David Mountain Et Al

David Mountain & Valmira Istrefi

Researcher, Urban Laboratory, University College London

David Mountain is a postgraduate student and researcher at the Urban Laboratory, University College London. He previously studied at the department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. His area of research concerns the history of urban development in European cities from the 1970s to the present day, and on the theory of planetary urbanisation. He has conducted extensive research on the London Docklands Development Corporation and on urbanisation in Macedonia. He is a postgraduate fellow of the Royal Geographical Society having recently presented his research on London’s Docklands at its annual conference. This research project is due for publication in 2017 as part of an edited volume in Springer’s Urban Book Series entitled ‘Emergent Urban Spaces: A Planetary Perspective’. From September 2017 he will be an ESRC-funded President’s Doctoral Scholar at the Manchester Architecture Research Centre, University of Manchester.

Valmira Istrefi obtained an MSc postgraduate degree in Urban Studies from University College London, having been awarded the UK Government’s prestigious Chevening Scholarship. Valmira’s research has focused on urban regeneration and the varying forms of gentrification that have impacted upon the changing nature of London in recent years. Factors such as de-industrialization, issues around housing, and the positive role that community engagement can play within policy framework have been central themes of her work. As Program Director in the Creative and Active NGO (Macedonia), Valmira ran the UrRe “City that (never) sleeps” (2015). Funded by the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development (Netherlands), the project saw positive results through community participatory actions and real planning solutions for an equitable, inclusive, and sustainable urban environment in Struga, Macedonia. Since 2011, Valmira has held an Advisory role in the cabinet of the DPM responsible for implementation the Ohrid Framework Agreement in, creating equal opportunities for non-majority communities in Macedonia, and in August 2017 was appointed to the board responsible for developing the national cultural strategy for Ministry of Culture in Macedonia.

The intercultural legacy of privatisation and decentralisation: civil society organisations in Struga and southwest Macedonia

The political crisis in Macedonia (FYROM) has led to increasingly fractured ethnic relations, notably between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians, where mutual distrust is the norm. Young people fail to learn each others’ languages, and study in different shifts, meaning they do not meet. The Civil Society Organisation (CSO) sector in the southwest region of Macedonia is weak and also divided by ethnic lines.

The Struga-based NGO Creative & Active (C&A) has set up a programme Decade of Belonging to contribute to the improvement of the intercommunity relations in southwest region, by enhancing the cooperation between CSOs, interethnic councils, decision makers and the private sector. One specific deficit identified by C&A has been a disconnect between a changing community reality and state mechanisms. In response, C&A set up an innovative programme of open-ended residencies involving outside experts. This presentation includes a summary of the programme from C&A, and a summary of one of the reports produced by an expert-in-residence in September 2017.

The report is based around in-depth interviews with key stakeholders in southwest Macedonia, and includes findings and recommendations based on empirical research into historical and political changes in the country. It begins by examining how CSOs changed and responded to socio-political transformations in Macedonia since independence in 1991 in ways which have contributed to or mitigated the ethnic and national cohesion. The report concludes by reflecting on the potential for the perspective of urbanism to deal with problems of inter-ethnic cohesion in Macedonia and in Europe more widely.

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