Tackling the main roadblocks that prevent the sustainable growth of emerging cities

Latin America and the Caribbean is the most urbanized developing region on the planet, with 8 out of 10 people living in cities. Between 1950 and 2014, the region urbanized at an unprecedented rate, raising its urban population from 50 to 80 per cent (as per cent of total); a figure that is expected to climb to 86 per cent by 2050. Over the past two decades, the region’s urban population and economic growth has been increasingly taking place in intermediate sized cities, which are expanding exponentially.

The Emerging and Sustainable Cities Program (ESC) of the Housing and Urban Development Division of the IDB is a non-reimbursable technical assistance program providing direct support to national and subnational governments in the development and execution of city action plans. ESC employs a multidisciplinary approach to identify, organize and prioritize urban interventions to tackle the main roadblocks that prevent the sustainable growth of emerging cities in Latin America and the Caribbean. This transversal approach is based on three pillars:

  • environmental and climate change sustainability;
  • urban sustainability;
  • fiscal sustainability and governance.


Emerging and Sustainable Cities Program (ESC)’s Methodology 

Emerging cities in Latin America and the Caribbean need planning processes that are specific and action-oriented—capable of bringing about quality of life for citizens in the region. ESC’s Methodology is based on the premise that urban development strategies that are well-planned, integrated, and cross-sectoral, can ensure improvements in the quality of life for citizens and help materialize a more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive future for emerging cities in the region.

The program has been working on strengthening the ESC Methodology by including topics related to local economic development, competitiveness and productive employment creation. The proposed methodological adjustment stipulates a new set of 10 topics, 15 subtopics and 17 indicators. ESC’s Methodology is organized in a two-stage, five phase process:

  • Stage one: it begins by executing a rapid diagnostic tool to identify the sustainability challenges of a city. Afterwards, topics (i.e. water, air quality, transparency, etc.) are prioritized through the use multiple filters – environmental, economic, public opinion and sector specialist expertise – to identify issues that pose the greatest challenges in a city’s pathway towards sustainability. Finally, an action plan is formulated, containing prioritized interventions and a set of strategies for their execution across the short-, medium- and long-term.
  • Stage two: the execution phase begins with the preparation of pre-investment studies for prioritized interventions and the implementation of a citizen monitoring system.

Fases de una ciudad en ICES

ESC’s Methodology - Documents

Methodological guide: spanish (3rd. edition2nd. edition)EnglishPortuguese
Indicators annex: spanish (3rd. edition2nd. edition), EnglishPortuguese
Competitiveness annex: Spanish
Towards an Initiative for Emerging and Sustainable Cities: Spanish

ESC Program - Action Plans

Añelo, Argentina
Bahía Blanca, Argentina
Gran Jujuy, Argentina 
Gran Mendoza, Argentina
Las Heras, Argentina
Malargüe, Argentina
Mar del Plata, Argentina 
Paraná, Argentina
Salta, Argentina
Nassau (action plan, executive summary), Bahamas
Belize City, Belize
Cochabamba, Bolivia 
Florianópolis, Brazil
Goiânia, Brazil
João Pessoa, Brazil 
Palmas, Brazil  
Três Lagoas (action plan, annex), Brazil 
Vitória, Brazil  
La Serena - Coquimbo, Chile
Valdivia, Chile
Barranquilla, Colombia
Bucaramanga, Colombia
Cartagena, Colombia
Ibagué, Colombia
Manizales, Colombia
Montería, Colombia
Neiva, Colombia
Pasto, Colombia
Pereira, Colombia
Popayán, Colombia
Riohacha, Colombia
Rionegro, Colombia
Santa Marta, Colombia
Sincelejo / Corozal, Colombia
Valledupar, Colombia
Villavicencio, Colombia
San José, Costa Rica
Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic
Cuenca, Ecuador 
Santa Ana, El Salvador
Quetzaltenango - Xelajú (action plan, annex), Guatemala
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Campeche, Mexico
Coatzacoalcos, Mexico
Hermosillo, Mexico
La Paz, Mexico
Lázaro Cárdenas, Mexico
Salina Cruz, Mexico
Tapachula, Mexico 
Xalapa, Mexico
Managua, Nicaragua
Ciudad de Panamá, Panama
Asunción, Paraguay
Cusco (action plan, annex), Peru
Huancayo (action plan, annex), Peru
Trujillo, Peru
Paramaribo, Suriname
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Montevideo, Uruguay
Cumaná (part 1, part 2), Venezuela


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