Mexico City at a Crossroads: Urban Challenges of the 21st Century - Panel Discussions


Saturday, April 1, 2017, 10:00am to 6:45pm


Fong Auditorium, Boylston Hall, Harvard Yard

Urban Challenges in an Age of Shifting Sovereignties
Register here. Registration is not required to attend, but it is encouraged.

See the full program agenda here.

This two-day conference addresses current challenges hampering Mexico City’s urban development, sharing lessons learned so far and engaging in a dialogue with Harvard faculty and students on the city's direction going forward. Emerging from a complex history to take a role as a leading global metropolis, Mexico City is in flux, facing both the environmental challenges of its own massive scale as well as shifting territorialities and modalities of governance. The conference begins with a keynote address by Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera on Friday evening, followed by a set of panels on Saturday that will showcase the work of a range of scholars and public officials who are seeking to understand the city’s health, transportation, water, and security challenges. The overall objective of the conference is to examine how Mexico City’s standing as a national powerhouse with global aspirations has enabled or constrained its capacities to effectively meet the urban challenges of the 21st century. In the process, the conference seeks to generate a dialogue across a range of different governance institutions ranging from the local to the regional to the national, asking questions about what forms of interinstitutional cooperation will most advance sustainability aims.

Friday, March 31, 2017, 6:30pm
Keynote address: Urban Challenges in an Era of Climate Change
Piper Auditorium, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 48 Quincy Street, Cambridge
Speaker: Miguel Angel Mancera, Mayor of Mexico City

Saturday, April 1, 2017, 10:00am
Panel Discussions: Urban Challenges in an Age of Shifting Sovereignties

Fong Auditorium, Boylston Hall, Harvard Yard

Panel I: Infrastructure

Description: This panel examines Mexico City’s complex and contentious relationship with its environment, drawing from both past and contemporary perspectives. Discussion will cover historical aspects of the city’s natural context as well as its present-day struggle to come to terms with the results of that history, including water resources management, public transportation, pressing environmental crises of subsidence and contamination, and mega-projects like the drenaje profundo. The implications of continued growth for Latin America’s second-largest city, including inequalities of access, mobility, and services, will also be debated. Kicking off the theme of the capital city’s scalar dynamics and relations with the national government, topics will include provision of services and infrastructure to growing peripheral areas and the historical relationship of Mexico City to its surrounding countryside.

Panel II: Environmental Health

Description: Drawing on perspectives from public health, human rights, and the environment, this panel will explore current and historical environmental health in Mexico City. In particular, panelists will look into rapid growth and its impacts, exercise and obesity, and the relation of public health with the built and natural environment. Picking up on themes from Panel 1, questions of air quality, access to clean water and sanitation, and differentials between the center city and the periphery will also be central to the discussion. Mexico’s present-day challenges of inequality and violence across city and national scales and their corresponding health effects will also be considered from this cross-sector viewpoint.

Panel III: Governance

Description: What Mexico City’s new Constitution means for the city and the nation-- including the debate and public discussion surrounding it-- will be this panel’s focus. Going beyond the text alone, this discussion will bring to the forefront broad questions about scales of governance and cities’ role in the 21st century. These questions are more relevant than ever,  now that many of the first two panels’ topics-- climate change and environmental quality, health and violence, inequity, and infrastructure --  transcend territorial boundaries and manifest themselves at both at the hyper-local and the trans-national scale. Panelists will debate the most appropriate scalar framing for democratic representation and accountability, taking into account both legitimacy and capacity, as well as the changing nature of urban problems in the contemporary era.

Click here for the detailed agenda.