Colombian city awarded LKY city prize

SINGAPORE - Around 20 years ago, it was considered the most violent city in the world, caught in the grip of a powerful drug cartel.

Yet today, its homicide rate has decreased by 95 per cent and extreme poverty by 66 per cent.

The Colombian city of Medellin was on Wednesday (March 16) named this year's winner of the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize.

Jointly organised by Singapore's Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Centre for Liveable Cities and sponsored by Keppel Corporation, it is a biennial award honouring outstanding contributions towards the creation of vibrant, liveable and sustainable urban commuities.

The city will be awarded the prize on July 11 at the World Cities Summit in Singapore.

The jury citation for the prize stated that the transformation of Medellin was all the more exceptional given that its difficulties were exacerbated by drug-fuelled rooftop battles.

Medellin's leaders have introduced the world's first cable car for regular commuting, connecting poor communities in the hilly surburbs to the rest of the city below. This was one of the innovative urban solutions that earned Colombia's second largest city a special mention in the 2014 prizw.

City authorities have also implemented a number of other measures to improve social equity, such as legalising informal housing units that were structurally sound.

Professor Kishore Mahbubani, chairman of the prize nominating committee, said: "Clearly what the world desperately needs now are innovative and sustainable urban solutions."

On Medellin, Prof Kishore added: "Its success gives hope to many cities in developing countries, where the next wave of massive urbanisation will take place."

Current mayor Federico Guitierez Zuluaga said in a statement that Medellin is "a spectacular city that has come a long way but also has a long way to go".

Previous winners include Bilbao city hall in Spain, New York and Suzhou in China. This year, special mentions were awarded to Auckland, Toronto, Sydney and Vienna.

This year's World Cities Summittakes place from July 10 to 14.