Inclusivity, resilience and safety key for successful city development, says SIPRI

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Stockholm, 11 September 2017 – The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) today released a report calling for context-based and inclusive urban security strategies to ensure positive city development. The report is released ahead of the second Stockholm Security Conference, this year on the theme of Secure Cities in an Insecure World, commencing on 13 September.

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The security of cities is not limited to the question of effective policing, the report says, but it also entails the removal of impediments to successful urban development, such as the risk of fragmentation along ethnic, national, religious, sectarian or socio-economic lines. Cooperation and inclusion can transform the safety of urban environments, while also promoting other economic benefits, states the report.

The perception that resources and services are being provided in a fair and equitable way—through a process of inclusive and transparent governance—is a key way to generate positive city development. When marginalized communities are excluded from decision making, the likelihood of violence increases, the report finds.

Drawing on case studies from cities across the world, the report emphasizes the importance of good practices embedded in institutions rather than discrete projects. Taking disaster risk reduction and mitigation as an example, building capacities and monitoring effective implementation are critical for reinforcing resilience; a community must be able to adapt, accommodate and change, not just restore itself to a pre-shock status quo.

Political leadership essential on all levels

The share of the world’s population living in cities has increased to well over 50 per cent today from just 10 per cent in 1900. This is expected to approach 70 per cent by 2050. States continue to have the greatest responsibility for providing security today, but city and municipal authorities are increasingly examining the role they can play. If effective security strategies are not developed, the consequences of urbanization will become progressively serious, the report says. There must be an appropriate division of responsibilities between the local, national and international levels.

In this endeavour to ensure secure cities, political leadership, the report says, is critical. Managing the resources needed for effective action requires strong political engagement and requires partnership between multiple actors. Responsible actors, the report continues, should first examine how the existing system can be used to address identified concerns.

Furthermore, ensuring that different levels of actors (international, national and local, for example) do not contradict each other is important, particularly with regard to crime and terrorism—two crucial, interlocking areas that the report investigates. Building on this, programmes and projects to help better manage risks should be adapted to different local conditions.

Digital technology: An opportunity and a risk for safety?

Digital simulations and digital forms of communication are being used to engage the public in thinking about different aspects of safety and security. While digital technology and social media can provide quicker channels of dissemination and communication of information—and can, therefore, aid inclusivity—rumours and false information can be detrimental to planning and rapid response. Effective communication with marginalized communities requires trusted messengers delivering messages that promote social equity, the report continues.

Understanding risk based on the needs of communities requires effective communication strategies that are inclusive, in turn fostering resilience and safety. The communication strategies should also be two-way and able to work with communities to extract information that can lead to shared understanding and practical cooperation.

About the Report
The report, Secure Cities: Inclusivity, resilience and safety, covers global frameworks for discussing the global role of cities, through to practical steps for addressing the most pressing security risks in urban areas. The different aspects are based on the discussions, findings and conclusions from the 2016 Stockholm Security Conference, on the theme of ‘Secure Cities’. Co-hosted by SIPRI, the Swedish Riksdag and Stockholm’s City Council it brought together 197 participants in a wide-ranging discussion in order to understand how cities have succeeded in creating a more secure environment for their residents, and to identify the new challenges that cities are facing.

The upcoming 2017 Stockholm Security Conference will be on the theme of ‘Secure Cities in an Insecure World’. It will identify and assesses global security challenges and trends, how these play out in cities, discussing what cities must do to respond to insecurity.

About the author:
Dr Ian Anthony (United Kingdom) is the Director of SIPRI’s European Security Programme. Previously, he was the Director of SIPRI’s Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme

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