Meeting the challenges of security provision in cities of tomorrow

24 September 2015

To kickstart a study titled ‘Cities, Violence and Order: the challenges and complex taxonomy of security provision in cities of tomorrow’, a group of about 20 urbanists met at the Institute of Development Studies to consider what the challenges of security provision in cities might look like in 2040; and how development policy and practice might pre-emptively respond to these challenges today.

Technological innovation: The Place - a new open-air shopping mall in Beijing's central business district. The roof of the mall, is the biggest LCD television screen in Asia. Photo credit: Christain Als / Panos

Why cities? Why violence? And why order?

Though cities vary tremendously in size, shape, and other socio political attributes, history tells us that they have been key elements of our systems of governance. This role goes far beyond their importance to economic functioning and national output, and predates the relatively recent shift towards an urban majority share of global population. By even the most conservative estimates, cities will play a central role in global, regional, national and sub-national dynamics over the coming two decades, and beyond. Understanding the nature of this role, the type of impacts urban living will have on people, and the relationship these share with outcomes of violence and order, are therefore key considerations for policymakers, researchers and ‘city-zens’ alike.

We know that the geography of violent conflict has changed, and is increasingly focused on cities; but we might also argue that control over cities has long been the objective of violent conflicts, even if actual combat occurs in rural settings. Another mechanism through which violent conflict affects cities is that urban settings have become the preferred destination for more than half of conflict induced refugees globally.

This changes the urban tissue in more ways than one, and stands as testimony to the drawing power of the potential for opportunities in cities. Growth in population is the obvious impact – Kabul is one of the fastest growing cities in the world primarily due to the influx of those displaced by the protracted conflict in Afghanistan, while Khartoum, in Sudan, has one of the largest concentration of urban refugees in Africa. With this, come severe strains on the provision of basic services, housing, other essential facilities like health clinics and schools. Eventually, the need for sustainable income generating opportunities becomes paramount, and the local informal economy is almost always the primary arena for jobs, to get food, goods and other services.

However, the language of ‘violence’ and ‘order’ is of particular importance, and more nuanced thinking is needed to understand the challenges surrounding the complex taxonomy of security provision in cities. Violence might occur ‘on cities’ (as in cities under siege). But it might also occur ‘within cities’ (where violence is located in urban settings, but almost by circumstance), or it may be ‘inherent to cities’ (where the types of violence are specifically urban in nature; and even become ingrained in the everyday fabric of urban life). Similarly, ‘ordered cities’ are often synonymised with ‘planned’, ‘smart’, or even ‘charter’ cities, liberating in their monolithic system of governance. As Laurent Gayer argues in his tour-de-force on Karachi however, urban order can also be repressive, and ‘order for whom?’ becomes the operative question. Evidence from around the world suggests that both state and non-state actors are intricately involved in creation and sustenance of urban order. On the other hand, we also know that urban governance arrangements can change rapidly, leaving substantive unknowns in terms of how order in cities in the future will be created, who will deliver it, and for whom it will be delivered.

Understanding violence and order through the three dimensions of urban form

Our suggestion is that using dimensions of urban form in the cities of today, can provide some starting points into understanding violence and order in cities of tomorrow.

The three dimensions of urban form used in our discussion included:

Grid – the spatial design, layout and planning of the urban tissue; as shaped by economic, political, technological, social and gendered factors.

Governance – the processes and structures that form the institutions through which people are excluded and included; as shaped by the willingness and capacity of state and non-state actors.

Ephemerality – the shifting identities and uses of spaces; as shaped by the fluidity of governance structures.

Three dimensions of urban form

It is important to acknowledge upfront that this three-way articulation of the urban form was used more as a heuristic tool to widen our thinking, rather than a framework to limit the scope of discussions. Indeed, several alternate castings are plausible, including one that is interpreted through the dimensions of Infrastructure-Governance-Contingency, or around Planning-Policing-Possibilities, for example, or castings that use fewer or more dimensions. The point of such a heuristic tool is to not only systematise thinking about cities into the various dimensions, but importantly to push us to focus on the overlap of two, or more, dimensions.

For example, the organisational set up of municipalities would pertain to governance, while the role of non-state actors in the provision of essential services such as water or neighbourhood policing would be placed in the overlap of the governance and ephemerality dimensions. As another example, elements of the city master plan, such as zoning demarcations (hawker zones for instance) would be placed in the grid dimension, but multiple or shifting uses of public spaces (street markets during the day, places of congregation or prayer in the evening, for instance) would be placed at the intersection of the grid and ephemerality dimensions.

‘Security’ and ‘insecurity' are often interpreted as two distinct manifestations by governments, citizens, and urban policymakers alike. We used an alternative typology, which recognises that at a level of aggregation that affords a holistic view of cities, the two are part of the same continuum. At a fundamental level that is, situations that may be characterised as being ‘secure’, may only be characterised as such by some groups, in certain locations within the city, or in certain socio-temporal contexts. And that those very situations could also be seen as being ‘insecure’ for different groups, in different locations, or in different socio-temporal contexts. That is, the security-insecurity continuum in cities might be placed at the intersection of all three dimensions. Doing so recognises that both ‘secure’ and ‘insecure’ outcomes in cities result out of varying combinations of elements in each of the three dimensions.

Three dimensions of urban form with explainer text

‘Secure’ or ‘insecure’ outcomes, far from being a linear function of policing interventions, as they are often typecast, can in effect be broken into several elements and placed in relation to the three dimensions, as illustrated here:

Drivers of Change

The three dimensions, however, gave way to several future ‘cityscapes’, generated out of collectively identified sets of drivers of change, or key trends and external forces that are driving change in cities now, or are emerging as drivers of future change. Our discussion was broad, and underscored the need for an integrated and systems approach to charting the future of cities. Several interlinked clusters of future drivers of change emerged, some impacting the city directly, while others operated through their impact on the transactional environment within which the city sits. The identified clusters and their drivers included:

Population dynamics: The first generation of children born in a resettlement colony in Mumbai. Photo credit: Jaideep GuptePopulation dynamics:
How ‘youth’ engage with cities and urban spaces in relation to, for example, economic migration, innovation, or illegality; shifting household arrangements – composition and location; ageing populations.

(Photo: 'The first generation of children born in a resettlement colony in Mumbai'. Credit: Jaideep Gupte.)
 

Authoritative control of urban space: Typical architecture of housing built for slum- and footpath dwellers in the city of Mumbai. The closeness of the buildings restrict most sunlight from entering the lower floors. Photo credit: Jaideep GupteAuthoritative control of urban space:
Controlled or passive response to urbanisation; physical infrastructure generating division; fragmentation of cities; militarisation of domestic policing and order; the threat of conflict impacting city design; survivors of violence in cities.

(Photo: 'Typical architecture of housing built for slum- and footpath dwellers in the city of Mumbai. The closeness of the buildings restricts most sunlight from entering the lower floors.' Credit: Jaideep Gupte.)

 

 

 

 

Changing meaning of cities and urban living: Nos do Cinema group posing for a picture at the end of shooting for the film in Favela da Rocinha. The organisation's objective is to promote social inclusion of youth in low-income neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro through cinema and technology. Photo credit: Eduardo Martino / Panos.

Changing meaning of cities and urban living
Anti-urban movement; meaning ‘in’ cities and meaning ‘of’ cities; persistent patriarchy; politics of language and culture.

(Photo: Nos do Cinema group posing for a picture at the end of shooting for the film in Favela da Rocinha. The organisation's objective is to promote social inclusion of youth in low-income neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro through cinema and technology. Credit: Eduardo Martino/Panos.)


Environment and resource scarcity: Pump houses in a resettlement complex for former slum- and footpath dwellers in Mumbai, receive water only for a few minutes per day. Photocredit: Jaideep Gupte
Environment and resource scarcity: Climate change; water availability; resource degradation; mega disasters.

(Photo: Environment and resource scarcity: Pump houses in a resettlement complex for former slum- and footpath dwellers in Mumbai, receive water only for a few minutes per day. Credit: Jaideep Gupte.)

 

 

 

Changing economies: As residents complain about the lack of elevators to reach the higher floors, entrepreneurial residents have set up informal shops on the upper floors of government provided tenement blocks in Mumbai. Photo credit: JaideepGupte

Changing economies:
Networks of cities; economy based on knowledge and services (rather than manufacturing); increasing production and consumption (of particular commodities/goods/services); the ‘informal sector’; maturing city – slower growth rates; cecline/circumventing of city economies; cities as engines of growth; within-city and intra-city inequality.

(Photo: As residents complain about the lack of elevators to reach the higher floors, entrepreneurial residents have set up informal shops on the upper floors of government provided tenement blocks in Mumbai. Credit: Jaideep Gupte.)

 

 

Slum housing in Port-au-Prince. Credit: Vlad Sokhin / Panos

Movement (flows) of people:
Internal and international migration; ‘arrival cities’; conflict, development and disaster induced displacement; rural-urban and urban-rural flows.

(Photo: 'Slum housing in Port-au-Prince'. Credit: Vlad Sokhin/Panos.)



 

Technological innovation: The Place - a new open-air shopping mall in Beijing's central business district. The roof of the mall, is the biggest LCD television screen in Asia. Photo credit: Christian Als / Panos.

Technological innovation:
Unknown (and disruptive) technological innovations; (equal) access to safe design and technology; information technology impacts; robotics; new technology for energy, transport, building materials; time and space for living/work/play.

(Photo: The Place - a new open-air shopping mall in Beijing's central business district. The roof of the mall, is the biggest LCD television screen in Asia. Credit: Christian Als / Panos.)


Complexity of governance structures: The slum area under the high-rises is marked for demolition in the near future in Chongqing city. The Chinese government plans to move 250 million rural residents into urban areas over the coming dozen years though it is unclear whether people want to move and where the money for this project will come from. The drive to get people off the land is causing tens of thousands of protests each year. Photo credit: Justin Jin / Panos.
Complexity of governance structures: Dispersal of order, security between actors; complex institutional fluidity; political threats to urban governance and rights; extent of decentralisation (‘charter cities’?); regulation and oversight of financial markets; ability to regulate the built environment; shifting roles of state, market and civil society; authoritarian models of development; shifting alliances between state and non-state; allocation of financing. 

(Photo: The slum area under the high-rises is marked for demolition in the near future in Chongqing city. The Chinese government plans to move 250 million rural residents into urban areas over the coming dozen years though it is unclear whether people want to move and where the money for this project will come from. The drive to get people off the land is causing tens of thousands of protests each year. Credit: Justin Jin/Panos.)

Political economy of land, (illegal) commodities and services: Medelli¬n conflict monitoring group Corporation for Peace and Development (Corpades) maps gang presence and alliances in every neighbourhood of Medellin. Photo credit: LIanne Milton / Panos.Political economy of land, (illegal) commodities and services:
Elite interests in land control; increasingly organised (decentralised?) narcotics trade; provision and control of services and resources at city level; privatisation/ informalisation of economy and land; privatisation/informalisation of services and infrastructure.

(Photo: 'Medelli­n conflict monitoring group Corporation for Peace and Development (Corpades) maps gang presence and alliances in every neighbourhood of Medellin. Credit: Lianne Milton/Panos.)


Cityscapes 2040?

This list of drivers was, by no means, meant to be exhaustive. By stressing to the maximum, or imposing a zero effect of varying groups of these drivers we can enable our futures thinking of what cityscapes might look like in 2040. Through a series of blog posts from workshop participants, other researchers and key stakeholders, we will offer reflections on what the challenges of security provision in cities might look like in the future, and how we might look to pre-emptively respond to those challenges today. Stay tuned!

If you would like to participate in this dialogue, please Tweet using the hashtag #CitiesViolenceOrder.

 

Further blogs in the Cities, Violence and Order series

 

This blog series is part of an on-going study led by IDS Research Fellow, Jaideep Gupte, and is funded by the UK Department of International Development. The final report is expected in December 2015.

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