A safe city as a just and equitable city
The sixth dialogue started off, appropriately, with a discussion of Medellin's transformation from the "Murder Capital of the World" to the vibrant and much safer city it is today. The importance of citizen’s "eyes" in helping the police's work was emphasized, as was the military police's infrastructure development work, including building schools, roads, and aqueducts.
The moderator, Edwin Heathcote, told an anecdote from his recent travels to explain why this topic is so near to his heart: in a South African slum he visited, young girls have a 60 percent chance of being raped sometime over the course of their schooling. His next stop was Copenhagen, where in an "edgier" neighborhood, he saw mothers leaving their babies outside unattended while they went to the movies.
Two young Plan International delegates from Kampala, Uganda, as part of the "Because I am a Girl" campaign, talked about their experiences with safety and the lack thereof growing as young girls in a slum. They emphasized the importance of involving young girls in the policy decision-making process that concerns them.
Rodrigo Alejandro Nieto Enriquez, Vice Minister of Mexico, discussed how urban sprawl and dispersion makes for long, expensive commutes. Sixty percent of the urban surfaces required over the next few decades are not yet built – we need to re-plan our cities to make this growth viable. The Vice Minister called for "a compact city," but the trick is to consolidate in an orderly manner. Housing and land policies are also a big component of safety, as they must be accessible by the vulnerable. Mr. Nieto also emphasized that public space must open to all (not just vehicle-owners), the importance of access to telecommunications, and protection from climate change-related urban risks.
Josephine Castillo, Grassroots Community Leader and Organizer at DAMPA (Philippines) provided the grassroots perspective, highlighting the importance of community involvement and consulting the people themselves. She also raised an important point regarding violence against women: "we need the participation of men!"
Dr. Sook-Jin Lee, the President of the Seoul Foundation of Women and Family, made an excellent argument that safety in the city does not just mean safety in the physical environment: security is linked to employment, income, and job security. Even in cities in the global North, like Seoul, urban policies are often made for a "typical" male citizen, not women, children, teenage girls, or the mentally and physically disabled. Dr. Lee described the "Herstory tour" initiative of Seoul women organized by her foundation, where women described the safety-related issues they faced at each stage of life (from access to birth control for teenagers to having enough saved for retirement).
Diana Ortega, a Member at La Familia Ayara in Colombia provided a dynamic youth perspective. She argued that politicians performing empowerment and participatory exercises with youth is not sufficient if they don’t influence the decisions made. And instead of strictly punishing delinquents and gang members, she encouraged politicians to develop other options for young people that they’re interested in, like hip hop initiatives. In terms of women's safely, Ms. Ortega challenged some of the previously mentioned arguments: "Women shouldn't be consulted as beneficiaries and participants, they should be those in power, making the decisions!"
Mayor Antonio Zapata of Corregidora, Mexico, provided the political perspective, emphasizing that politicians must be visionary and think on the long-term. For him, police and security systems must understand their role of improving citizens' quality of life. And citizens must be active participants of security as well.
Finally, two members of La Familia Ayara treated the audience to an impressive improvised rap performance on topics of inequality and safety.