Lessons from Medellin: from a violent city to one of innovation and social cohesion
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A city that has cut its murder rate ten-fold over the last 20 years and was lauded as the most innovative in the world in 2013 is worth taking seriously, writes Ivan Turok. The World Urban Forum held in Medellin, Colombia, in April left an indelible impression on the
20 000 delegates who attended.
There are parallels and lessons for South African cities in the Medellin experience. Two decades ago, Medellin was notorious for being the most violent city in the world. Powerful drug cartels, such as the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel and paramilitary groups, flourished on the back of deindustrialisation, rising poverty and inequality, and outdated socioeconomic policies.
Armed conflict in surrounding rural areas displaced communities and spurred urbanisation. The tide of migration caused precarious barrio (slum) settlements to spread up the steep hillsides around the city because of the shortage of land on the valley floor.
A collective effort focused on tackling the causes and consequences of violence and inequality.