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Notes from the Field: Jordanian Mayors and Municipal Councilors Study Tour of Colombia, Day 1

This week, IRI is touring two cities in Colombia with a group of mayors, municipal councilors, and a citizen participant in IRI’s programs in Jordan. 

Over the next couple of days, we invite you to tour the country with us to share the experience with our delegation!  For the first part of the trip, we’ll be in Medellin, a city that has transformed dramatically over the last 20 years. 

Medellin is a beautiful yet hip, modern city nestled in a valley that is surrounded by lush mountains.   But the very mention of the name often invokes associations of Medellin’s dark past. Walking around it now, it is hard to imagine a time when Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel terrorized Medellin and earned it the infamous status of the world’s most violent city.

The transformation, of course, was not an accidental occurrence, but rather the end result of years of dedication by Medellin’s elected officials, dedicated city staff, and citizens who were determined to build a better future for their city. 

The Director of Medellin’s Planning Department (@AlcaldiadeMed @PlaneacionMed), Jorge Alberto Perez Jaramillo (@PerezJaramilloA), provided an overview of what has changed over the last 20 years, and what changes are yet to come.  He talked extensively about the importance of having a comprehensive urban plan, and breaking that plan into smaller parts that bring citizens and the private sector into the process.  

In particular, social integration, particularly of impoverished areas, and plans for transportation networks that minimize the role of private automobiles have been and continue to be key elements of Medellin’s city development plan.  A free bikeshare program complements a metro system, metro cable cars and massive escalators that connect mountainous areas with the city center in the valley below, and a public bus network.  International design competitions provide inspiring, world-class buildings and public spaces to Medellin’s landscape.  

The visit left the delegation curious and inspired, and ready to tour Medellin. 


The group next visited Medellin’s public utilities company, EPM, to learn how EPM works with the city to provide revenue while also playing a critical role in Medellin’s ongoing development through corporate social responsibility initiatives.  

Throughout the day, the Jordanian delegation took notice of how clean Medellin is.  City cleanliness consistently ranks as a top issue of concern among citizens in Jordan’s municipalities, and as such is often at the forefront of the minds of city leaders.  A city representative relayed the emphasis the city places on recycling, saying that residents sort their recycling into color-coded bags at home.  She also noted that there are no economic incentives to recycle, and that while not everyone is judicious about recycling, the city consistently reminds people through public relations campaigns of the importance of recycling and of taking pride in your city.  Soon thereafter, the Jordanian visitors noticed the prominence of recycling containers in various points throughout the city. 

We took in a lot of great ideas in one short day, with two more to follow in Medellin alone!  Be sure to check back in as we continue our tour!

Posted by

Carrie Schenkel Reasonover

Senior Program Manager, Europe