Ensenada is the largest municipality in Mexico. Its area is equal to that of one of the 14 smaller states in the Republic, or to the entire country of Costa Rica. Its economy includes a range of manufacturing and service industries, and has rich resources. While the city of Ensenada houses over 60% of the population, the municipality is also home to widely decentralized villages, many with fewer than 100 residents. This disparate rural population has provided the municipal government with a serious challenge to its ability to provide services: How can the leaders of Ensenada address the needs of rural residents outside the reach of the central city?
To reduce the economic inequality between urban and rural residents within the municipality, the government designed a Municipal Strategy for Regional Development, also know as the Regionalization Program. This strategy designates regions within the municipality that share a local cultural identity or a dominant industry to promote local development. In other words, the Strategy outlines a process for each community to participate actively in the development of its own territory.
In addition to the municipal center of the city of Ensenada, reformers have designated four new regions: Vino, Ojos Negros-Valle de la Trinidad, San Quintín, and Sur. Each of these four regions contains between 14 and 23 sub-regions, all of which are within the territory of the Ensenada municipality. Each region hosts two or more delegations from the central municipal government who maintain contact with the Ensenada city government. However, decisions about resource allocation and disbursement remain the responsibility of these regional branch offices. By decentralizing control, Ensenada’s leaders encouraged more targeted investment in public works projects and more efficient and decentralized allocation of public funds.
The Regionalization Program allows citizens to participate in the organization and development of their own communities while also allowing the municipal government to take advantage of preexisting technical and social resources to target investments in public security, social development, urban development, and public works.
This project has benefited from the assistance of the Planning and Development Municipal Committee (COPLADEM), which encourages regionalization of public funding for development. COPLADEM has contributed to the guidelines for legal and administrative reforms necessary to create these new, regional branch offices. By using the facilities provided by a federal office, Ensenada has been able to introduce accountability into the process of its administrative reforms. COPLADEM has also encouraged citizen participation in institutionalizing new administrative structures. Reformers have promoted social exchange amongst inhabitants of the newly formed regions to encourage cross-village cooperation and shared development goals.