Nature-based Solutions at center stage of learning and rethinking of urban-rural linkages


Nature-based Solutions at center stage of learning and rethinking of urban-rural linkages


Representatives of more than 15 cities in Latin America and the European Union reaffirm their commitment to the restoration of (peri)urban ecosystems during the conference “Cities for Nature: Rethinking urban-rural linkages for people and biodiversity”, organized in Envigado, Colombia within the framework of the INTERLACE Project.


On November 23-24, 2023, the global network United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), together with the Mayor’s Office of Envigado, the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute of Colombia, and the Ecologic Institute of Berlin, organized a dynamic and interactive conference exploring the socio-ecological challenges that cities and their rural areas face, as well as the solutions that are being implemented around the world to confront these challenges. The event had the support and active participation of the Latin American Federation of Cities, Municipalities and their Associations (FLACMA), and the National Union of Local Governments (UNGL) of Costa Rica.


The conference included field visits, panel discussions, city-to-city exchanges, and interactive workshops. It brought together 120 experts and city representatives from more than 15 countries to explore different strategies to strengthen Nature-based Solutions (NBS) in peri-urban and metropolitan areas, increase ecological connectivity, mitigate the effects of climate change, and foster the conservation and social appropriation of biodiversity.

group photo

McKenna Davis, the main coordinator of the INTERLACE project, explained how “the world’s large cities are facing unprecedented pressures such as climate change leading to floods and droughts; Therefore, NbS have become an alternative to address problems in an inclusive manner, that is, involving communities and decision makers with the aim of finding sustainable solutions.”


The city of Envigado (Colombia) has focused for more than a decade on strengthening its urban ecosystems, through the work of its Secretary of Environment and Agricultural Development. Today, this municipality, which has a population of close to 230,000 inhabitants, is a leading example of ecosystem and biodiversity management at the service of the community. “In Colombia, the only city that is part of the INTERLACE project is Envigado, thanks to the progress we have made in protecting our natural  environment. In addition to having protected areas encompassing 40% of the territory and programs such as Envigado Florece with broad citizen participation, we are hosting this international event, reaffirming that we are on the right track,” concluded Braulio Espinosa Márquez, mayor of Envigado.

field visit

Intermediary cities like Envigado, with populations of less than 300,000 inhabitants, and connected to metropolitan areas, have great potential for the development of cost-efficient urban planning strategies in harmony with their natural environment, which in turn can generate opportunities for development in its surrounding regions and parishes, both urban and rural. As Wilson Ramírez, manager of the Center for Nature-Based Solutions at the Humboldt Institute, explains: “it is about using nature as an ally to solve the problems we face, that is, water scarcity, pollution, risk of landslides or deficiency. food. “We want nature to be an ally and not a victim of degradation.”


During the event, the cities of Niterói, Porto Alegre (Brazil), Temuco (Chile), Villa de San Diego de Ubaté (Colombia), Tilarán (Costa Rica), Cuenca (Ecuador), Baguio (Philippines), the Metropolitan Area of Bucaramanga (Colombia), and the councils of rural parish governments (CONAGOPARE) of Imbabura, Pichincha, and Santa Elena (Ecuador) have joined the Cities Talk Nature community of practice, underlining their commitment to the restoration of (peri)urban ecosystems and the exchange of knowledge, and expanding this community to more than 40 cities around the world.

practice exchange


During the event, 14 of these cities presented concrete examples of how they are reimagining their urban-rural linkages through nature-based solutions, fostering a rich exchange of experiences, key lessons and recommendations. From recovering the value of the agricultural environment through family and school gardens in the city of Lleida (Spain) and the network of “Blue Pearls” in Berlin (Germany) for the revitalization of small bodies of water, to the polycentric development of La Paz (Bolivia) and the use of organic waste in Tilarán (Costa Rica), the practices presented showed the diversity of tools and mechanisms available to regenerate and renaturalize urban and rural territories. The discussions between municipal representatives in turn highlighted the need for greater financing and access to resources at the local level, and the importance of multi-level and inter-municipal cooperation to recover the ecological infrastructures that support our communities.


Highlighting the vital role that local governments have in fostering sustainable development and achieving the ecological transition we need, Sara Hoeflich, director of learning at UCLG highlighted how “global agendas are built locally. With the challenges we have at the moment, climate change being perhaps the most severe, it is very satisfying to see how cities like Envigado, and all the other cities that have joined, are working with nature and biodiversity as a partner and inspiration for urban development.”

workshop photo

About the INTERLACE Project


The INTERLACE project aims to empower and equip European and Latin American cities, particularly intermediate and/or peripheral cities, to effectively restore and rehabilitate (peri)urban ecosystems in order to achieve more liveable, resilient and inclusive cities. The project, financed by the European Union between 2020-2024 within the framework of the Horizon 2020 program, is made up of 21 partners and six cities in the European Union and Latin America. Each city is accompanied by local universities or institutes, resulting in an alliance of practice managers and academics, while associations of municipalities and global city networks such as UCLG support the transfer of knowledge and political prioritization.

More information:

Access the virtual visit to Envigado, and the exhibition of good practices through the event website on the INTERLACE platform. Learn more and join the Cities Talk Nature community of practice here.