What does COMUS mean?
COMUS stands for “Community-Led Urban Strategies in Historic Towns”, an initiative launched to stimulate social and economic development by enhancing cultural heritage resources. It is a joint Council of Europe/European Union project, part of the 2nd Eastern Partnership Culture Programme, which is implemented since 1st January in the 6 Eastern Partnership countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
The project introduces innovative ideas and concepts, especially about “urban rehabilitation” as a tool contributing to wider objectives, such as the celebration of diversity, constructive dialogue and the promotion of mutual respect between people of different cultures and religions, greater well-being and a better quality of life.
What is so special about COMUS?
COMUS addresses the difficulties faced by small and medium-sized historic towns in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine in maintaining a balance between the authenticity of their rich heritage and the requirements for sustainable growth:
- Social and economic development initiatives no longer lie exclusively in the hands of central government, but more and more with the private sector and local stakeholders;
- There is a lack of up-to-date efficient town planning strategies, and too few urban protection zones, which reduces the effective control on new development and construction;
- Small, and fragile towns have suffered from depopulation, neglect and lack of investment to the point where the historicenvironment is fast deteriorating;
- Civil society is not always sufficiently developed, and inhabitants are not systematically consulted in decision-making processes related to the development of their living environment;
- On-going urban interventions are mainly based on sectorial strategies, and as such present only partial responses to complex development problems.
The issues at stake go beyond simple conservation and restoration of built heritage, and embrace the need to encourage and facilitate heritage rehabilitation through innovative and social inclusion projects: this means providing new uses and new possibilities for the population, and building communities by using inter-cultural dialogue and democratic stakeholders’ participation.
COMUS’ first main target group is therefore the communities, which include a variety of stakeholders: mayors, local government officials, local specialists in the municipal institutions, local professionals and experts, civil society as a whole, including the inhabitants and all those bodies representing specific or collective interests in the historic cores of the towns, and in particular those considered as the “developers”. COMUS is about increasing the cooperation and synergies between these people with a view to convincing them that heritage can generate new development processes. There are multiple advantages over the long term in encouraging local development approaches based on open dialogue between all members of the community and their participation in decision-making processes, where each has a specific role to play and where responsibilities are clearly shared as part of a new good governance. This awareness-raising is a determining factor of social cohesion insofar as it can help consolidate the values and enhance rich diversity which makes the community unique.
To learn more about the project, please go visit the COMUS project website.
Who are the pilot historic towns?
- Goris, Armenia
- Gyumri, Armenia
- Mstislav, Belarus
- Chiatura, Georgia
- Dusheti, Georgia
- Soroca, Republic of Moldova
- Lutsk, Ukraine
- Pryluky, Ukraine
- Shovkva, Ukraine
What is the involvement of the OWHC via its Regional Secretariat of Northwest Europe and North America?
The OWHC offers via the cities of the Regional Secretariat of Northwest Europe and North America an exchange and share of expertises. The fields of expertises required are:
- Intervention policy on the historic environment
- Urban area
- Involvement of the inhabitants
- Interventions on housing
- Housing rehabilitation
- Heritage value of the buildings
- Method to take into account the social diversity
- Public spaces
- Financial support
- Emblematic public space (on the scale of the whole town)
- Housing rehabilitation
- Development of activities
- Public initiatives (local, regional or national level)
- Private initiatives
This can be done thanks to different contributions:
- Host of Site Visit
- Local Training in Pilot Towns
- Host a Training
- Support via Mail/Skype/Phone
- Send an Expert