Adaptive governance of urban green spaces across Latin America - Insights amid COVID-19

Urban For Urban Green. 2022 Aug:74:127629. doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2022.127629. Epub 2022 Jun 7.

Abstract

Urban green spaces' well documented role as a hub for physical and mental health was enhanced by restrictions to mobility issued worldwide as a response to COVID-19. In this context, managers of urban green spaces (UGS) were prompted to provide controlled access under impromptu safety protocols. This unprecedented challenge required planning and operational strengths reflecting flexibility, innovation and learning. These management features are essential for an adaptive governance - an underdeveloped research topic within the study of UGS. Using eighteen semi-structured interviews from six countries, we analyze adaptive governance as reflected by UGS managers' responses across Latin America - a region where access to UGS is a matter of public health and of environmental justice. We document responses that can be categorized based on the governance arrangement in place. On one hand, both polycentric and dedicated-management governances have been able to learn through piloting ideas, adapting personnel roles and the function of UGS infrastructure, and adjusting their decision-making process. On the other hand, managers within municipal public services areas - the most prevalent governance arrangement across Latin America - report difficulty to adapt - likely due to their dependence on political will, limited autonomy, insufficient budgets, absence of formal paths to self-funding, shortage of technical know-how, and insufficient citizens' involvement. We discuss implications of UGS adaptive governance in terms of capacity to deal with future public health, climate-related or other types of shocks.

Keywords: Adaptive governance; COVID-19; Latin America; Urban green spaces.