New DLP research on the Medellin Miracle
How can political spaces open up in the wake of a crisis of violence? And how can political actors use those spaces to create dramatic change?
Dr Kate Maclean's new paper, The 'Medellín Miracle': The Politics of Crisis, Elites and Coalitions, explores the remarkable case of Colombia's second city. After being named the most violent city in the world, Medellín managed to reduce its homicide rate by 90%, and has become a pioneer of inclusive urban development.
The study draws on interviews with Medellín's political, business and civil society leaders and on a structure-agency analysis. It concludes that formal legislative landmarks, such as Colombia's new constitution, are important, but changes in the 'informal rules of the game' – the social and cultural dynamics that frame the way that coalitions and leaders are formed – are also crucial. Among its findings are the following:
- Structural factors that enable violent actors to gain power include inequality, exclusion, lack of state monopoly over legitimate use of force, and the blurring of the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate political actors.
- Factors that enable critical junctures to become progressive spaces include: the presence of external actors and funding; the range of political actors who all perceive they would benefit from a reduction of the threat; and institutional changes at local, national and global level.
- Political actors can use the spaces created by critical junctures to influence the agenda, gain a seat at the table and collaborate with the 'powers that be' while challenging existing power dynamics.
- Elites can be motivated to redefine power dynamics that have favoured them if they perceive they would benefit; their agenda and the reform agenda overlap; and if change can be understood as a reaffirmation of their power.
To find out more about the study's findings and implications: