The strategy of Guatemala City regarding management of urban infrastructure is based on responding to its citizens' needs, as included in the "Future Vision Plan" mechanism for territorial planning. The Municipality responds to the demands of its 22 districts in terms of infrastructure repair and improvement. The District Mayors are in charge of channeling the demands of the administrative districts to the Municipality. They receive the needs from neighbors and proceed to transfer them to the corresponding technical teams, allowing a real time monitoring of the state of municipal infrastructures in the city and allowing a prioritization of projects to be implemented through time. Each of the requests for intervention involves the assignment of a supervisor, who visits the area, allocates resources, verifies that the needed materials are available for the works, registers all costs and movements into the SAP monitoring system and supervises the impact and implementation of the assigned resources.
The works are directly executed by the municipality, through their own crews and with materials already available in municipal warehouses. Such interventions are feasible for relatively small works (around 10% of the total), while the remaining 90% is contracted out through the Guatecompras system, a national based contracting mechanism for goods and services. This is especially used for new infrastructures and investments. For less heavy interventions, the Municipality has a series of workshops for blacksmithing and carpentry ready to quickly intervene in the field.
In order to increase productivity, an effort has been made to introduce homogeneous procedures to maintain municipal assets. The use of the same type of material, for example, simplifies maintenance by making interventions more sustainable. Another important element has been to unify the quality of the materials used in all the interventions, without distinguishing between the various areas of the city.
Thematic interventions: Schools and public parks
Youth is a priority for the Municipality of Guatemala, in particular the need to improve school facilities, which have been deteriorating for years. Funding for improved school infrastructure is available thanks to the Development Councils (COMUDEs), which were traditionally reserved for rural areas of Guatemala, but have been allowed to work on the country's capital, especially on priorities related to education, health, sanitation and drinking water.
These Municipal Development Councils are established as the coordinating entity for municipal participation, they are formed by all the District Mayors and representatives of civil society. Comudes’ functions are to promote, facilitate and support the Community Councils for municipal development; to enhance effective participation of the community and its organizations; support public administration decentralization and coordinate the different municipal institutions. They also promote policies, programmes and projects to protect childhood, teenagers, youth and women, on top of being the entity in charge of monitoring and evaluation such policies. They guarantee that all municipal policy, programmes and projcts are formulated based on needs, problems and solutions prioritized by the Comudes. Like other similar entities, they also need to assign resources for public investments and pre-investments.
Thanks to an agreement between the Municipality and the Ministry of Education, it has been possible for the city to receive extrabudgetary resources to be able to repair many schools. Interventions have varied from changing roofs, removing asbestos cement, improved insulation of structures to combat excessive heat, new LED lighting, etc. Another priority has been to transform open sports areas into multi-purpose covered spaces, capable of hosting community meetings (multi-purpose lounges) while offering young people cooler areas for sports.
Parks and open sports areas have also been a priority in recent years. International cooperation with Mercy Corps and the U.S. Embassy has enabled the rehabilitation of 27 sports areas in public parks, which has helped to create a sense of community between different neighborhoods, allow residents to pursue sports activities near their place of residence, and create a civic sense of respect for public facilities. When green areas are cared for and are clean, the population tends to respect them more.
Regarding children and youth, eight care centers have been built, serving 1.395 vulnerable children. In some cases, new kindergartens have been created, while others have been refurbished and adapted. The funding has been supported by the private initiative, with thanks in particular to Telus International, which directly built the building’s support structure in one single day, leaving the job of completing and refurbishing the building to the Municipality.
Improvement of urban design and management
The city is a dynamic entity and requires that public spaces are renovated and adapted to the needs of the citizen. For eight years, the Municipality has undertaken a process of homogenization of designs and use of materials in the public space, to make their maintenance easier. This also involves ensuring that all materials employed have the same quality, disregarding the economic resources of the beneficiaries. It is well documented that, when the population finds well-kept public spaces, they are also inclined towards maintaining, respecting and reporting any damage that they observe.
Improving street asphalt conditions requires a permanent presence, as deterioration can happen at any moment of the day or night. The District Mayors constantly demand interventions. To be able to respond, the first thing that the Municipality does is to specify and control the kind of property in the cadaster (i.e. if it is public or private). In cases of public property, the intervention is immediate, otherwise special authorization is required. The types of intervention depend on the kind of asphalt damage and whether the damage has occurred in the deeper or shallower layers of the road. It is also important to assess whether the problem is limited to cracks or small bumps or whether it is necessary to intervene in the bearing soil and the type of road traffic (high traffic, truck passage, etc.).
Finally, innovation is also occurring with urban signals, since they require a lot of maintenance depending on the type of road, with some areas in need of intervention between once and twice a year. The Municipality has a crew of workers specially dedicated to the maintenance of street signs that makes about 250 or 300 interventions a year, while the rest is outsourced, reaching up to a total of 600 per year.
There are three typologies: road signage (zebra steps, directions, etc.), the signage of both public and private school areas and the restrictive ones (red parking lines). In addition, work has been carried out to signal new cycle lanes, public spaces and parks according to the "Plan Santiago" that defines strategies of containment, mitigation and adaptation to the new normality imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, has been working with the Municipality of Guatemala since 2004, achieving various results aimed at strengthening management strategies and modernizing the provision of services to citizens. Emblematic projects have been implemented together, such as the implementation of the Transmetro, the Municipal Youth Policy, the computer modernization of the institution, various programs oriented to the technical training and employability of the youth of the municipality, and the implementation of a smart cities master plan based on the citizen card for the use of municipal public transport and access to municipal services.
(*) This document is the product of the interview between the UNDP Cities and Urbanization Secretariat with the team of the Directorate of Social Development of the Municipality of Guatemala during September 2020. The objective of this interview was to produce a case study to contribute to the Handbook "Managing Infrastructure Assets for Sustainable Development," which is being developed by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).