Graduate Students Research Presentation Series
“Border City: Ciudad Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia”
In the last 15 years, Bogotá went from being renown for corrupt governance and urban chaos to being a model for visionary politics and progressive urban planning. In this document I will analyze Bogotá’s turnaround and evaluate some of the main challenges that the city still faces, specifically considering the case of one of its largest and poorest areas like Ciudad Bolivar.
I will present Ciudad Bolivar and its informal urbanization. I will assess the opportunities and challenges represented by the participatory model of planning and policy-making adopted by the Colombian government in the last decade. I will focus on the difficulties of engaging citizens in the democratic process in economically depressed areas. Finally, I will suggest possible ways of bridging the communication gap between the informal city and political institutions.
Bogotá has experienced tremendous growth in the past century. Today, it is a thriving capital city of more than 7 million people, half of which are poor, according to the Department of City Planning. The city’s population has grown tremendously in the last decades as armed conflict intensified in the countryside forcing many Colombians to migrate to urban centers.
In the midst of Colombia’s ongoing-armed conflict, which spans more than fifty years, Bogotá is the country’s main economic driver, along with the other major urban centers (Medellin, Barranquilla, Cali). Good urban governance has reduced corruption in the administrations, stabilized the economy, and encouraged foreign investment. The financial, industrial, communication and retail sectors provide a decent living for the part of the population employed in the formal sector. Colombia’s GDP growth was one of the highest in Latin America in 2004. The economy of Bogota is not as bad as it could be given the national context. However, one of Bogotá’s main issues is economic disparity. More than half of the population works in the informal sector and about, as many are poor.
 Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile: Colombia, December 2003 & CIA World Fact Book: Colombia, May 2003