What is An Urban Observatory?

An Urban Observatory is a network of stakeholders responsible for producing, analyzing and disseminating data by use of a meaningful set of indicators that reflect collectively the state and condition of urban areas, through prioritizing issues that have implications to sustainable urban, rural and national development, climate change and food security.

What Are Urban Indicators?

Urban indicators are tools for monitoring, tracking and measuring progress using commonly agreed definition of the urban condition. Indicators define the data to be collected, so they should be relatively easy to measure and interpret, and should provide valid and reliable information about the objectives they are meant to measure. Urban indicators provide data on dimensions of urban shelter, social and economic development, poverty, environmental management and governance.

Why a National Urban Observatory for Belize:

Statistical data on Belize states that there is 43% poverty and extreme disparities and inequalities between the poorest and least districts, Toledo (Maya 61%) and Belize (Creole 47%) with rates of 60.4% and 28.8% respectively, and between rural and urban areas, as poverty in rural areas is doubled that of their urban counterparts at 43% and 21% and 55% compared to 28% for households and populations respectively.

This inequality is also blatant between communities in urban areas, for example, south side Belize City, the most populated urban center with 1/4 that of the national population of 322,453 persons (2010 Census) is doubled that of the north side.

The manifestation of poverty in Belize are poor living conditions, hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services and infrastructure, social discrimination and exclusion, crime and violence and societal disintegration, environmental degradation, as well as lack of meaningful participation in decision making.

Demographic data points to continued population movement toward urban areas, particularly Belize City, San Pedro Town, the tourist capital and fastest growing town, and the inland town of Santa Elena and San Ignacio, located in the fastest growing district, and to the rise of intermediate rural settlements acquiring urban forms and characteristics, some with populations surpassing that of towns, but for which the legislative governance structure remains for that of a village.

This state of affairs in compounded by centralized, archaic and fragmented urban governance decision making framework, a lack of a coherent national development policy framework, inclusive of a human settlement and urban development agenda, unplanned and unregulated growth, inappropriate scale of data aggregation for municipal and local relevance, infrequency of data and use of data to inform timely decision making, and lack of data to inform specific municipal and local development decision making to respond to local needs and aspirations.

The Goals of the Belize National Urban Observatory:

  • To institutionalize urban development monitoring and evaluation systems to generate reliable, up to date, timely and relevant information to support and sustain decision making processes that contributes to sustainable urbanization and development;
  • To build capacity for equitable and democratic urban governance, through the strengthening of the collection, analysis, synthesis, management and use of information to formulate more effective urban policy and programmes, at national and local levels;
  • To institutionalize a culture of evidenced based decision making to inform and support public investment in progressive change over the long term, as against operating reactively or in an environment of uncertainty;
  • To strengthen the integration, harmonization, movement and exchange of information on urban conditions and population movement and changes, between stakeholders, levels of decision making and sectors;

Linkages to National and International Development Goals:

The Belize National Urban Observatory will contribute to:

  1. Horizon 2030 – the National Development Plan of Belize
  2. UN HABITA Global Observatory and Agenda
  3. The Rio 2015+ Sustainable Development Goals
  4. The World Bank Global Target to Eradicate Extreme Poverty by 2030.


This Programme is in the planning stage.

If you are interested in partnering with us on this programme, email us at carolyn.trench@belizeplanners.org or belizeplanners@gmail.com