Macedonia knowledge transfer programme

Funding body: European Agency for Reconstruction Commissioned GPA by GNV

Objectives: The objective of the training is to enable participants to:

  1. Analyse the existing urban situation in their respective municipalities;
  2. Create a structured approach to urban planning;
  3. Identify options for stimulating investment in the local economy;
  4. Identify options for increasing the participation of relevant stakeholders.


Geoffrey Payne was appointed by VNG International, based in the Hague, Netherlands as a Senior Planning Expert on an EU funded knowledge transfer programme (TRAIN) in Macedonia. The project required Geoffrey Payne to prepare a curriculum for a series of training programmes delivered to staff representing all 85 of Macedonia’s municipalities.

The project commenced in March 2005 and Geoff was involved from July, when he visited Skopje for two weeks to prepare the course curriculum. This was followed by another two week visit in November to train local trainers in delivering the curriculum, though this was adapted in discussions to ensure it was appropriate to meet local needs and conditions. The actual delivery of the training was carried out during three assignments of four weeks each between January and April 2006.

Each assignment involved spending four days in each of four main urban centres, Skopje, Bitola, Gostivar and Stip, during which selected staff from local municipalities attended the courses. The fifth day of each week was spent either travelling between centres or evaluating the completed week and preparing for the coming one. During the first cycle, key issues of urban planning and development were introduced. This was based on the fact that Macedonia had been part of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia until 1991 and most of the senior professionals responsible for urban development have limited awareness of the role of planning in a mixed economy.

A series of lectures, workshops, seminars and exercises were there organised to help increase awareness of policy options and ways of realising them. The fact that many municipalities had populations of less than 10,000 people and the only large city, Skopje, had a population of over 500,000 required a flexible approach to planning roles. This module covered issues such as the Urban planning in a market economy, preparing an urban development, enhancing participation, securing the strategy and a general evaluation. During the second four week cycle, the programme moved from principles and policies to specific issues. Following a recap of the first module, issues covered included the planning base, preparing the strategic framework, assessing the regulatory framework, a site visit and regulatory review and an evaluation. All these were carried out in each of the four urban centres and with the active contribution of the local trainers.

During the final four week cycle, the programme began with a short recap of the second module and then a gaming simulation exercise was carried out to enable participants to not just assimilate the ideas introduced, but to apply them working in groups. After this, lectures and seminars discussed ways of preparing a strategic urban plan and identifying priorities for implementation. Geoff wrote a paper on urban planning in Macedonia. To download it click here.

Geoff’s input to the TRAIN programme was one of six modules addressing all key aspects of urban development. He worked with several colleagues to deliver a programme which sought to enhance the ability of local professionals to meet the challenges facing the country as it seeks to develop towards entry into the European Union. Geoff made many good friends throughout the country, especially among the project leader Tony Armstrong, the TRAIN office team and his interpreter Ali Ibrahimi, his trainers, Dusica Angelkovic, Gordana Trenkoska and Besnik and wishes them and the participants all the best in the future. Whilst in Macedonia, Geoff also joined the local flying club, for details of which click here. Geoff’s contribution to the TRAIN project ended with participation in a national conference in July 2006, which presented the work of the participants on all modules as a basis for action by the newly elected government.

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