2014 Special Mention: Medellín

The MetroCable, Medellín.

The Jury's Citation
Medellín is recognised for its outstanding urban transformation over the past 20 years, notably its significant reduction of homicide rates from 380.6 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1991 to 52.3 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012, or 86.2 per cent reduction. This is achieved through a bold and visionary leadership, and social innovation through a series of small-scale but high-impact urban acupuncture projects to help tackle some of the city’s most critical issues, namely drug-related crimes, territorial gang conflicts, unemployment and social inequity.

With a clear vision for the future, the government is commendable for taking on positively the city’s problems using non-conventional approaches, such as continual upgrading of informal settlements and providing them with utilities, connecting remote hillside communities to the rest of the city with the world’s first cable car system for daily commuting, innovative library parks that double their roles as social nodes, urban escalators to cut commuting time at hilly neighbourhoods, and using the public realm as a mechanism of providing safety rather than surveillance. These catalytic projects were developed using limited funds, and part of the profits generated from the city’s efficient public companies goes back into urban development.

Medellín prides itself on social innovation; sociologists work hand-in-hand with urban planners on the frontline to offer help to the people, while residents from local communities are employed by the city to serve as guides, excellent examples of instilling local pride and creating of self-defensible spaces. Citizens are also empowered to decide the use of five per cent of the municipal budget to meet their needs, even the poorest citizen is made an active participant of the city's transformation.

To ensure a sustainable economy, efforts can be seen from both the government and the private sector in their strong alliances. An example is the Medellínovation district, a new technological district spearheaded by RutaN, a corporation set up by the city to foster economic development in key areas by providing funding to companies with the know-how. Although Medellín today is doing many things right, the city can benefit more with an overall strategy, especially in the area of housing, to guide the city into the future and ensure a lasting transformation. Nonetheless, Medellín’s achievements today would provide a great inspiration to other cities facing similar issues.