizens’ groups are the key to social transformation and empowerment of groups outside (and sometimes against) the state. Yet, there are serious challenges in meeting these objectives. Andrea Cornwall and Vera Coelho note that widening participation is more than ‘invitations to participate’ and ‘for people to be able to exercise their political agency, they need first to recognise themselves as citizens rather than as beneficiaries or clients.’ In advocating participatory approaches that operate beyond representational democracy and voicing the perspectives of different social groups in respective bodies and spaces, this chapter studies if and in which ways do self-organised citizens’ groups shift the power balance in urban and social making of cities and if the control over public planning process is real or symbolic. The research is based on qualitative methodology and is limited to the city of Skopje, Macedonia and its neighbourhoods.

Intervening Spaces

Respatialisation and the Body