South America Hub

Promoting a circular development agenda with immediate actions to combat the climate emergency in the cities and territories of South America

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About the South America Hub

The South America Hub is a space designed to strengthen the commitment and immediate action of local governments together with civil society, academia and the private sector for the transition from traditional linear systems towards circular and sustainable, low-emission systems, as well as implementing Nature-Based Solutions (NbS).
For this purpose, ICLEI South America, together with its partners, seeks to promote actions at technical and political levels to strengthen subnetworks such as CITYFOOD and Urban Food Systems Coalition, promote cooperation and training projects, and develop tools and action plans to improve the quality of life and governance in the medium and long term in cities.

Priorities of the South America Hub

  • Circular food systems

    Tackle the climate emergency and mitigate the effects of the social and economic crises, aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic in the territories of South America, in order to promote immediate action to enhance the development of circular food systems. These systems are based on regenerative production, favoring reuse and sharing practices, reducing resource inputs and pollution and ensuring resource recovery for future uses. From both environmental and economic perspectives, applying the circular logic as a driving force for sustainable and more integrated food systems supports the local economy and helps create the enabling conditions and collaboration mechanisms to advance these goals as well as mitigating external shocks.

  • Solid waste management

    Solid waste management is one of the main challenges faced in linear systems and becomes an important component in the transformation process towards circular urban systems. Therefore, this aspect constitutes the last part of the chain also formed by production and consumption processes in the region. In this logic, the objective is to eliminate waste as much as possible, maximizing the recovery of resources at the end of the use cycle, so that they can be reintroduced into production processes, extending and intensifying the use of existing resources.

  • Innovation for sustainability

South America’s Leading Circular Cities

Belo Horizonte


Belo Horizonte is a leading actor and regional reference in food public policies with longstanding multisectoral initiatives. Since 1993, several successful public policies have been implemented to strengthen food security for the population along with a strong engagement of civil society networks that, along with the local governments, have been implementing an institutional arrangement with multiple instruments to benefit the entire food system and its supply chains. In this framework, the city undertakes integrated programs and projects aiming at the promotion of urban agriculture and agroecology through family farming, strengthening supply chains and access to markets, education for conscious consumption, technical capacity building, management of public equipment such as the Food Bank (Banco de Alimentos) and Popular Restaurants (Restaurantes Populares), food assistance program and a strong governance structure with active participation of the Municipal Councils. Belo Horizonte is an ICLEI CITYFOOD Network and Milan Pact (MUFPP) member where it is a South America representative of the MUFPP Steering Committee for 2021 – 2023.



Rosario has concrete circular economy actions mainly through agroecology and waste management. With its Urban Agriculture Program and the Green Belt project, the city has permanent spaces for urban agriculture. The program became a model of an innovative solution to share with other cities and communities around the world as a result of winning the 2020-2021 Prize for Cities of the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. Concerning waste management, Rosario implements public policies for waste reduction and composting, under the framework of the Basura Zero municipal law (2008) and Rosario Environmental Plan (PAR) of 2016. The city is a ICLEI CITYFOOD Network member and is part of the Milan Pact (MUFPP) where it is a South America representative member of the MUFPP Steering Committee for 2021 – 2023.
Outcomes of relevant public policies implemented since 2002:
– 75 hectares currently used for agroecological production and urban gardens;
– 700+ hectares of land preserved for agriculture in the peri-urban area;
– 2,500 tons of fruit and vegetables produced each year;
7 new permanent market spaces created;
– More than 2,400 families started their own gardens;
– 95% reduction in emissions for vegetables produced locally.



Medellin aims to become Colombia’s first circular city. It has been consolidating a solid foundation of legal frameworks on which its circular economy public policy is based. The Circular Economy Public Policy of Medellin contributes to the efforts of achieving a sustainable, decarbonized, resource efficient and competitive economy. Based on the National Circular Economy Strategy (ENEC), its axes and their corresponding action plans for policies and instruments are production, consumption, waste management, as well as water reuse and circulation. The commitment of the city to carry out its transition towards circular development follows the framework of the Ecocity strategic outline of the Medellin Future Development Plan 2020-2023, in the “Circular economy and solid waste management” program. To achieve its objectives, Medellin carries out an extensive consultation with all stakeholders involved in the city that aims to join this transformation process.



Recife has been improving its urban systems towards a more sustainable and circular urban development. Having agroecology-driven urban agriculture as the city’s circular flagship, Recife has joined the Milan Food Pact and launched its First Municipal Agroecology Plan and became a Milan Pacto (MUFPP) member in 2021. The Municipal Agroecology Plan, which is connected to the Climate Action Plan, provides a clear strategy to enhance healthy food production and consumption supported by shorter distribution chains as well as improve food security through circular-oriented public policies. Sustainable waste management is also a priority and Recife has shown its commitment to this sector as it is hosting the International Conference on Solid Waste in 2022.

São Paulo


São Paulo undertakes several practical initiatives aimed at circular development, in addition to assuming several international commitments on the subject. In 2019, the city implemented the Municipal Program to Combat Food Waste and Loss, and its elements include the promotion of Food and Nutritional, Socio-economic and Environmental Security within the city’s composting program. In 2021, the city launched its Climate Action Plan, which is a strategic document that guides and aligns its actions with the commitments of the Paris Agreement. São Paulo is also a signatory of the Commitment to the New Plastics Economy and was announced as an Emblematic City of the Food Initiative by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. In 2016, the city won the Mayor’s Challenge award, for the implementation of the Ligue os Pontos Project, which aims to promote the sustainable development of the city’s rural territory and improve its relations with the urban environment from the points involved in the agriculture chain.

Networks and projects

  • CITYFOOD Subnetwork
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    The CITYFOOD Subnetwork seeks to accelerate action by local and regional governments to strengthen and develop more sustainable and resilient urban food systems, combining a collaborative network environment with capacity building, food policy guidance and technical expertise.

    • Access to a database with relevant information and inputs;
    • Exchange of experiences with leading cities in urban food policy as well as with those facing similar challenges;
    • Cooperation catalyzed by a network focused on finding solutions to implement sustainable, circular, resilient and inclusive food systems;
    • International reach through dissemination of successful policies and adherence to international pacts;
    • Raising voices of leading cities among different stakeholders across South America and the World through ICLEI advocacy strategies.
  • Multi-stakeholder dialogues on urban food systems in the Global South (Africa and Latin America)

    The Independent Dialogue on Food Systems in Latin American Cities held in 2021 generated important outcomes for cities and local governments to raise their voices in global fora, such as the Food Systems Summit and COP26, in addition to boosting concrete actions with engaged stakeholders.
    Therefore, in order to take a step forward in supporting cities in the multisectoral dialogues on development of healthy, circular, fair and resilient food systems, the Multi-Stakeholder Dialogues project seeks to strengthen cities networks and provide a mutual trust environment for continuous dialogue to identify solutions for identified challenges as well as paving the way for the implementation and strengthening of effective and lasting public policies.

  • Urban Laboratory for Food Public Policies - LUPPA
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    The Urban Laboratory for Food Public Policies (LUPPA) is a collaborative platform aimed at city officials and civil society representatives in Brazilian cities that wish to strengthen healthy and resilient food systems. As a result of the partnership between ICLEI South America and Comida do Amanhã Institute, LUPPA brings together different local governments in workshops, roundtables, challenges and immersive dialogues to exchange experiences on the challenges faced when structuring public policies on healthy and sustainable food systems.
    In its 1st edition, the laboratory selected 23 Brazilian cities with up to 1.5 million inhabitants to participate in the LUPPA Community, in addition to 3 mentor cities (Belo Horizonte, Curitiba and Recife) and 3 partner institutions (Mercy For Animals Brazil – Conscious Eating program, Humane Society International and the Group of Studies, Research and Practices on Food Environment and Health at the Federal University of Minas Gerais – GEPPAAS/UFMG) that help building up the proposed goals.

  • SEEG Municípios
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    The Estimates of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals System (SEEG) is an initiative that comprises the production of annual estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Brazil, as well as analyses of the evolution of these emissions over time. Within the scope of SEEG Municípios launched in 2021, ICLEI South America participates in the SEEG project by estimating emissions from the waste sector at city level. The initiative promotes the democratization and transparency of data and encourages debate with various actors from civil society, which contributes directly to the elaboration of studies and public policies that support cities in the climate action planning.
    In this context, the publication SEEG Soluções was created as a catalog of actions to reduce greenhouse gasses in municipalities. In this catalog, it is worth noting that although the waste sector corresponds to a minor share, it is a very important source of emissions for the cities. In the publication, 13 solutions related to solid waste were elaborated concerning recycling, composting and energy generation. Another 7 solutions are related to domestic liquid effluents generated in the households.

  • Circle Lab for Cities

    The Circle Lab For Cities is a project aimed at providing practical solutions to empower local governments in the transition to a circular, sustainable and resilient economy. To this end, the piloting city to be selected in the region will participate in a process of mapping actions, challenges and opportunities that will support the methodology testing to improve an online tool for the South American context. The project is funded by MAVA Foundation and implemented by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, Circle Economy, Metabolic and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. It is based on the prototype of the Circle City Scan tool, which was tested in 10 pilot cities in three regions of the world. The knowledge acquired during the process is being absorbed to ensure that the prototype matches the needs of city officials. The first project output is the Circular City Actions Framework. In South America, the first city to participate in the project will be selected shortly.

  • ICLEI Innovation

    ICLEI Innovation is a program that seeks to encourage the development of technology applied to cities’ demands and challenges focusing on sustainable urban development by supporting startups working in innovation and sustainability for local public management. The program consists of three stages: acceleration of startups, investment and training for selected startups and application of the developed technology in cities (and the scalability of this solution to other cities). In 2020, the program received 57 applications from startups interested in creating technological solutions for Brazilian municipalities. ICLEI Innovation selected 11 projects to participate in the acceleration step. These projects also benefit from a mentoring process to assist in the construction of the strategic and tactical-operational plan of the businesses.

    The program comprises the following steps:
    1. Diagnosis and identification of the territory’s challenges to determine priority areas for the development of innovative solutions;
    2. Mobilize partners and sponsors;
    3. Call for applications from startups and selection;
    4. Consolidation of a mentor-sponsor network;
    5. Conducting the acceleration process;
    6. Introduction of startups to potential investors;
    7. Delivery of the narrative report.