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Medellín, Colombia conferred Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2016

  Published: 16 March 2016

The Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2016 is conferred on Medellín, the second largest city in Colombia after the capital Bogotá.

Having overcome challenges of uncontrolled urban expansion and years of violence due to social inequalities, Medellín has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past two decades. Through bold leadership, long-term plans and social innovation, the city’s leaders have tackled its most pressing issues and improved the economy, as well as its citizens’ employability and quality of life.

The biennial Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize is jointly organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Centre for Liveable Cities, to honour outstanding achievements and contributions to the creation of liveable, vibrant and sustainable urban communities around the world. The award seeks to recognise and celebrate efforts in furthering innovation in urban solutions and sustainable urban development.

This year’s Prize Laureate was selected from 38 nominated cities, following a rigorous two-tier selection process comprising a Nominating Committee and a Prize Council.

Chairman of the Nominating Committee, Kishore Mahbubani said, “Medellín’s transformation has been extraordinary. It has gone from being one of the world’s most dangerous cities into a liveable and innovative city. Its success gives hope to many cities in developing countries, where the next wave of massive urbanisation will take place. Medellín can become a Mecca of learning for them. We are therefore proud to award the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize to Medellín.”

Mayor of Medellín, Federico Guitierez Zuluaga said, “This is an important recognition that we feel proud of for our city. We thank you for the encouragement to continue working for our city, a spectacular city that has come a long way but also has a long way to go.”

Mr Zuluaga’s predecessor, Mr Aníbal Gaviria Correa who recently stepped down in December 2015, echoed his sentiments. “Winning the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize is a true honor and a motivation to continue building a city for life for our citizens; more humane, equal, free and happier. With Medellín receiving this award, we hope this inspires and gives hope to other cities facing similar challenges,” added Mr Gaviria.

Medellín’s winning strategy

The key to Medellín’s transformation is bold and visionary leadership, as well as social and urban innovation. The elected leaders demonstrated strong political will and commitment to good governance, citizen participation and prioritising equal opportunities for all citizens. Faced with limited resources, they adopted creative and non-conventional approaches in dealing with challenging issues. Medellín emphasised education and cultural transformation to bring about change and implemented small-scale yet effective, high-impact urban projects that have transformed its communities and the city over a short period of time.

The city’s leaders acknowledge that key challenges still remain; urban solutions and creation of jobs must continue to keep pace with growth in order to prevent the reappearance of past problems. The city will have to manage the evolving expectations of its people, and ensure that efforts to meet the basic needs of its citizens are sustained. On the whole, what Medellín has achieved is an inspiration for cities looking to overcome similar challenges, providing important lessons for all cities worldwide. The city continues its steady pursuit of social equity, competitiveness and sustainability, introducing various other long-term projects that further demonstrate its commitment to improving living conditions for its people, especially for the disadvantaged segments of society.

Medellín is no stranger to the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, having been accorded a Special Mention in 2014 for its creative and non-conventional urban solutions that included the world’s first cable car system for daily commuting, library parks that doubled up as social nodes in the city’s poorest districts and urban escalators that greatly improved mobility in one of its most troubled neighbourhoods.

Please refer to Annex A [PDF, 170kb]  for the jury citation on Medellín and Annex B [PDF, 225kb] for Medellín’s key strategies and achievements.

Prize Award Ceremony and Lecture at World Cities Summit 2016

The Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize is a key highlight at the upcoming World Cities Summit which will be held from 10 to 14 July 2016 at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Medellín will be invited to present the Prize Lecture at the Summit on 11 July 2016, and receive the Prize at the Lee Kuan Yew Prize Award Ceremony and Banquet that evening. The Prize comprises a gold medallion, an award certificate, and S$300,000 sponsored by Keppel Corporation.

CEO of Keppel Corporation, Mr Loh Chin Hua said, “We congratulate the city of Medellin and its leaders on this well-deserved commendation. Through harnessing bold and creative ideas, Medellin’s city leaders have placed the city at the forefront of innovative urban development. This drive to innovate resonates with Keppel as we embrace innovation as a core value. We are honoured to be associated as Prize sponsor with this award of distinction which provides a meaningful platform to advance solutions for sustainable urban development.”

Special Mentions

Four cities have been selected for Special Mention to facilitate greater sharing of urban practices with other cities around the world. They are:

1. Auckland, New Zealand
2. Sydney, Australia
3. Toronto, Canada
4. Vienna, Austria

Representatives of the four cities accorded Special Mentions will share their experiences and achievements at a dedicated Prize Forum at the World Cities Summit 2016. Please refer to Annex C [PDF, 191kb] for details of the Special Mentions and Annex D [PDF, 188kb] for more details on the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize.