Sustainable Cities and Communities

Since the Santa Cruz Summit, governments have begun to channel more resources to their sub-national jurisdictions. As a result of this, these regional and local governments can facilitate business and community initiatives to expand and improve services in coverage, quality and efficiency. International technical assistance and lending programs have provided financial support to these initiatives as well. Due to this support the following progress has been made in the area of sustainable cities and communities:

Economic Development

Cities have addressed the challenges of urban unemployment with the help of the national and regional governments, the private sector and international cooperation:

  • Progress has been made in identifying and implementing new approaches to urban management. For instance, Honduras and Nicaragua have continued their initiatives to strengthen municipal government, and Guatemala launched a program on local communities' participation in development. A conference on democratic decentralization was also held in Guatemala City in September, 1997.
  • The mayors of the Americas have periodically met over the past few years to study issues of urban development in an integrated manner, with the support of the OAS, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and USAID.
  • Local authorities in Latin America and the Caribbean are seeking to create balanced, sustainable cities that foment the compatibility between individual interests and collective services. Cities such as Mendoza, Argentina, Curitiba and Porto Alegre, Brazil, Manizales, Colombia and Quito, Ecuador have been pioneers in their multidisciplinary and integrated approach to city management.
  • Local communities and governments in Bolivia, Honduras and Nicaragua are helping to plan construction and maintenance projects in urban infrastructure, and cities such as Porto Alegre, Brazil, have been successful in incorporating different sectors of society in the preparation of the city's capital budget. These sorts of integrative practices are taking place in other cities throughout the region as well.
  • With the support of USAID, a three-year initiative was launched in 1997 to support job creation, labor productivity, microenterprise and investment in the smaller economies of the Easter Caribbean.


Great demand for housing still exists throughout the region. The following has been done to help alleviate this serious housing shortage:

  • Several countries and cities have expanded the types of instruments and mechanisms available for urban land acquisition, zoning, development and regulation. Colombia has enacted a law authorizing cities to appropriate, as resources of the local government, part of the increases in land values caused by administrative decisions. In Mexico, plans have been adopted to redistribute profits flowing from incorporation of suburban land or adjoining rural areas into the cities among previous owners, infrastructure financing, and environmental protection areas.
  • Central American countries have undertaken programs to facilitate access to real estate, capital markets and housing to low-income groups. Metropolitan areas now recognize the need for greater coordination between local and national governments in matters of planning, urban development and environmental protection.

Pollution Prevention and Environmental Protection

  • Peru has already enacted, and Brazil, Colombia and Mexico are in the process of enacting, laws to offer economic and fiscal incentives and extended compliance terms for new standards to those who abide by existing environmental regulations.
  • Bilateral and multilateral development agencies have developed new principles and operative models to control industrial pollution. These models are a result of interaction between governments, producers and consumers; between businesses and communities; and between the public sector and markets.
  • The IDB has contributed substantial loans for urban environment and pollution control projects in Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia and Guatemala.

Sustainable Transport

  • Cities in Brazil have adopted integrated policies on land use and urban transportation with the goal to reduce high expropriation costs associated with land acquisition for building urban transportation infrastructure.


  • The acceleration of urbanization creates new forms of social and economic marginalization that sustain crime and violence at epidemic levels.
  • Municipal governments suffer from weak structural and operational frameworks that inhibit the planning and implementation of social infrastructure projects and credit programs for income-generating activities.
  • Cities are often forced to expand beyond their limits, and because of this, systems to provide water, sewerage, waste disposal and other common services tend to be insufficient and inefficient.

An excessive bureaucracy, along with a lack of community participation, inhibits the successful implementation of housing development designs and applications

  [Bolivian Summit/tracker.htm]