The transformation of Medellín provides a model for cities worldwide
This is just one example of the “resilience dividend”; another is manifested by the World Urban Forum itself. That this year’s conference is happening in the city of Medellín speaks volumes for the transformative power of resilience strategies. At the height of Colombia’s drug wars in the 1990s, Medellín was one of the most violent cities in the world. But over the last decade, the city has worked hard to recover from years of violence, not only with law-enforcement initiatives but by making a series of innovative, public investments – such as urban gondolas and a hillside escalator, designed to integrate the city’s low-income residents and communities with its wealthier commercial centre.
Now, when violence or crime happens in Medellín – and it still does – the city doesn’t fall back against the ropes; it has the tools to rebound much more quickly from these disruptions, enabling it to play host to hundreds of global leaders.
To help more cities realise the resilience dividend, the Rockefeller Foundation launched the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, a $100m effort to build urban resilience in each city, establish resilience as a key economic development and competitive advantage lever, and provide a two-way distribution channel for innovations in products and services, technology and financing.
Each city selected will hire a full-time chief resilience officer (CRO) to co-ordinate planning, mobilise stakeholders and design a resilience strategy. This week, Medellín announced its first CRO, Santiago Uribe Rocha. He and his counterparts in cities around the world will co-ordinate all aspects of resilience – from building codes to public infrastructure to disaster response systems. Additionally, CROs will share their knowledge and best practices, and cities will be able to access special financing mechanisms and technical expertise to help implement their resilience plans.
We can’t know where or when the next crisis will come. But we know it will. Cities that invest in resilience today will reap a resilience dividend – stronger economies, better infrastructure, more access to opportunity – in addition to their capacity to recover from shocks more effectively. Medellín is already benefiting from its investment in ways small and large: hosting a global conference that would have been unthinkable a decade ago, and building a more dynamic, prosperous and liveable city. A model for cities worldwide.