For safe and inclusive cities: Quito and Cuenca

July 23, 2012


All residents must make a commitment to making their cities safe.

World Bank

  • Building safe cities requires the development of crime prevention strategies.
  • Creation of urban spaces that promote social integration is also a keytopic.
  • Alternative transport systems that are environmentally and health-friendly should be considered.

For a safe city

In recent decades, the rapid urbanization of Ecuador has meant that two of every three citizens now live in urban areas. According to the ECLAC, between 2000 and 2010, Ecuadorian cities had a growth rate of 2.4% annually, compared with the Latin American average of 1.7%. This reality has pressured national and municipal planners, as well as representatives of public and private organizations, to step up efforts to ensure safe, inclusive cities in the country.

A safe city is not built overnight, for which reason all citizens must make a long-term commitment to this end. Making a city safe encompasses several aspects, including the design of urban spaces that encourage inclusive social integration, such as parks, sports facilities and community areas. Moreover, during the urban planning processes, strategies should be designed for crime prevention and the development of comprehensive neighborhood security projects.

Since 2009, the District Municipality of Quito has been implementing the Urban Risk Reduction Program, with support from the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). This program has World Bank financing from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR). Its main objective is to promote a culture of prevention that incorporates the concept of security from a perspective of comprehensive urban risk reduction and prevention, including natural and technological hazards, violence and road security issues.

Ricardo Peñaherrera, coordinator of the Urban Risk Reduction Program, said that the project has encouraged municipalities to view risk management as a management of processes to prevent future risks through corrective action management – reducing existing vulnerabilities—as well as through reactive management, to prepare for and implement an effective, efficient response.

Program results go even further, however: in the community area, two pilot projects were launched to promote community participation in the design of safe recreation spaces. According to César Lescano, president of the Santa María Neighborhood Association in Cotocollao, Quito, the project has promoted teamwork and the renewal of public spaces. This has directly benefited citizens, who can now use the parks, playgrounds and sports facilities day and night to engage in healthy leisure and integration activities.

" Our work in Ecuador focuses on achieving sustainable, socially inclusive growth, for which reason we share innovative tools and knowledge adapted to the different Latin American realities.  "

Pedro Alba

World Bank Director of Strategy and Operations for Latin America and the Caribbean

Discussing the future of cities

Cuenca, Ecuador’s third largest city, was the site for the conference “Hacia Ciudades Seguras, Sostenibles e Incluyentes” (Making Cities Safe, Sustainable and Inclusive) organized by the Municipality of Cuenca and the World Bank on June 14-15. At the event, participants shared their experiences in urban planning, disaster risk management, urban planning for the construction of safe housing and planning for alternative public transportation systems.

Participants exchanged opinions regarding the development of a strategy for achieving a safe city. María del Pilar Cornejo, national secretary for Risk Management in Ecuador, underscored the need to include environmentally-friendly risk management, which prioritizes respect for life and nature to effectively reduce risks.

Pedro Alba, World Bank Director of Strategies and Operations for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that “our work in Ecuador focuses on achieving sustainable, socially inclusive growth, for which reason we share innovative tools and knowledge adapted to the different Latin American realities.”

At the conference, several speakers presented their experiences with planned public housing and preventive resettlements as a risk reduction strategy, as well as the use of alternative transportation.

Creating a safe city requires a multilevel strategy. Several participants provided input on this issue. Cuenca Mayor Paul Granda stressed the need to develop multisectoral cooperation mechanisms to consolidate Cuenca as a safe, sustainable and inclusive city, which could eventually serve as a regional center for the provision of high-quality services.

With respect to transportation, event participants discussed experiences with bike programs in different cities, such as Montreal’s BIXI public bike system, the bike-sharing program in Denver, Colorado and the eco-bike system in Mexico. These and other examples encouraged participants to discuss the need for alternative environment- and health-friendly modes of transportation.

With regard to disaster risk management, participants highlighted cases of preventive resettlement, the relocation of families living in dangerous areas, as well as measures for reducing risks when they cannot be mitigated through other actions. Participants agreed that a resettlement strategy required designing information and communication systems and conflict resolution mechanisms as well as defining transparency and accountability mechanisms. The experiences of Quito, La Paz, Cuenca, Buenos Aires and others were discussed.

Finally, with respect to housing, participants discussed management of property registry systems, improvement of informal settlements and planning for public housing.