At UN Habitat’s World Urban Forum 7 in Medellín, Colombia 2014
I didn’t realize that First World* cities would get their own day. I suppose if they didn’t require the spotlight too I might not have ended up here. I’m at the UN Habitat World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia, April 5-12. After all, Vancouver—the site of Habitat I, the very first UN Habitat conference ever held, hence this website—is suffering some urban crises of its own.
Medellín is a gorgeous city, sitting in a wide rolling valley surrounded by low, bright green mountains. Buildings are often of an orangey/pale red brick and they snake up the hills in poorer neighbourhoods known as comunas. The City is justly famous for its innovations in narrowing the gap between rich and poor, sustainability and protecting green space. This is perhaps the best article I’ve read on it, tracing the history of its rule by Pablo Escobar’s cocaine cartel followed by a very interesting turnaround. It seems well run; it has certainly absorbed the 25,000 visitors and workers at the Forum fairly effortlessly and very cheerfully. But then Colombia is famous for that. I didn’t attend the 2006 WUF in Vancouver but it’s hard to believe it was pulled off this amiably.
The Forum had a soft launch yesterday but today is the first day of real meetings. I am attending one moderated by Gil Peñalosa in 5 minutes—Gil is known to many urban studies people as a cycling/public transit expert but many may not know that he is also the son of Enrique Peñalosa Sr. who was the Secretary General of Habitat I in Vancouver and the celebrated innovative mayor of Bogotá.
Stay tuned for more posts as the week goes on.
* It’s interesting that the UN is still using the term First World (or reverting to it, from “developed”?).