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
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
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
"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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