Urban Resilience in Situations of Chronic Conflict

Community security patrols in Mexico City, Mexico

The sources and forms of social and political violence have been extensively examined, but the ways ordinary people and officials cope with chronic urban violence has received less attention. Using case studies of eight cities suffering from a history of violence, this project explores the phenomenon of coping with urban violence, which is termed resilience. This research report identifies the sets of conditions and practices that enhance an individual or a community’s capacity to act independently of armed actors.

Umaganda neighborhood council in Kigali, Rwanda
Umaganda neighborhood council in Kigali, Rwanda

The findings suggest that resilience appears at the interface of citizen and state action, and is strengthened through cooperation within and between communities and governing authorities. The security activities produced through citizen-state networks are most accountable and durable when the communities themselves, in a relationship of cooperative autonomy, direct them. Urban resilience also benefits from good urban planning, including promoting and investing in mixed land usage and building infrastructure that enables the free movement of people within and between all neighborhoods to promote security and livelihoods. The report also develops the idea of legitimate security as a way to address the vexing interactions of the state and communities in the provision of security and positive resilience. Legitimate security seeks to ensure democratic and participatory governance in the political, civil, and social sense. This research stresses that legitimate security fosters broad participation and initiatives from “below” with an increased focus on multi-sector partnerships to provide more effective, lasting, and accountable ways forward for cities seeking security.

Collaborator: John Tirman, executive director of MIT’s Center for International Studies

Sponsor: USAID’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation

View the full report.