Planning for Climate Adaptation

In the Dominican Republic, ICMA fostered participatory land use planning processes that engaged community-based organizations and vulnerable populations in pilot communities.


The Planning for Climate Adaptation Program was a significant effort to increase the resilience of communities in the Dominican Republic (DR) to the impacts of climate change by improving participatory land use planning. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded the four-year program to ICMA in 2015.

The Dominican Republic had been declared one of the ten countries in the world most vulnerable to climate change, largely because of its location in the hurricane belt. Storms during the hurricane season caused flooding, soil erosion, and landslides. Coastal cities—and the country’s tourism industry—faced threats from a rise in sea level and the continued loss of coral reefs, mangroves, and wetlands that protect the beaches from storm surges.

In response to the country’s vulnerability, USAID formalized an Urban Resilience Climate Change project, known by its Spanish name, Ciudades Líderes en Iniciativas y Metas de Adaptación. The ICMA program, known as the Planning for Climate Adaptation Program, was designed to coordinate with other climate-related USAID initiatives in the DR.

To carry out the Planning for Climate Adaptation Program, ICMA assembled the following team:

  • The Technological Institute of Santo Domingo, a leader in training and research on municipal planning and climate change
  • The Dominican Federation of Municipalities (FEDOMU), which has a history of working with municipalities in the country
  • ICF International, a firm known for its expertise in climate change
  • Selected U.S. communities that could provide pro-bono technical assistance in integrating climate considerations into land use planning.


Key objectives of the program were to

  • Assess the planning and climate change needs and gaps in each municipality
  • Tailor a capacity-building work plan for each municipality, based on the assessment
  • Engage community-based organizations (CBOs) in communicating the impacts of climate change to vulnerable populations (women, LGBT, the disabled) and involving them in sustainable and inclusive planning processes
  • Train personnel in municipal departments and the local NGOs in participatory planning and climate adaptation techniques and tools
  • Institutionalize the participatory planning process in the municipalities and create clear written procedures and documentation that enable local land use plans to be periodically updated and replicated elsewhere
  • Develop a cadre of experts in planning and climate change
  • Strengthen the capacity of FEDOMU to scale up and replicate the methodologies developed through the program.


The project achieved the following results, summarized in this graphic:

  • By the end of the program, four jurisdictions (the National District, Las Terrenas, San Pedro de Macorís, and Santiago) had climate-adapted land use plans and climate adaptation plans, and three had drafted land use planning ordinances. Except for Santiago, which had previously developed a land-use plan of the city center, these were the first municipal land use plans in the Dominican Republic and the first to be developed with citizen participation and to integrate climate adaptation.
  • Alongside the development of the plans, program staff and partners helped design new tools to guide other municipalities in drafting their own climate-resilient, participatory land use plans. The tools include a Municipal Land Use Planning Guide, an information tracking tool for territorial diagnostics, and a Resource Guide to Integrating Climate Change Considerations into the Planning Process. 
  • Improvements in capacity were recorded in all four municipalities using a municipal capacity evaluation instrument adapted from USAID’s Global Climate Change Capacity Assessment Tool. These improvements were observed in governance, professional capacity, access and use of data, and capacity for participatory planning.
  • ICMA exceeded its training target by 67%. A total of 750 people from national and local government, FEDOMU, civil society, the private sector, and academia were trained in land use planning, climate change adaptation, participatory municipal management, gender and climate change, inclusion of vulnerable groups, and other topics through certificate courses and training workshops facilitated with program support.
  • As part of the capacity building process, ICMA’s CityLinks™ program was employed to established knowledge exchange partnerships between the four Dominican jurisdictions and four U.S. cities. Interviews with municipal officials confirm that the CityLinks™ exchanges had a positive impact, providing new ideas in approaching climate-adapted planning, citizen engagement, resilient infrastructure, and transportation planning, among other areas.
  • ICMA awarded five small grants to community-based institutions and nongovernmental organizations to raise awareness of climate change adaptation issues and promote improved participatory planning processes. Through these grants a total of 117 community leaders (44 women and 73 men) received information and provided input into improving their communities’ resiliency.



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