What is more economical, to repair the damage or prevent tragedies?
On February 8, the forum "Human Settlements and Urban Development" was held, organized by Foros Semana, the Caja de la Vivienda Popular, and the Mayor's Office of Bogota.
Authorities and experts in the field agreed that Bogota is a pioneer in Latin America when creating policies for the settlement of vulnerable communities that focus on risk prevention. However, there are challenges to overcome in order to achieve the effective application of the norms and, above all, to guarantee the survival of thousands of families in the country.
The human resettlement program created by the Popular Housing Fund (CVP) was designed as a preventive measure to protect people residing in high-risk areas and relocate those who have been displaced.
According to the director of the magazine Semana, Alejandro Santos Rubino, the Colombian capital is a benchmark for Latin American cities, since most similar programs are focused on measures of reaction to disasters and not prevention.
According to figures presented by the Director General of the CVP, Guillermo Arcila Hoyos, in 2017 1058 homes were resettled as part of this program. Of the beneficiaries, 67% were heads of families, and 25% were households where a member of the family group had a disability condition. The director also said that given the high costs of both human lives and material goods resulting from a disaster, it is more economical to implement preventive resettlement measures.
However, despite the advantages of prevention policies, there are different aspects that hinder the effective execution of these programs. One of the main challenges has to do with persuading people that they are in danger and they need to be relocated. The loss of housing can have a great impact on a family, not only because of the effort involved in obtaining or building it, but also because it leads to the breakdown of social and economic networks that are often the sustenance of these people.
In that sense, the Minister of Environment, Luis Alberto Murillo, declared that "the best strategy to relocate and resettle people is to guarantee access to a decent job." Forum participants repeatedly stated that resettlement cannot be limited to the allocation of a physical dwelling but must be a comprehensive accompaniment program.
In the words of Carlos Mario Álvarez, mayor of Armenia, it is necessary "a human security approach"; that is to say, ways must be found to mitigate the impact of uprooting and guarantee access for families to employment, health, education, and sports.
Álvarez also called attention to the economic causes of displacement. According to the mayor, in the context of the post-conflict, it is common for discussions to revolve around the displacement caused by violence. However, it is essential to recognize that a large part of migration to cities is driven by the need for families to generate more income.
Regarding this point, the participants in the forum said that it is essential to look at the country as a whole, but there is still no human settlement policy at the national level. Andrés Ortiz, Secretary of District Planning, affirmed the need to generate employment opportunities in different places to create other poles of attraction in addition to the larger capitals.
Likewise, Elena Correa, specialist in Social Development and Resettlement and consultant of the World Bank, spoke of the importance of considering in an integrated way the urban-rural system, a topic mentioned by several of the participants in the forum.
Colombia must face, without a doubt, great challenges related to forced displacement, extreme climate events, urban migration; to which is added the massive mobilization of Venezuelans to a large part of the national territory. Only in Bogota, there are more than 9000 households that are in areas of high risk that cannot be mitigated. The achievements in the conceptualization of the resettlement issue and the formulation of programs need to be implemented effectively.
Resettlement is an opportunity to improve the living conditions of vulnerable populations. Although the strategies designed in the Colombian capital are a reference in the region, it is essential that the district administration and the national government commit themselves to execute the practical issue, guarantee the continuity of the processes and the coordination of the institutions so that the families of the country are really benefited by these policies.
Latin American Post | Paula Bautista
Translated by “Bogotá es líder en políticas de reasentamiento”