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Mayors Presented at OAS their Visions of Security, Development and Quality of Life in Cities of the Region

  September 14, 2010

Three mayors from capital cities of the Americas met at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC, to present their experiences and recommendations about security in cities of the region, in the framework of the forty-first Lecture Series of the Americas, titled, "Perspectives from City Hall: Better Cities for Better Lives."

Welcoming participants, OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin referred to the importance of talking about security in the cities of the hemisphere and the impact on the quality of life. "Millions of people from across our region migrate to urban centers in search of employment opportunities, better access to health and other public services, and higher quality education. For that reason, the demographic and economic importance of the region's cities cannot be overstated. In 2000, urban centers concentrated 75% of the 523 million Latin American and Caribbean inhabitants and generated over 50% of the region's economic growth," he explained.

Ramdin also pointed out that the Americas is home to 4 of the 15 largest cities in the world, (Mexico City, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Rio de Janeiro), which are "the center of Latin-America's political, economic and social life." Nevertheless, he affirmed that "despite the rapid development and progress of many of our cities, they often lack the necessary infrastructure and social services to absorb the growing number of inhabitants."

In his speech, Ramdin referred to the OAS efforts to generate an open dialogue about the main issues on the hemispheric agenda and to contribute to improve the quality of life of the people of the hemisphere. "Addressing the complex realities of our great cities requires a comprehensive and multidimensional approach that includes political, economic, social, and environmental aspects," he added.

The Mayor Senator, Councillor, C.D. of Kingston, Jamaica, Desmond A.A. McKenzie, spoke about the efforts to combat crime and violence in the biggest English-speaking Caribbean city, including the initiatives to prevent organized crime and strengthen law enforcement.

According to McKenzie, easy access to guns and ammunitions is one of the main causes of insecurity in his country, an issue on which authorities have concentrated their efforts. In the debate, he advocated for greater decentralization to achieve the objectives of local authorities. "We need to see much more being done for the benefit of the cities in the region," he said and added that forums such as the one provided by the OAS should "ensure the local government is given the same recognition that central government is given."

For his part, the former mayor of Bogota, Enrique Peñalosa Londoño (1998-2001), asserted that "to live without fear" is every citizen's "fundamental right."

"We are resigned to urban insecurity, we do not have the legislation nor do we give it the priority that the matter requires. For example, no Latin American country has a significant punishment for underage criminals or more severe punishment for rescidivism." During his presentation, Peñalosa also said that one way to work in favor of safe cities is by fomenting social equality that "builds legitimacy."

Also, the current mayor of Lima, Oscar Luis Castañeda, asserted that "the efforts of a city must aim towards quality of life such as culture, health services, and not toward citizen indifference." The problem of security, he said, must be resolved by fighting delinquency "from its roots."

The presenters of the Lecture Series of the Americas were introduced by the Chair of the Permanent Council of the OAS and Permanent Representative of Ecuador, Maria Isabel Salvador. The Lecture was moderated by the Permanent Representative of Panama, Guillermo Cochez.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-330/10