Making medium-sized cities more sustainable and climate-friendly

Project description

Title: Sustainable Intermediate Cities
Commissoned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Ecuador
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Urban Development and Housing of Ecuador (Ministerio de Desarrollo Urbano y Vivienda – MIDUVI)
Overall term: 2017 to 2021



Towns and cities are key players in adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change. In Ecuador, around three quarters of the population already live in urban areas, the majority in medium-sized cities. In the coming decades, these ‘intermediate’ cities will continue to see steep growth. This rapid urban growth is leading to challenges for Ecuador’s economic, social and ecological development – challenges that intermediate cities in particular are poorly prepared for. This is resulting in considerable social inequality and a disproportionately high level of resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The fact that the cities are encroaching ever further on rural areas is a compounding factor. Uncontrolled urban growth not only harms the local environment but also damages the climate at global level.

Sustainable urban development therefore plays an important role in international agreements. By adopting the 2030 Agenda, the international community has set itself goals in areas such as urban sustainability, inclusion and safety. Cities also play a key role in the Paris Agreement. The international conference Habitat III, which was held in Quito, Ecuador, resulted in the New Urban Agenda, a forward-looking, action-oriented instrument to implement the 2030 Agenda in urban development. The actual implementation of these international agreements is posing considerable challenges both for Ecuador and for a large number of other countries.


Ecuador implements sustainable urban development policies in line with the 2030 Agenda, the New Urban Agenda and the Paris Agreement. The country makes a measurable contribution towards mitigating the impacts of climate change.



The Sustainable Intermediate Cities programme is assisting the Government of Ecuador in implementing policies and instruments for municipal environmental protection and climate change mitigation throughout the country and opening up financing options. In the intermediate cities, the programme is encouraging regional decision-makers to gear local urban planning towards appropriate land use and the development of sustainable public transport.

Developing a national urban development agenda: The agenda makes a specific local contribution towards implementing the international climate agreements. It is being developed in collaboration with the various levels of government, the research community, the population and companies. Innovative and climate-friendly financing is designed to improve implementation of the agenda. A monitoring system will record the local and national contributions towards achieving the international goals.

Laboratories for sustainable intermediate cities: In six ‘urban laboratories’, the programme is developing and implementing specific solutions to current climate-related problems. The topics range from sustainable mobility and energy efficiency to relationships between cities and their surrounding rural areas, along with food security, safety and neighbourhood improvement.

The aim of the laboratories in the pilot cities Ambato, Cuenca, Latacunga, Portviejo, Lago Agrio and Loja is to share local experience and urban development strategies with other intermediate cities and to incorporate them into the national urban development agenda. In addition, GIZ and its partners are promoting access by the cities to international (climate) finance and international city twinning.

Application-based research: National and local government institutions require up-to-date information and robust data to take political decisions. The programme aims to develop a practical national research agenda with a network of universities and research institutions. This will form the basis for policy advice. The programme is also advising universities on offering training and continuing education on sustainable urban development and urban management and on establishing climate change in urban development as a key research topic.

Including citizens and sharing responsibility: The programme supports the development and use of new (communications) technologies to promote civic involvement, for example digital solutions for citizen participation, citizen observatories and civil society action plans.