This week’s Mexico Infrastructure & Sustainability Review interview of the week is with Pablo Vaggione, Coordinator of the Mexico and Cuba Office of UN-Habitat as he discussed Mexico’s urban planning woes and how the incoming administration can turn things around.
For many years, urban planning has taken a backseat in government agendas resulting in the uneven growth of Mexico’s cities. But Pablo Vaggione, Coordinator of the Mexico and Cuba Office of UN-Habitat, says that has to change if the country wants to reach its maximum potential. “Urban planning has been left pending for many political administrations,” he says. “It is complicated to change yet fundamental to re-think.”
UN-Habitat is an agency of the United Nations that works to improve urban structure and achieve adequate shelter for all. Vaggione says, in his experience, Mexico boasts a privileged geographic position between the Atlantic and Pacific and acts as a bridge between North America and Latin America. It has a large population with a young demographic that gives the country all the right tools to become a leading economy. But it all depends on how Mexico uses these features to its advantage, according to Vaggione. “Infrastructure allows a territory to function and coordinate all its activities, whether they are social, economic or environmental,” he says. “It is a catalyst for development and can help boost the many advantages Mexico possesses.”
At the Habitat III summit in Quito in 2016, the 193 participating countries agreed to establish the New Urban Agenda and pledged to live by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to boost the development of more sustainable cities around the world. “There are 17 SDGs, each with their own specific actions,” Vaggione explains. “Two of every three actions within these goals is related to urban, territorial or local development.” These tools were created to help cities make the most of the resources they have.
Many of the issues Mexico is facing are a consequence of its fast urbanization that took place in the second half of the 20th Century, particularly in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, with little or poor planning of infrastructure projects. As a result, Mexico’s cities have grown spontaneously and without much structure but Vaggione stresses that the structural challenges cities face are not the consequence of one particular political mandate. According to Vaggione, eight of 10 Mexicans now live in cities.
Disparities in growth often cause a fragmented vision for cities, in effect limiting productivity and the quality of life of citizens. “The country must adapt a systematic view of how cities should work and create a network of cities within the country,” he says. “Cities should all have a specific role and complement each other if they are to grow as a whole.”
But establishing well-planned cities is little help if they all become islands within the country. Vaggione says they must be interconnected through the development of resilient infrastructure. “A territory works only when it has good infrastructure that is well-planned and is based on a global, state and national vision,” he says. “We are convinced that Mexico will significantly benefit from a new National Infrastructure Plan that considers the needs of not only the individual sectors, but of the entire country. A strategic vision and the capacity to identify which projects are essential from an evidence-based approach will determine investments with the highest impact and the least risks.”
UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all.
This is an exclusive of the 2018 edition of Mexico Infrastructure & Sustainability Review. If you want to get all the information, plus other relevant insights regarding this industry, pre-order your copy of Mexico Infrastructure & Sustainability Review 2019 or access the digital copy of the 2018 edition.