How to sustain sustainability monitoring in cities: Lessons from 49 community indicator initiatives across 10 Latin American countries

Ludger Niemann, Thomas Hoppe

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Abstract

Since the 1990s, many countries have witnessed the emergence of organizations publishing environmental, social, and quality-of-life indicators at a city level in order to promote public aware-ness, democratic participation, and sustainability policies. Many such initiatives are short-lived, however, and reasons for their success and failure under-researched. Using interviews, surveys, and documental data, we explored the survival rates, obstacles, and achievements of 49 initiatives in 10 Latin American countries. Contrary to those in other world regions, most initiatives have civil society stakeholders (notably universities, media, and businesses), excluding governments. Implementing citizen perception surveys proved effective to gain public attention. Several initiatives obtained name recognition and policy influence, which are significant achievements in megacities such as Bogotá, São Paulo, and Lima, where numerous NGOs vie for attention. Frequent obstacles include a lack of finances. After a seven-year period (2014–2021), 55% of the sampled initiatives remained active, ranging from 90% in Colombia to none in other countries. Organizational continuity appeared to be associated with network membership and discontinuity with diverging obstacles, including political pressures in some countries (e.g., Mexico), data scarcity in poorer ones (e.g., Bolivia), and a lack of sustained interest in relatively richer ones (e.g., Chile). Recent increases in socio-economic inequalities are strengthening the potential of community indicators.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5133
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Volume13
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Accountability
  • Community indicators
  • Participatory governance
  • Quality-of-life
  • Sustainability indicators
  • Sustainability monitoring
  • Transparency

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