City innovation and social equity in Colombia

Medellin skyline sunset

Colombia has the second largest number of internally displaced people in the world after Syria, according to the United Nations. The country’s recently brokered peace agreement holds the prospect of developing a more equitable society, but it is largely focused on the rural areas worst affected by the conflict. This neglects the needs of those who have found themselves in urban areas and their surroundings, who make up the majority of internally displaced people in Colombia.

Researchers in the UK and Colombia are investigating how the implementation of the peace agreement can resolve the urgent need for social and economic development in Medellin – one of the most innovative yet socially unequal cities in Latin America. The project evaluated Medellin’s planning experience from the ground up, involving communities and institutions on a level platform. It has already led to changes in the city’s municipal development plan, which sets out key policies and actions, and informed local policy on informal rental housing.

The project is now providing community organisations with a strong evidence base to engage other stakeholders and support their access to housing, basic services and livelihood opportunities. It will continue to facilitate dialogue between government and community groups, strengthen the capacity of local and metropolitan government organisations and give them the tools to make informed planning decisions. This will ensure that peace agreement implementation contributes to socio-economic equity and wellbeing in Medellin, and the results could be extended to other cities in Colombia. The work could also be applied to other countries dealing with peace processes and the wellbeing of affected communities.

It is a testament to the strength of this project that it has been prepared with such a collaborative approach between community and academia.

Carlos Velasquez, Community Leader

Harnessing innovation in city development for social equity and wellbeing: a critical proposal to build on Medellin’s experience as a model for Colombian future cities

Project leads: Dr Soledad Garcia-Ferrari, University of Edinburgh and Professor Francoise Coupe, National University of Colombia, Medellín

Delivery partners: British Council and National University of Colombia, Medellín