[31 March 2015] –The Government of Chile first joined the Cities Alliance in 2008, and in February 2015 renewed its commitment to the Cities Alliance. We spoke with Ms. Paulina Saball, Chile’s Minister of Housing and Urban Planning (MINVU), on why reengaging with the Cities Alliance now is important for Chile and the partnership.
Minister Saball noted that Chile welcomes the opportunity offered by the Cities Alliance to engage with the urban debate at the international level, especially now that the process of shaping the new global urban agenda is taking place. She particularly welcomed the Cities Alliance’s focus on equity in cities, which is also a major part of President Michelle Bachelet’s agenda, and opportunities for knowledge exchange.
Below are some highlights of our interview with Minister Saball, conducted by Anaclaudia Rossbach, Cities Alliance Regional Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean.
On Chile's focus on reducing inequality in cities:
The government programme of President Michelle Bachelet has, as central to its agenda, overcoming inequalities, opening up opportunities for all, and moving towards a more inclusive country. We are convinced that inequalities are an obstacle to the growth and development of our populace and the country’s ability to realise its potential and talent.
One of the current priorities in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning is to address issues of urban equality, combat spatial segregation and ensure that all residents benefit from the city, especially the most vulnerable.
In the area of access to housing, we have promoted changes to expand and diversify programmes for the unique requirements of vulnerable families. In addition, we have strengthened programmes for housing improvement and expansion to reduce the housing deficit, improve and revitalise existing housing, and provide better physical and social conditions in housing complexes that have good urban services in their environment.
Along with this, we are expanding programmes to improve neighbourhoods and condominiums, promoting a new programme that will focus interventions on small towns, and investing in infrastructure – all with a strategic vision and relevance to Chile’s distinct regions.
On how the partnership will help Chile's urban agenda:
We have a strategic vision that meshes well with that of the Cities Alliance. Being part of this partnership that brings together governments, local authorities, NGOs, multilateral organisations and associate members is an opportunity to deepen efforts to improve the quality of urban life, disseminate good practices, increase awareness of the important role cities play in the lives of their citizens, and contribute knowledge to improve public policies and programmes.
On what Chile hopes to gain from the partnership
We hope to be part of a substantive discussion on the challenges we all face in improving our cities, especially where most residents lack access to urban services and the development opportunities to achieve the quality of life to which we all aspire.
Being part of and supporting Cities Alliance activities in Latin America and the Caribbean represents an opportunity for Chile to expand our cooperation and knowledge exchange activities with other countries in the region.
On what Chile brings to the partnership:
Chile offers the Cities Alliance partnership experience, accumulated knowledge, and a network with Latin America and the Caribbean countries – all which will contribute to defining a new global urban agenda. We are currently preparing for the 2016 UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development, which will be held in Quito, Ecuador. It’s a great opportunity for Latin America.
On the impact of Cities Alliance support for Chile's 2006 slum upgrading initiative:
Cities Alliance has been a great contributor to the Ministry’s agenda. The partnership provided substantive support to document the process of our Barrio slum upgrading programme begun in 2006, and the activity has provided valuable experience and access to knowledge of other intervention models. Currently the Barrio programme is an important part of our work that has generated many opportunities to coordinate with other ministries and to work with communities. It has also enabled new perspectives to be incorporated into our housing and urban policy.
Representatives from MINVU visited the Cities Alliance Secretariat in February to cement the partnership. Photo: MINVU
We have become convinced that, to make cities a better place for all citizens, we must reduce existing inequalities, intervene in factors that promote urban inequality, and open up space for greater participation by people and their organisations. – Minister Paulina Saball