Arnika - Center for Citizens’ Support
The quality of life in Prague is decreasing due to poor governance. The project will strengthen and network civic initiatives, provide them with expert and legal support, create new information tools and increase public involvement in decision-making on spatial development. A broad media campaign will raise public awareness and influence the agenda before the local elections. Advocacy campaigns will increase the transparency of decision-making and positively impact major development projects.
Currently, the city of Prague is in the process of preparation of new spatial plan (so called Metropolitan plan), which should be the key regulative document for next decades. However, the risks and uncertainties which it brings, such as unsatisfactory greenery and historical heritage protection, unclear determination of public facilities or improper height regulation, leave the future of spatial regulation in Prague uncertain. Also, many cases of harmful development appeared recently with crucial exclusion of the public during the permitting processes. The Czech capital has a strong tradition of active citizenship, however, active citizens are in many cases unable to defend their rights because of the lack of their legal knowledge and unsatisfactory access to the decision making process.
The project idea allows to finance a long-term campaign within the supportive environment of stable and established organization. We believe that a complex campaign on spatial planning is a great tool to disturb the general discourse on urban development, which is dominated mostly by separate group of experts together with groups representing various private interests. The situation has gone to a state, in which both the discourse and the
creation of the legal regulative frame is dominated by one rather small ideological group of experts. Our idea is to challenge the dominant discourse within a public campaign, direct legal support in concrete development cases and we will help the local initiatives through education and networking activities.
We will educate and network local initiatives and local authorities. We will specifically target on the group of civil society organizations (CSOs), who are focused on the urban development and local cases of harmful construction, housing issues and public space and heritage protection. Second important target group are the local authorities. It is the key group to make decisions on local level. Thirdly, we will target on the city municipality. which creates the crucial element to develop mandatory rules for the urban development and construction, and also moderates the interests in the urban space. The activities of the project will create a space to interconnect these target groups and bring innovative solutions for sustainability of the urban governance and new development projects.
We will organize at least 2 seminars with minimum of 100 participants of affected public and local authorities (deputies), 1 roundtable on problematic case of development (CSO´s, city authorities, experts, investors), 2 educational urban walks for the same target groups (minimum 40 participants) together with 1 educational visit to Vienna on good planning practices (minimum 15 participants) for local authorities, 1 coordination meeting of Prague initiatives (at least 20 participants); also we will create an e-mail forum (at least 300 addresses and 50 civic initiatives involved) and a facebook discussion group (700 participants). Also, we will create informative facebook page (1500 followers) and a complete project website (10 000 visitors yearly).
The project will strengthen the advocacy and watchdog abilities of local initiatives. The CSOs will be able to negotiate with local authorities and will be considered as equal partners. The municipality will take bigger consideration of the public interests in urban decision making; there will be significant rise of public meetings on crucial projects and these will bring mandatory outputs. The city of Prague will be on the good way to adopt quality and sustainable spatial plan, which will have satisfactory rules for greenery and cultural heritage protection, traffic solutions and public spaces protection, i. e. will work as effective moderator of the interests within the urban space (because of legal obligations, the city has to adopt new spatial plan until 2022).
Urban development is one of the biggest areas of private investments and one of the strongest pillars of economic growth. However, this brings to the topics also massive private interests and therefore creates from the topic a great corruption risk. In the 90s, Prague was well known for corruption, especially when permitting big development projects such as residential or commercial centers or new office houses. Although the situation has changed since that time, still we can see non-transparent decision making and construction permitting with utilitarian exclusion of the public (such as recent case of construction next to the Masaryk train station directly in the centre of the city). The project will contribute to better knowledge both of the public and the authorities and mutual trust.
Our experiences from the field goes 15 years backwards; we were witnessing the development of the political environment and its shifts for quite a long time. Recently we are in the situation, when the Pirate Party won the Mayor´s seat with transparency-oriented programme, however, the post of the vice-mayor for urban development and spatial plan is in hands of conservative right with strong connections to the private sector and development companies. This contributes to the weakening of mandatory rules of construction and market-oriented governance, which is against the principles of sustainable urbanism. Therefore maybe more than ever now is the time to step in with strong public initiative, which would demand transparency and defense of the public interests by the municipality.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
project coordinator (Vaclav Orcigr) - 8000 EUR
project expert - urbanist (Lenka Kuzvartova) - 7000 EUR
PR & media coordinator (Jiri Kana) - 4000 EUR
project accountant - 1000 EUR
project assistant - 4000 EUR
Webdesigner - 2500 EUR
Graphical designer - 2000 EUR
Social media coordinator - 2000 EUR
Printing services - 1500 EUR
Rental of meeting spaces - 1500 EUR
Refreshments for public meetings - 1000 EUR
Educational visit (rental, accomodation...) - 6000 EUR
We will be happy to hear experiences from public discourse shifting and binding development rules influencing - what were the most effective media channels, what were the melting points, what was the most effective approach?