Skip to main content
For the people, with the people

Some 3 million people in poor neighborhoods in Mexico’s cities lack drinking water, while 6 million more have no sanitation services. The growing demands caused by massive urban migration are challenging poverty reduction programs all over Latin America and the Caribbean. “Cities are the places where poverty is most visible,” said IDB president Enrique V. Iglesias at a recent seminar on the achievements of a young Mexican social program known as Habitat. The program, that seeks to help Mexico’s poorest urban residents, was launched in 60 cities in 2003; now it has 7,700 projects covering 700 neighborhoods in 173 cities. Habitat builds or improves basic infrastructure such as water pipes, roads, home electrification, public lighting and trash collection. It also delivers social services such as labor training. But the key component in Habitat is not what it does, but how it does it. “Community participation is both the core and spirit of the program,” emphasized Mexico’s Social Development Secretary Josefina Vázquez at the seminar. Community action, she added, guarantees the program’s long-term viability. “Our cities should be good patrimonial investments,” said Vázquez. “Cities should grant legal certainty to those who live in them and essentially become safe spaces (…) to live in better conditions of dignity and freedom.” President Iglesias highlighted the need to identify and disseminate best practices such as Habitat so others are able to learn from them. Habitat’s example emphasizes the fact that the region’s biggest concern is the social issue, he stated. To address it, he added, “social concerns and economic issues have to be seen as two faces of the same coin.”

The program recently received a $350 million loan from the IDB. According to Vázquez, Habitat’s success should be leading the way in social policy. The IDB has invited the Habitat team to present the program during the next annual meeting of the Bank’s Board of Governors, to take place in Okinawa, Japan, in April 2005. Social development ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean will participate for the first time in this event. “That will be the starting point of a new cycle for Habitat involving social policy,” concluded Vázquez, “but above all, for the millions of fellow citizens who live in poverty in our cities.”

Jump back to top