“Comuna 13 (one of the poorest areas in Medellin) has gone from being a marginalized community to being a resilient one. Many interventions that are being implemented for the youth and adults allow them to have a better life. All of this generates spaces where one can see that the transformation brings love, happiness, and liveliness, which all contribute to have a better future.” – Peter Alexander, Community Leader
If all you know about Medellín is its troubled past, you’re in for a surprise. Medellin has been known as a violent city not only in Latin America but throughout the world. During the 1980s and 1990s, Medellín was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world and the epicenter of the global drug war. In 1993, Colombia's homicide rate was 420 per 100,000 – the highest in the world. Medellin witnessed 6,349 killings in 1991, a murder rate of 381 per 100,000 people.
Not long after I joined the World Bank, I worked on a team assessing the extent and severity of land degradation in El Salvador. As part of this work, I went to visit the site of a soil conservation project that had been implemented a few years earlier and was considered extremely successful. Indeed, the project’s implementation report was full of numbers on linear kilometers of terraces built, and other indicators of success. Once we reached the project site, however, we looked in vain for any sign of a terrace. The terraces had once been there (there were photographs to prove it), but a few years later they no longer were.
That results may not last once a project ends is a constant concern. The extent to which it is actually a problem is hard to assess, however, as there rarely is any monitoring after a project closes.
My job brought me and my family to Lima, Peru 11 months ago. In case you have never visited Lima before, Lima is in many ways, a lovely city – it has fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean (you can surf right from the local beaches), great food, and vibrant neighborhoods, including a historic city center with Spanish architecture and churches. On the other hand, Lima is also know for its terrible traffic, unplanned urban growth, and informality.
As an urban development specialist, I can’t help but wonder how Lima could be better organized so residents can better enjoy all of the services and amenities the city has to offer. Is it possible?