This project helped implement a strategic plan for reducing fragmentation and spatial disparities, and increasing local capacity building
The metropolitan area of Colima consists of five Municipalities: Colima, Comala, Coquimatlán, Cuauhtémoc, and Villa de Alvarez. The Municipalities were unable to come up with multilateral solutions for their common problems. The overall objective of the Planning Institute of the Municipality of Colima was to establish clear operational rules in the metropolitan area of Colima to reduce urban fragmentation.
The first step towards a common management strategy was to formulate a metropolitan agenda to address the direst projects. To help implement the metropolitan agenda, local capacity building, knowledge sharing, conflict resolution between stakeholders, and reinforcement of local cooperation took place. Another step involved looking for financial opportunities and strategic associations with interdisciplinary actors.
After local authorities created a network of reliable financial and technical experts, an agreement was signed in 2010 establishing the Council for Integral Development of the Metropolitan Area of Colima. The Association of Metropolitan Municipalities north of Colima was included as a voting member as part of the agreement.
This case study promotes the importance of integrated urban governance by establishing vertical and horizontal cooperation, and focuses on building networks with stakeholders from civil society. It has inspired other Mexican and international metropolitan areas.
For the first time in history, the Municipality of Colima initiated an urban planning process with a strong participatory role of each municipality in the metropolitan area. Common challenges facing the different municipalities concerned developments in both planning and administration; particularly territorial planning, urban regulations with a metropolitan character, mobility and transportation, solid waste management, utilization of rainwater, and defining municipal borders. One specific objective of this planning process was to formulate a metropolitan policy, which would set an example for all other policy fields. This metropolitan policy displayed the need for a common use of land, public spaces, environmental regulations, and metropolitan management between local authorities and the state government. A second specific objective was to build a discourse through capacity building. The important actors and their interests were identified by developing a strategic planning process for transportation. The third main, specific objective was to build strategic networks on a vertical and horizontal level. Not only intellectual, technical, and financial capacities, but also training and management capacities built up a strong social network legitimizing the urban planning process. The target groups of this policy were the municipalities of the metropolitan area of Colima, the Regional and the national governments, and indirectly the inhabitants of the metropolitan area affected by the problems of urban fragmentation.
On November 4, 2009, the Mayors of the Municipalities of Colima, Comala, Coquimatlán, Cuauhtémoc and Villa de Álvarez together with the State authority, and members of the State Administration of Colima held their first meeting of inter-municipal coordination to establish an agreement on the needs of the metropolitan area of Colima. Together, they formalized a request to the national congress to be recognized together as the Metropolitan Area of Colima-Villa de Álvarez and to be included in the Federal Fund for Metropolitan Areas. Their request was successful, and more than $2.5 million USD were allotted to the Metropolitan Area of Colima-Villa de Álvarez to strengthen municipal collective action. In March 2010, the state and municipalities appointed the Planning Institute for the Municipality of Colima as the main technical advisor and leader of the integrated Mobility and Transport Project. On the 10th of March of 2010, the Association of Municipalities and the Metropolitan Development Council was created, and in 2011 the institutionalization of the Inter-municipal Metropolitan Association of the North State of Colima was terminated while maintaining the constitutional autonomy of the five affected municipalities.
Different instruments allowed the fast success of integrated capacity building in the metropolitan area of Colima. The first instrument established an institutionalized forum where interests could be conciliated, common problems could be identified, and solutions could be found. Although the field of mobility and transport was not one of the competencies of the local authorities, the network of municipalities in the metropolitan area of Colima could contribute better policy formulation input to this policy field than the state government at that time. The municipalities used a postgraduate program as a common learning scenario to build capacities and knowledge by helping evaluate the land use plan and diagnose the mobility and transport agenda for the whole metropolitan area. The strategy of working with academic institutions legitimizes the methodology and technical instruments and at the same time gives local technicians the chance to design and execute the process. By working with outside actors, local social networks were reformed and the local authorities strengthened. Other instruments were participatory workshops which helped to identify priorities and develop an implementation plan for the Metropolitan Area of Colima-Villa de Álvarez. Citizens from different perspectives, ages, capacities, and political orientations, contributed their input in the workshops.
The following stakeholders were involved in the policy making process: the Planning Institute for the Municipality of Colima, the Colima State Government, the Secretariat of Social Development (SEDESOL) through the Deputy Secretariat of Urban Development and Territory Organization, the International Centre for Sustainable Cities / PLUS Network Program, Centro de Transporte Sustentable de Mexico, A.C. which is member of the EMBARQ-WRI (World Resources Institute) network of Centers for Sustainable Transport, academic experts and citizens.
Both financial and technical support were provided by the Secretariat of Social Development (SEDESOL), the PLUS Network Program, and the Centro de Transporte Sustentable de Mexico. The Secretariat of Social Development (SEDESOL) additionally provided administrative support; and the PLUS Network Program, the Municipality of Colima, and the Government of the State of Colima provided political support. For the capacity building activities it was essential to have the vision, perception, and presence of intergenerational groups in public forums and the postgraduate program.
The state and local governments decided to foster integrated urban governance in the Metropolitan Area of Colima-Villa de Álvarez after several evaluations confirmed the success of the planning process. As a result of the Institutional Capacity Building for the Metropolitan Management, the Council for Integral Development of the Metropolitan Area of Colima, the Association of Metropolitan Municipalities of the North of the State of Colima, and the Metropolitan Area of Colima-Villa de Álvarez were established. These results represent the first municipal institutional approach in Mexico initiated by one of the smallest metropolitan areas of the country. Today, the Council for Integral Development is a body of public interest and social benefit, which defines the objectives, priorities, policies, and strategies for the development of the Metropolitan Area of Colima-Villa de Álvarez. It also provides support and contributes to a coordination committee for the execution of studies, plans, programs, projects, and other activities. Municipalities gained a new area of competencies: urban planning and land use management. For the first time, the Metropolitan Area included urban mobility and transport as priority areas in its political agenda. Besides mobility and transportation, all policy fields, which affect more than one municipality at the same time, now have the chance of profiting from the new integrated urban management process. Especially environmental issues found a new place in the planning agenda of the Metropolitan Fund. The practice of including citizens in policy making via public forums was revived after three years on the 21s of November 2012.
One barrier of creating an urban planning process, that allows the cooperation between different municipalities affected by the same problems, is the thread of ignoring the interests of important actors and stakeholders. Another barrier is not having a strong leading actor, who can push the policy forward. In this case the Planning Institute for the Municipality of Colima performed this role. Conflicts might occur between the state and local government applying the policy in an environment where the state government neglects the issues the local government wants to work on. The political will to create a new type of cooperation must exist and all affected state actors on the vertical and horizontal level must be involved to avoid problems.
The main factors a metropolitan area should consider when changing governing relationships on the metropolitan level are:
- actors and their interests and initiatives must be recognized,
- a change of discourse must be transmitted,
- the policy must be defined as an opportunity for cohesion and not a confrontation,
- the local governments must be convinced that much can be achieved with less resources,
- a shared common discourse can be started by distributing,
- diffusing information and the state level should only be incorporated as the last step when a portfolio of projects including financing schemes have already been developed.
Of all these factors, the most important is the creation of productive networks of students, professionals, academics, experts, and citizens. This is achieved by holding discussion forums and equally involving each participating municipality in the policy making process. To avoid common mistakes along the way, in the case of Colima, constant advisory service by national and international networks was helpful. Other Mexican cities have been inspired by the Colima process after it won a National Price on Transport Initiatives. Above this, the experiences in Colima were shared at the international level trough the PLUS Network Program and in other metropolitan areas, which also have a strong technical actor like the Planning Institute for the Municipality of Colima, in Calgary and Vancouver. Before starting institutional capacity building for integrated urban governance, the Municipality of Colima studied other municipalities to identify possible future difficulties, and learn from them for their future policy of fostering cooperation between several municipalities.