The Environment and Human Settlements Division

The Environment and Human Settlements Division (EHDS) has basic responsibility for analysing environmental and human settlement issues in the context of growth and sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Division seeks to integrate the environmental dimension in other sectors of economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean and to tie in global, environmental and human settlement issues with regional, national and local priorities. It operates as the regional focal point for the follow-up to world summits, global conventions and conferences on the environment and sustainable development. It furthers and monitors implementation of Agenda 21 and the global environmental conventions at the regional level. Including the submission of reports on the progress achieved to different inter-governmental forums, in particular the Commission on Sustainable Development of the United Nations and the Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean.


The mission and the main fields of work of the EHSD have been developed through extended in-house discussions, taking into account (i) the environmental problems that exist in the countries of the region as well as the priorities expressed by their governments; (ii) the role and the advantages of ECLAC in promoting sustainable development in the Latin America and the Caribbean region; (iii) the role of other relevant actors such as UN agencies, development banks and bilateral donors in order to avoid duplicating work and to take advantage of potential synergies.

To translate a vision of sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean into actionable public policies.

II. Fields of work

Four main fields of work, which are described below, have been established as priorities for the next period:

a) Sustainability assessment in Latin America and the Caribbean.
b) Public policies and Global Environmental Agenda follow-up.
c) Economics and the environment.
d) Human settlements and urban economic development.


Sustainability Assessment in Latin America and the Caribbean

The nature and extent of the interdependence between economic growth and the supporting environmental systems is fraught with large uncertainties. In taking their decisions, policy-makers face a lack of reliable and readily accessible information about the magnitude of the economic, social and environmental costs entailed in pursuing development paths which deviate from sustainability. In contributing to overcome this situation, the objective is to produce reliable information on the trends and risks for the environmental and urban sustainability; to measure the extent of the gap relative to a sustainable trajectory in a systematic and recurrent way; and to provide sound support for decision-making.

Public Policies and Global Environmental Agenda Follow-up

Given the key role played by the state at its different levels in promoting sustainable development, the objective is to strengthen the capacity of the countries of the region to propose and to implement public policies to which further sustainable development. This objective requires comparative study of different environmental management systems appropriate to the institutional characteristics of the region, and the articulation between multilateral agreements and national policies at its different levels. Regarding Global Environmental Agenda follow-up, in addition to Agenda 21, three Conventions appear as priority: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention to Combat Desertification.

Economics and the Environment

The development of environmental, macroeconomic and sectoral policies cannot be seen as isolated processes, since they influence each other. In fact, most decisions taken by economic and sectoral authorities affect the environment. Thus, the objective is to improve the integration of environmental dimension into economic policies of the countries of the region starting from a better understanding of the linkages between economics, land-use and the environment in the region.

The main focus of the economics and the environment area is research and technical assistance. At the macro level the research topics covered include: trade and the environment, regional integration as it relates to the environment, environmental impact assessment of macroeconomic policies, productive restructuring (investment patterns, specialisation and technological change) and its implications for the environment. At the meso and micro level the research topics cover: the analysis of economic and fiscal instruments used in environmental management in productive sectors; the analysis of environmental externalities resulting from incomplete markets and/or inadequate policies; options for remedial action through regulatory instruments; and the analysis of markets for environmental goods and services in the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean (services, equipment and environmental technology).

Human Settlements and Urban Economic Development

As the Latin America and the Caribbean region has become predominantly urban, proper management of the urban process entails strengthening democratic local government at all levels and introducing concepts of sustainability in the formulation of urban and land-use policies. The objective is to support countries of the region in formulating and implementing land-management systems aimed at establishing balanced and integrated human settlements and sustainable cities, through a comparative study of the different management systems. Special attention is given to the linkages between urban processes and economic development, and the promotion of clusters based on land-use.