Making medium-sized cities in Ecuador 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: Ecuadorian Ministry for Urban Development and Housing (Ministerio de Desarrollo Urbano y Vivienda – MIDUVI)
Overall term: 2017 to 2021



In Ecuador, 74 per cent of the population already live in urban areas, over half of them in medium-sized cities. In the coming decades, these ‘intermediate’ cities will see further rapid growth. The way Ecuador responds to the challenges and opportunities of urban development is therefore crucial to the country’s wider economic, social and environmental development.

The pace at which Ecuador’s urban areas are growing creates challenges for which intermediate cities in particular are insufficiently or not at all prepared. The consequences are relatively high social inequality coupled with disproportionately high resource consumption and CO2 emissions. Another factor is that cities are encroaching ever further on rural areas, destroying farmland and damaging the environment.

For these reasons, sustainable urban development is now an established priority on international agendas. In 2015, the international community adopted the 2030 Agenda, committing itself to achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 11 specifically focuses on making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Other SDGs have also integrated the urban dimension. The 2030 Agenda serves as the framework for the agreements described below.

The Paris Climate Agreement adopted in 2015 represents an important step forward in our common fight against the global threat of climate change. Its goal is to create the conditions for a climate-friendly and sustainable transformation of the global economy. The agreement highlights the role of cities as key actors in the drive to reduce greenhouse gases and implement climate change adaptation measures. In order to achieve the global objectives, each country pledges to adopt and implement nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

In October 2016, the international Habitat III conference was held in Quito, Ecuador. The outcome of this conference was the New Urban Agenda, which is intended to serve the international community as a source of ideas and proposed actions to guide future development plans.

The actual implementation of these international agendas presents the countries which signed up to them with considerable challenges, and Latin America is no exception. In this context, the Ecuadorian-German cooperation programme makes a key contribution by promoting sustainable urban development and the implementation of climate-friendly restructuring processes in Ecuador.


Ecuador is implementing sustainable urban development policies in line with the 2030 Agenda, the New Urban Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement.



The Sustainable Intermediate Cities programme being implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH focuses on four main fields of action.

The first of these involves drawing up a national urban development agenda. The programme is designed to help Ecuador make a specified contribution at local level towards implementing the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Climate Agreement and the New Urban Agenda. To this end, a National Urban Development Agenda is to be developed jointly with various national and subnational government bodies, research institutions, civil society organisations and the private sector. By tapping into innovative and climate-friendly financing mechanisms, the conditions for successfully implementing this agenda at national and local level are to be improved. A monitoring system will record local and national contributions towards the agreed international goals.

Working in a series of ‘urban laboratories’, the programme develops solutions to current problems. It does so partly by making greater use of new communication technologies in the field of urban management. In Cuenca, the focus is on urban mobility and sustainable energy. Urban resilience, risk management and adaptation to climate change are the key issues being addressed in the coastal city of Portoviejo. Food security and the relationships between cities and the surrounding rural areas are the main themes in the city of Lago Agrio, which is located in the Amazon river basin. In Loja, the agenda focuses on neighbourhood improvement, safety and public spaces. These four pilot cities, which were selected through a competition, are to share their experiences with other intermediate cities and incorporate them into the National Urban Development Agenda. In addition, the programme will help the cities to access international (climate) funding and facilitate international twinning arrangements.

Applied research is another focus of the Sustainable Intermediate Cities programme. National and local government policymakers require up-to-date information and data. By establishing a network of universities and research institutions, the programme plans to develop a practical national research agenda that will underpin the policy advice offered at national and local level and ensure that policymaking and research are effectively linked. In addition, the programme will advise universities wishing to offer initial and advanced training courses in the areas of sustainable urban development and urban management.

For national and local urban development policy to be implemented effectively and successfully, the country’s citizens must be on board and share responsibility. New mechanisms are being developed to support these steps towards inclusion, e.g. citizen observatories and civil society action plans.