Violence in cities across Africa, Asia and Latin America is here to stay and can no longer be seen as a problem which can be challenged and overcome through development programmes, the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said, quoting a new research published this week in the October issue of Environment and Urbanization.
Drawing on papers from countries including Afghanistan, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Haiti, South Africa and Southern Sudan, this more realistic approach could be a crucial step to enable those affected by urban violence to better manage day-to-day occurrences and to understand and challenge the structures which cause it.
The journal’s editorial urges policymakers to recognise violence as an integral part of development and consider measures to reduce, manage or contest it, rather than trying to ‘solve’ the problem.
“Lethal violence and its associated fear continue to escalate in cities across the world. While it may be considered controversial, we need to adopt a different position on urban violence and recognise that it is not going to go away,” the journal’s co-editor, Caroline Moser, of the Global Urban Research Centre at the University of Manchester, said.
“Instead of trying to solve the problem, policymakers need to focus on empowering local communities to contest and confront the structural and political causes that lead to urban violence.”
One paper in the journal sets out the most important emerging trends on gangs in recent years. It shows how working with groups at local, national and regional level helps to understand the complex relationship between gangs, their identities and what motivates them.
Understanding how these groups are structured rather than trying to dismantle them has proved effective in reducing gang-related violence.
Another paper points to responses to gender-based violence which tends to be more frequent and acute in cities in the global South. This goes beyond individual measures, such as women carrying pepper sprays or learning self-defence, to collective solutions in which women work together to identify their right to live, work and move in the city without fearing the day-to-day threat of violence.
“In cities, the response to violence needs to engage all key actors, particularly at local level. These responses also need to address the everyday violence which in most cities has far more impact than the occasional more sensational stories of violence reported in the international media,” Cathy McIlwaine of Queen Mary, University of London, who co-edited the journal alongside Moser, said.
Photo: Angry black South Africans armed with knives and machetes prepare to attack black African foreigners in 2008. Credit: GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images (The Big Picture, Boston.com)