This keynote speech on citizen dialogue and debate within an urban setting was delivered on 20 April 2018 during the 2018 International Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit featuring Entertainment Education (Nusa Dua, Indonesia).
2018 SBCC Summit: Keynote Speech by Anibal Gaviria, former mayor of Medellin, Colombia
“Communication is not an option, but a constant obligation.”
Aníbal Gaviria was the mayor of Medellín, Colombia, from 2012 to 2015. He is one of a string of mayors credited with turning around this city of 2.5 million people. Once the stronghold of the dangerous Medellín cartel, the city witnessed 6,349 killings in 1991. The homicide rate has fallen by 80 percent since then and, in 2013, the Urban Land Institute named Medellín the “most innovative city” out of 200 it considered. Prior to that, Gaviria was governor of Antioquia, of which Medellín is the capital.
Gaviria sees a connection between reducing inequality and violence in the city and the facilitation of dialogue and debate in communities. Medellin is well known for social urbanism and development policies, including the creation of the Metrocable system, a network of cable cars that link the city’s subways to some of the city’s informal settlements on the city’s steep hills. These settlements were in many ways cut off from the city, with residents commuting as long as 2.5 hours a day before Metrocable opened. Not only could people in these poorer isolated communities get to jobs more easily, but to public libraries, schools, health centres and recreation spaces. Metrocable – by linking people to what they need – is credited with dramatic reductions in crime in the areas reached by cable car, an integrated approach to creating change.
Summary of Anibal Gaviria’s keynote speech.
Anibal Gaviria explained the key principles behind the city’s transformation. He noted that the transformation did not take place under one mayor, but was a continuous process of change over many years of consecutive and synchronised “good governments.”
Gaviria listed the four key principles as being:
- Citizen participation
Planning: Gaviria pointed out that “planning is an absolutely critical and fundamental element for the development of cities in the next 30 years. Many of the cities in the world have developed and grown without planning, with bad planning or with planning that is not respected. Fundamentally [this has taken place] in Africa, Asia and Latin America but also in other regions of the world too.”
Transparency: Gaviria explained that “the process that Medellin has gone through was triggered by high levels of transparency being honest and open with their citizens together with a clear accountability] compared with other Colombian and Latin America cities.”
Citizen Participation: When Gaviria spoke about citizen participation he described four different ways to implement this:
- As a transversal element – interventions in public space;
- through participatory budgeting;
- through “life and ability journeys” through “participatory processes with the communities through dialogue and debate during the development plan”;
- “as a long-term territorial plan” – with consultations about how to ‘occupy’ the territory. “It [Medellin’s development] was discussed over two years with more than 2,000 meetings.”
Communication: Gaviria explained, “Communication is a basic principle, like a credo…to govern is to communicate. Communication is not an option, but a constant obligation – a daily process where we communicate and receive communication from the citizens.”
Further details of the Summit can be found at the Summit website: https://sbccsummit.org/