David Yu/Flickr

Een nieuw licht op steden

NEW YORK – Vorige maand was er een opmerkelijke bijeenkomst in Medellín in Colombia. Zo’n 22.000 mensen kwamen er samen om het World Urban Forum bij te wonen en over de toekomst van steden te discussiëren. De focus lag op het creëren van ‘steden voor het leven’, wat zoveel betekent als het bevorderen van een rechtvaardige ontwikkeling in de stedelijke omgevingen waarin een meerderheid van de wereldburgers nu al leeft, en waarin tegen het jaar 2050 zelfs twee derde zal wonen.

De locatie zelf was symbolisch: eens berucht om zijn drugsbendes heeft Medellín nu terecht de reputatie als een van de meest innovatieve steden ter wereld. Het verhaal van de transformatie van deze stad biedt belangrijke lessen voor stedelijke gebieden overal.

In de jaren tachtig en negentig regeerden kartelbazen zoals de beruchte Pablo Escobar de straten van Medellín en controleerden er de politiek. De basis van de macht van Escobar was niet alleen de enorm lucratieve internationale cocaïnehandel (aangewakkerd door de vraag in de Verenigde Staten), maar ook extreme ongelijkheid in Medellín en Colombia. Op de steile Andeshellingen van de vallei die om de stad heen ligt voorzagen uitgebreide sloppenwijken, praktisch verlaten door de overheid, ruim in rekruten voor de kartels. In de afwezigheid van openbare voorzieningen veroverde Escobar de harten en geesten van de armsten van Medellín met zijn vrijgevigheid, ook al terroriseerde hij de stad.

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