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Utilizing Spatial Planning for Sustainable Development | Insights from Serbia’s 5th National Report to CBD


Serbia’s Fifth National Report (5NR) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) highlights the success of Serbia’s Republic Agency for Spatial Planning (SASP) in integrating and harmonizing Serbia’s ecological, economic and social development, based on the principles of sustainability. SASP achieves this goal by informing policy and development decisions through local, regional and national level spatial plans. The success of SASP corroborates the importance of having spatial planning integrated into national development policies and plans.  

This best practice has been repurposed from Serbia’s 5NR. 

Problem, challenge or context: 

Geospatial data has the potential to play a transformative role in meeting conservation and development needs by identifying priority zones for conservation, mixed land-use, and development. However, many countries are not accessing geospatial data due to limitations in data availability, access, and technical capacity.  

Specific elements of components: 

Serbia covers an area of 88,461 km sq., which represents about 2 per cent of the European continent. Serbia, with its rich natural and cultural heritage, represents one of the important centers of biological and geological diversity in Europe. The Serbian government uses spatial data in its development strategies, in all sectors and at all levels of government.

This best practice shares Serbia’s experience of utilizing spatial data to develop national, regional and local level policies and plans for various sectors, while keeping conservation, environmental integrity and sustainable development principles at its core.

The action taken: 

Serbia has undertaken several steps to integrate spatial planning into its national development agenda through legislative and policy measures, and setting up institutional mechanisms, among others. Actions include:

  1. The Law on Planning and Construction, regulates spatial planning and landscaping in Serbia. The law is based on the principles of sustainable management, protection and revitalization of the environment and its natural value. Among other issues, this law regulates the conditions and modalities of spatial planning and development.

            According to the Law on Planning and Construction, the four types of spatial plans in Serbia include:

  • The Spatial Plan of the Republic of Serbia 2010-2020 (SPRS). SPRS defines strategic priorities and spatial planning solutions for ecological, economic, social and institutional development. It contributes to horizontal cooperation at the national level and vertical coordination between different levels of planning. Other types of spatial plans have to be coordinated with SPRS. Biodiversity of the Republic of Serbia is a vital segment of SPRS 2020. The SPRS states that the basic goal and principle of further development in Serbia is through the sustainable use of biological resources.
  • Regional Spatial Plan contains the objectives of regional development and rational use of space by taking into account specificities of every region.
  • Special Purpose Area Spatial Plan is the planning document for an area which demands specific organization, use and protection of space due to its characteristics. This type of plan is made for infrastructure corridors, protected areas, tourist areas, water storages, mining areas etc.
  • Local Self-government Unit Spatial Plans is a planning document for local administrative units – municipality or city. It determines the guidelines for the development of local self-government units and land-use.
  1. Institutional arrangement. The Republic Agency for Spatial Planning (SASP) ensured the effective implementation and improvement of policy planning and development in the Republic of Serbia. The Agency was responsible to: prepare, coordinate and monitor the development and implementation of spatial plans; coordinate international cooperation in the field of spatial planning; maintain a register of spatial plans for Serbia; and make decisions around the development of planning documents proposed by relevant ministries.

By the amendments to the Law on Planning and Construction (Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia No. 145/2014), the Republic Agency for Spatial Planning has ceased to exist. All obligations and responsibilities have been taken over by the Department of Spatial Planning, Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure.

  1. Serbia’s Biodiversity Strategy and the Action Plan (NBSAP) 2011-2018. According to Serbia’s 5NR, the role of SASP has been significant in facilitating the achievement of CBD through Serbia’s NBSAP 2011-2018. Objectives 1.2, 2.1, and 5.2 in Serbia’s latest NBSAP, directly seek to promote the use of spatial planning to reach Serbia’s conservation and development goals. Some of the actions undertaken to reach the aforementioned objectives include:
  • Spatial analysis in the Vojvodina province, to identify environmentally degraded and vulnerable areas. The study is significant for mainstreaming biodiversity into various sectoral interests, promoting a sustainable development approach.
  • Several national and regional plans and policies in Serbia envisage an increase of surfaces under protection, such as the Law on Spatial Planning of the Republic of Serbia 2010 – 2020, the Regional spatial plan of Vojvodina Province 2020, and the Medium-term programme for the protection of natural resources 2011-2020.
  • Spatial analysis plays a key role in integrating biodiversity conservation into relevant sectors, such as the development of spatial data for special purpose areas and ecological corridors.
  1. Spatial Plan of the Republic of Serbia 2010-2020 also supports regional cooperation that contributes to sustainable development through the conservation of ecological resources, infrastructure, cultural heritage, urban centers, and economic and social connections. 
Key lessons learned: 
  • Spatial data empowers governments to achieve biodiversity and sustainable development targets, enabling well-informed decisions which ensure that nature is not left behind in the age of “smart growth” and information.
  • Democratizing and accelerating access to different layers of spatial data should be an essential component of national planning and implementation.
  • Use of spatial planning in local and regional development plans requires: a strong legislative and policy framework which promotes the integration of biodiversity conservation into sectoral plans and policies; a strong political will; technical capacity; an efficient institutional structure; and financial resources.
  • Spatial planning can enhance regional cooperation for a better understanding of common challenges and opportunities in conserving biodiversity and achieving the sustainable development agenda.
Impacts and outcomes: 
  1. The Republic Agency for Spatial Planning (SASP) has prepared and coordinated eight regional spatial plans, which include various aspects of environmental protection.
  2. The SASP has prepared and coordinated the development of 72 spatial plans of special purpose areas (SPSPA), out of which 18 plans have been elaborated for protected areas. 
  3. The following thematic maps have been developed for the Spatial Plan of the Republic of Serbia:
  1. The following synthesis maps have been developed for the Spatial Plan of the Republic of Serbia:
  1. The following Special Purpose Area Spatial Plans have also been developed:
Contact details: 
Heena Ahmed | NBSAP Forum Profile here
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