Conflict and Fragility

Big Cities: Sources of and Solutions to New Insecurities
13 Nov 2014 09:00
Source: Flickr / MARQUINAM

For a full report of the event click here.

Large cities across the developed and developing world act more than ever as globalized magnets for people, investments and power. Their exceptional, yet ambiguous status is demonstrated by the outstanding importance given to urban economies by central governments and the international community, as well the fear that is conveyed by the extraordinary concentration of diverse people in environments exposed to numerous illicit and violent influences. This thematic meeting of the Knowledge Platform is intended to provide an opportunity to absorb the latest scholarly and policy thinking on the role of cities, above all in fragile and conflict-affected environments, as well as to discuss possible donor responses to the dangers that these urban centres can pose.

Given the enormous variety of issues raised by the scale of urban development across the world, the meeting will focus on three sets of issues.

The first concern is that of insecurity within the city, whether involving organized crime, gang activities or other forms of armed violence. It will inquire as to what political, social and economic conditions tend to be associated with the emergence of violence and crime, and how cities can become predisposed towards acting as magnets for the displacement of coercion and illicit activities from elsewhere. The extreme violence associated with certain Latin American cities, as well as the exposure of urban areas in Asia and Africa to threats and terrorism from radical armed groups, will both be examined.

A second concern, closely related to the first, is the way many cities are being shaped and controlled on the basis of principles and methods that tend to emphasis segregation, surveillance, control and heavy-handed policing. While there is little doubt that cities are exposed to multiple and hybrid threats of crime and organized violence, there remain doubts as to which emerging doctrines of urban policing and control are appropriate means to deal with these threats, or whether certain approaches may contribute to the consolidation of violent and illicit networks by reinforcing social marginalization.

Lastly, a third part of the meeting will focus on the means in which urban populations, particularly those at risk of systemic exclusion, can or should act to enhance their access to political decision-making and curb localized threats to human security. Particular attention could be paid to ways in which non-state security provision and other forms of community empowerment can take place, even in conditions that would appear distinctly hostile to these forms of organization. The seminar will also pose the critical question as to what the international community of donors and civil society can do to mitigate the risks of insecurity in massive urban environments.
Click here to read the programme and here for a background note.