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04 de November de 2017Inclusive, productive and resilient cities: the challenge to win the fight against inequality in Latin America

During the first day of the CAF Cities with a Future conference, international experts, ministers and mayors from around Latin American called for cities to become the main engines of economic growth and social inclusion, by orderly planning, progress in urban resilience and improvements in providing public services.

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Cities are the cornerstone of development in Latin America. They account for 80% of the population and 65% of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP). Economic growth in recent decades, driven by macroeconomic stability and efficient policy against inequality, has brought about a substantial reduction in poverty, so now the challenge is to promote productivity, said Luis Carranza, CAF’s Executive President, during preparations for the CAF Cities with a Future conference to be held tomorrow in Lima, Peru.

“To win the fight against inequality, we need to reach a productivity agreement that will allow us to continue with social improvements. Since the struggle is occurring in the cities, CAF wants to work closely with city mayors in search of cities that are more productive, inclusive and resilient,” said Luis Carranza, CAF’s Executive President, to the 32 mayors present at the event.

The capability of cities to improve the well-being of their inhabitants depends crucially on public policy and how it makes use of the economic benefits of urbanization, thereby decreasing the social cost. This is one of the main themes of the event, so during her speech, Mercedes Araoz, Vice-President of the Republic and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Peru, pointed out that during the administration of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the government started to work with cities with a population of more than 100,000, joining forces with the public sector to meet the needs of sub-national sectors.

“We have been facing a major environmental challenge ever since the El Niño phenomenon, a man-made disaster caused by the chaotic manner in which our cities have been developed. We must change our way of planning so that we can better resist natural disasters. Working with CAF is a great help; we can compare options and experiences, use the best examples and adjust them to our country,” said Mercedes Araoz.

Furthermore, the Mayor of Lima, Luis Castañeda, emphasized the importance of efficiency in public spending and using funds to achieve the goal of cities that are more inclusive, productive and resilient. “Each city has its own particularities, but the common goal at the center of the agenda should be being human. Making dreams come true will make society fairer. I am sure that this is also the dream of CAF,” added Mr. Castañeda.

Jose Carrera, CAF’s, Vice-President of Social Development, said that Latin America is a region prone to natural disaster, so a major effort should be made to improve infrastructure and protect people’s possessions. Roads and hospitals must adapt to the new climatic conditions.

“We have to work from the bottom up and approach mayors to find out what projects to introduce, because they, more than anyone, know what people’s needs really are.” “These events are fundamental for the region because it is much more productive when mayors tell one another about the problems they have had in performing projects and how they have achieved their targets,” he added.

Reduce social exclusion, plan better, increase productivity, improve urban resilience and provide quality public services. These are the most pressing challenges facing the cities of the region in the coming decades, according to international experts, who concluded that to address these challenges efficiently it will be essential that all public authorities work together to promote an urban agenda that places the community as the key player and that incorporates the transport, housing, employment, transport, infrastructure and environment sectors. 

“Latin America is facing the challenge of turning cities into areas of opportunity,” said Gabriela Michetti, Vice-President of Argentina. Tackling housing problems is a priority and state policy in Argentina, where one of its main objectives is to solve the problem of the housing shortage and to promote universalization of access to basic services,” she said.

Ms. Michetti stressed that Argentina had increased its budget for the National Housing Plan six times, and that urban planning was an essential part of the three cornerstones of government policy (the fight against poverty, combating drug trafficking and promoting community participation). She also considers it vital that all levels of government work together to ensure that urban action brings about a change in community awareness.

In turn, Carlos Bruce Montes de Oca, the Peruvian Minister for Housing, Construction and Sanitation, said that to solve the problem of informal settlements and difficulty in access to housing, cross-sectional action had to be taken to improve living conditions. He went on to say that “new governance is based on the liaison between government departments and sectors, an improvement in capabilities and transparent management that brings together all players involved.”

Paulina Saball, the Chilean Minister of Housing and Urban Planning, explained that “access to housing is not just a question of having access to something physical, but also to services that allow you to live well, become part of the community, strengthen people’s identity, create jobs and stimulate growth.”

Carlos Basombrio Iglesias, Peruvian Minister of the Interior, said that one of the main problems faced by Peruvian and Latin American cities is a lack of security. He presented a number of initiatives to counteract the problem, such as the “Safe Communities”, a project that aims to reduce the rate of crime and violence through a combination of community-based prevention in troubled neighborhoods and creating opportunities for the people who live there.   

With regard to the capability of cities to mitigate the effects of extreme natural phenomena, Fernando Leon Morales, the Peruvian Deputy Minister of Strategic Development of Natural Resources, said that “the concept of resilience must be a part of the process for defining policies and making decisions locally, regionally and nationwide. We have to bring together the concepts of risk, disaster, resilience and climate change in developmental planning.”

Yolanda Kakabadse, President of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) pointed out that “we cannot think of a city of the future if we do not reestablish the link between cities and the country, if we do not reconsider where water comes from and how we use it, where energy comes from and how we use it, or if we don't know where food comes from or realize how ecosystems are deteriorating.”

Looking to the future, Nicolas Galarza of New York University considered that it is necessary to take “specific action” to set out orderly expansion in such a way that we do not have to continue urban planning in a reactive manner. We propose minimalist intervention based on road rights networks that will serve as a backbone.”

Mauricio Rodas, Mayor of Quito, said that the world’s cities are facing two fundamental challenges: climate change and migration. Latin America must develop the capabilities needed to meet these challenges.

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