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06 Apr
The Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts
Apr 6, 2015 | 6:30 PM-8:00 PM

Urban Democracy Lab


The Right to Have Rights: Citizenship Culture and the Future of Cities

Between 1994 and 2002, Bogotá, Colombia, was the site of a grand social experiment in activating urban residents’ capacity for cooperation and management. Through a fusion of art, pedagogy, and public policy, then-Mayor Antanas Mockus, a mathematician and philosopher who was formerly a professor and provost at the National University of Colombia, inspired Bogotá citizens to work together in devising and applying solutions to the city’s most pressing problems. Together, Bogotá’s population participated in the shared creative project of addressing not only a soaring homicide rate and entrenched corruption, but also tax evasion, infrastructural woes, and basic social intolerance. In one famous episode, Mayor Mockus encouraged citizens to counter a severe water shortage by turning off the water in the shower as they soaped up – a process Mockus himself modeled on national television. By the time the shortage ended, residents had voluntarily reduced their water usage by 40 percent, not only ending the crisis, but saving themselves money in the process. This playful style of governance animated what Mockus has called “Citizenship Culture,” or the promotion of citizenship that harmonizes legal, moral, and social norms with a collective desire to preserve the well-being of fellow citizens. “Citizenship Culture” has now been introduced to cities around the world, and both NYU Gallatin and the Urban Democracy Lab are pleased to bring Antanas Mockus here for its New York City debut.

About Antanas Mockus
Teacher, politician, writer, researcher and innovator of the “Citizenship Culture” methodology, Antanas Mockus is currently the President of Corpovisionarios. Mockus has a Master’s in Philosophy from the National University of Colombia and two doctorates, one from Paris VIII University and another from the National University of Colombia. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard University and visiting fellow at the Nuffield College (Oxford University). He served as provost of the National University of Colombia from 1991 to 1993.

Mockus was elected Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia twice, from 1995 to 1997 and from 2001 to 2003. Both times, he reduced the rate of homicides in the city by 40%, made major fiscal improvements, and established participatory budgeting processes in 20 locations. Prof. Mockus ran for the Colombian presidency in 2010, but was defeated in a runoff election against candidate Alvaro Uribe.