40 cities in new projects to find solutions to stop urban violence

Study will compare prevention strategies in 40 cities and identify solutions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 12:45am

Urban violence in 40 cities in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America will be investigated as part of an ambitious Canadian-British funded research project.

The initiative will seek to understand the complex causes of urban violence and find practical solutions. The US$11 million Safe and Inclusive Cities Initiative, funded by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Britain's Department for International Development (DfID), will provide 15 research teams with grants of up to US$500,000 each.

"Top experts from around the world will analyse the effectiveness of violence-prevention strategies and identify successful concrete examples," said John de Boer, a programme leader at IDRC.

More than 1.5 billion people live with chronic, dangerous violence, which was becoming a major barrier to development and poverty reduction, De Boer said.

One of the 15 studies will look at Rio de Janeiro's "pacifying police" strategy, where gangs are driven out of favelas and Brazilian police and social services move in. The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa will compare the experience in Rio with a different strategy in Cape Town, South Africa. In Khayelitsha township, improvements have been made to urban environments and public spaces, with the creation of sports fields and the opening of libraries.

"The speed and scale of global urbanisation are staggering and the implications for the fight against poverty are immense," said Iain King, a senior governance adviser at DfID.

"By 2025,it is estimated 80 per cent of the world's poor will live in countries beset by conflict."

Conflict and violence occurred less between states than between gangs and militias, King said.

Researchers at Ivory Coast's Universite Alassane Ouattara will examine the impact of civil war in shaping trends in urban criminal violence in three Ivorian cities in the past 30 years.

De Boer said there was little evidence that poverty was a major driver of violence. Inequality, insecurity and poor governance and judicial institutions were among the major causes.

"Violence undermines the few assets the poor have," said Caroline Moser, an urban social anthropologist and emeritus professor at the University of Manchester.