The Medellin Miracle

It is well known that ‘critical junctures’ can rupture the political fabric and transform social relations. But the way these junctures are used by political actors, and how the spaces that open up in the wake of crises can facilitate change is underexplored. The ‘Medellín Miracle’ is the term popularly used to describe the dramatic reduction in violence in Colombia’s second-largest city. Medellín's critical juncture was reached in the early 1990s when, with the highest murder rate in the world, it was declared ‘most violent city on earth’. 

This DLP-commissioned study draws on interviews with Medellín’s political, business and civil society leaders and uses a structure-agency analysis to examine the politics behind the city’s remarkable transformation. It concludes that unlikely coalitions between reformers and those who represent the status quo are a necessary element of change - compromise is crucial for turning policy into action. Further, politics is as important as policy: it alters who defines the agenda, sits at the table and enacts change, and this matters as much as the direct impact of specific policies and projects.

Researcher: Kate Maclean (Birkbeck College, University of London)

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About DLP

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

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