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News : Innovation Last Updated: Aug 16, 2013 - 10:42 AM


Medellín: From murder capital to world's most innovative city
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Aug 15, 2013 - 8:31 AM

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Medellín, Colombia’s second largest city, has in the past 20 years been transformed from a drugs murder capital to the world's most innovative city in 2013

In the 1980s, the city was known to the world  as the base of drug lord Pablo Escobar, where the Medellín cartel controlled up to four-fifths of Colombia's cocaine exports. The city has a population of 3.8m.

The Wall Street Journal, the Urban Institute in Washington DC and Citi, the banking group, teamed up in 2012 and the institute selected 200 cities based on eight criteria: Environment & Land Use, Culture & Livability, Economic / Investment Climate, Progress & Potential, Places of Power, Education & Human Capital, Technology & Research and Mobility & Infrastructure. Consumers were invited to vote online at wsj.com/ad/cityoftheyear.

The three finalist cities were Medellín, Tel Aviv and New York City. 

The Urban Institute said: "Originally distinguished for its progress and potential, the winning city found new solutions to classic problems of mobility and environmental sustainability. Today, gondolas and a giant escalator shuttle citizens from steep mountainside homes to jobs and schools in the valley below. As a result, travel time for the majority of its citizens has been cut from more than 2 hours to just a few minutes. In this city, a modern underground metro system has eased pollution and crowding in the city’s main arteries above, and glistening new museums, cultural centers, libraries and schools enrich the community."

"Medellín stands today as an example for many cities around the world, because despite having lived very dark and difficult times 20 years ago we have been undergoing a true metamorphosis. Going from pain and fear to hope, and now from hope to be a place filled with life, the city has known how to innovate in every step, both in social programs, urban developments or the combination of both and this has been key in the success of this process," said Mayor Aníbal Gaviria.

The institute added: "a change in the institutional fabric of the city may be as important as the tangible infrastructure projects. The local government, along with businesses, community organizations, and universities worked together to fight violence and to modernize Medellín. Transportation projects are financed through public-private partnerships; engineering firms have designed public buildings for free; and in 2006, nine of the city’s largest firms funded a science museum."

Journalist, Andreas Fink says in an article published on Credit Suisse's website:

"Medellín is still one of the world's most perilous cities. Although it dropped ten places in the 2012 listings of most dangerous cities, it still ranks third in Colombia and 24th worldwide, with a murder rate of 49 for every 100,000 inhabitants (1991: 381). Furthermore, the situation can easily deteriorate quickly; in the neighbourhoods, drug dealers are still fighting for control of drug routes. In the Comuna 13 district alone, authorities have stationed four battalions of police officers and military personnel – and this in the same district that installed six escalators, one of the showcase projects that earned Medellín the title of 'most innovative city of 2013.'"

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