Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development in Central America

Project description

Title: Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development in Central America
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Regional cooperation in North and Central America
Lead executing agency: Secretaría General del Sistema de Integración Centroamericano (SG-SICA)
Overall term: 2012 to 2015

Settlements on the slope of Chichontepec, a volcano in El Salvador  © GIZ


The member states of the Central American Integration System (Sistema de Integración Centroamericana, SICA) are striving to achieve environmentally sound and sustainable economic and social development in Central America. Spatial planning and regional development are key elements in this process. The Central American agenda for spatial planning was adopted for this purpose in 2010. It aims to improve spatial planning and management in the region and to promote cooperation among SICA member states in the field of spatial development. Among other things, a joint development strategy – similar to the European model of spatial planning and regional policy – is required to create equitable living conditions in the region on a lasting basis. However, progress in introducing the joint planning procedures and forms of coordination needed has been sluggish. The responsible national institutions lack the strategies and instruments required to implement sustainable spatial development processes on the basis of the Central American agenda for spatial planning.


Strategies and instruments to achieve sustainable spatial development are implemented exemplarily in selected countries in Central America.


The project provides advisory services in three priority areas:

  1. Disseminating best practices and documented experiences in the area of spatial planning in Central America
  2. Integrating approaches for climate change adaptation, economic development, disaster prevention and gender equality into spatial development strategies and instruments in selected SICA member states
  3. Providing regional services for spatial planning, including training modules.

At the Central American level, the project is helping to foster dialogue and exchange among the individual states, for instance by means of regional discussion forums, study trips and electronic platforms. It also advises the Central American Social Integration Secretariat (Secretaría de Integración Social Centroamericana, SISCA) on developing strategies for regional cooperation on spatial planning.

In the SICA member states, it advises the national institutions responsible for spatial planning together with the consulting firm Ambero. The objective here is to increase their management expertise and to build specialist knowledge on steering and regulating spatial development processes and optimising spatial planning instruments.

Alongside SISCA, key partners include the Central American Council for Housing and Human Settlements and the national institutions whose remits and expertise cover the fields of spatial planning and regional development.


The project has helped to foster political dialogue and exchange between the countries of the region and the subsystems of SICA. The members of the Central American Council for Housing and Human Settlements have gained an appreciation of the benefits of mutual learning and consultation with their regional colleagues, particularly with regard to best practices of spatial planning in Central America.

At the national level, the institutions have continued to develop policies and strategies as well as procedures and instruments for spatial planning. For example, the project advised the pertinent ministry in Costa Rica on drafting an implementation plan for national spatial planning policy and on coordinating this plan in consultation with all relevant bodies. Cooperation and coordination mechanisms between specialist government departments have been set up. Employees in the national institutions for spatial planning have been made aware of gender issues. They have developed gender-sensitive procedures to cater for the different needs and priorities of men and women within spatial development.
In selected sub national regions, key actors from the fields of politics, business and civil society have improved their coordination processes and are starting to work together.

Informal settlement, Costa Rica © GIZ © GIZ

Lessons learned and good practices in spatial planning and regional development in Central America have been documented and disseminated to raise awareness of the importance of these issues among the public and decision-makers. They have also been incorporated into training materials for spatial planning.