[Sustainability] World Urban Forum Journal: What is needed for the new the infrastructure?

Today during the forum an interesting comment was made during the “Investor Ready City” session organized by Siemens in regards to the growth of urban population and infrastructure.

We need to build 2 cities of the size of Medellín per year – from scratch – to host the number of people who will be living in urban areas by 2050.

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Now that is really something to think about knowing that Medellín is about 2.2 million people, and all the infrastructure (water, roads, buildings, energy, waste, etc, etc) it requires. It clear the challenge to do it and do it “properly”.

The session presented various insights, paths and experiences on how to prepare a city for such infrastructure needs. They all sounded very logical and common sense, although not so easy to implement. Off the top for a city to develop such infrastructure, as seen in Medellín for example, it needs to create investor confidence. As these would be projects to be built and operated in long time frames. Three things were mentioned as essential:

  • Good planning for the long-term, i.e. a clear project that addresses the issues to be faced during that time.
  • Financing, who will be the investors, what are the time periods for their ROI, what type of financing scheme to be used.
  • And a clear, stable, transparent and predictable legislation.

These are the aspects cities and stakeholders need to address from the beginning to evaluate the full benefit of an infrastructure project. As I mentioned it seems clear, but when taking into account the local government change every 4 years, risks and uncertainty are high in emerging countries it quite be tricky to do it properly. An excellent session that every city mayor and local government should have attended.

The session was in the afternoon. Earlier in the day I met a YESer, Claudia Umanzor, that is living in Bogota and working at Universidad de la Sabana on Creative Engineering. We talked about the relevance of the WUF to our activities at the university level and how to develop a collaboration between the universities. In special the need to address non-technical problems when dealing with technical projects in the classroom. We also shared views about the current situation in our native countries (Honduras and Venezuela) and the need for a stronger civil society to be part of the cities’ solutions. She mentioned the example of AMASS, and NGO in Honduras that seeks to create a more engaged society.

After my meeting with Claudia I went to a refreshing event. The Lunch with Juanes session. The colombia singer, Juanes, took part in the forum moderating various Youth Assembly activities. An important part of the forum and the need for youth to be part of the city and its development. The youngsters had nice comments during the event, and of course at the end the young crowd were requesting Juanes to sing a song (didn’t happen).

My Juanes, youth-filled hour, quickly transition into another event on the history of the modern transformation of Medellin from the business perspective. A debate between representatives of Medellin’s important companies (Argos Group, Sura Group, Bancolombia Group, Services Nutresa and Orbis Group). The comments focused on how they were part of a committee formed in the 90s with the government and local universities to define the vision and goals for the city, and set the program towards the Medellín we see today and beyond. A challenging task given the situation of Medellín in the 80s with drug cartels among other regional conflicts at the time.

The day ended on a positive note as I met a British Red Cross Officer, Nancy Kordouli. I was sitting next to her on the Investor Ready City and we exchanged some comments about the topic of financing projects, stability  and the political reality of countries like Greece, Venezuela among others. Obviously a never-ending topic, but nice to see the role such humanitarian organization plays in this WUF discussion. And how the choices we make should help contribute a greater and meaningful cause.

Another long and packed day, still a lot more to see and gain from this event.


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