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Security

Fragile Cities Rising

Aerial view fo a favela. Photo: Domenico Marchi/Flickr
Favela Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Domenico Marchi/Flickr.

A new social category recently emerged on the security and development landscape–the fragile city. The preoccupation with “fragile” and “failed” cities–at least in military circles–echoes many of the very same anxieties associated with failed and fragile states. Such cities are said to experience ruptures in the social contracts binding governments and citizens and a declining ability to regulate and monopolize legitimate violence across their territories. In extreme cases, municipal governance systems and security apparatus collapse altogether.

The dizzying pace of urbanization in the twenty-first century is believed to exacerbate fragility in large and intermediate cities. The United Nations estimates that the world’s slum population will reach two billion by 2030, accounting for the majority of all future global population growth. A growing cadre of relief and development specialists is also aware how some cities–Ciudad Juárez, Medellín, Karachi, and Tegucigalpa–are synonymous with a new kind of fragility with severe humanitarian implications. While not necessarily affected by armed conflict, these and other urban centers are seized by levels of violence on par with war-torn Abidjan, Benghazi, Damascus, or Mogadishu.

Categories
Government Security Conflict

São Paulo: Insecure Citizens, All of Them

Primeiro Comando da Capital 15 33
Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) is a non-state armed group in São Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Marco Gomes/flickr.

In recent years, São Paulo, Brazil has like many other Latin American cities, been held up as a model of public security for other cities in the global South. Dramatic declines in homicides by more than 80% in some urban districts, has created a sense that the city is safer than ever. By extension, many have supposed and some explicitly argued that heightened public security policies are the reason for such declines.

A recent spate of hundreds of homicides, killings by the police force (known until recently as resistencias seguida de morte), and assassinations of police officers, tells a much different story. This violence lays bare the sub-structure of homicide regulation in the city. Since the early 2000’s, São Paulo’s decline in homicides has been intimately intertwined with the increasing influence of a non-state armed group known as the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC). The PCC, which controls many of the historically violent parts of the city, has its own regulation of death. This underscores the breakdown of the monopoly on violence in the city and exposes the relative impossibility of public policy advancement. More importantly, though, this new wave of violence reveals the degree of insecurity in this city where those most responsible for delivering public security policy – the police – are not secure.

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Regional Stability

Time to Deal with the Epidemic of Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean

Police take a suspected drug trafficker off a helicopter in Hermosillo in the state of Sonora. Photo: Knight Foundation/flickr

The daily bloodshed on the United States’ doorstep is the clearest sign that something is rotten in the neighborhood. Headless torsos swinging from lampposts in Ciudad Juárez in Mexico contrast all too sharply with the clean streets of El Paso just across the border, ranked one of the safest city’s in the United States. But Mexico is not alone in experiencing alarming rates of violence. Taken together, the Americas are home to 14 percent of the world’s population, but more than 31 percent of its homicides according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

A ruthless epidemic of violence is afflicting many states and cities in Central and South America and the Caribbean. The region’s homicide rate is more than double the global average. And in contrast to other parts of the world, whether North America, Western Europe, Africa, or Asia, the patient is getting sicker. Six of the top ten most violent countries in the world are in Latin America and the Caribbean, with most of the victims consisting of young men under 30-years of age. Violence against women is also intensifying. And for youth living in low-income settings, there is a 1 in 50 chance that they will be killed before they reach their 31st birthday.

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Uncategorized

Kenyan Tensions Spark Food Shortage Fears

Anti riot police in Nairobi. Photo DEMOSH/flickr

As Kenyans prepare to go to the polls on March 4, experts are warning of possible food shortages because many farmers are not planting crops for fear of election violence.

Farmers in the country’s grain basket, Rift Valley Province, are scaling down their planting because they do not want to lose out if there is violence similar to that which followed the December 2007 presidential election. More than 1,100 people were killed and hundreds of thousands uprooted from their homes in the months that followed.

Farmers from the Rift Valley were particularly badly affected. Many had their crops plundered, while others were forced to abandon their farms and seek refuge in displacement camps.

Maize, a staple crop planted between February and April, looks likely to be worst affected. Wheat is not sown until May, so that harvest is less at risk as the elections will be over by then.

Samson Koech, an agricultural and land economist in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret, warns that if farmers refrain from planting over the next few months, Kenya could find itself with a food crisis later in the year.

“More than 80 per cent of food consumption in Kenya is grown by smallholder farmers who depend on agriculture as their main source of income for their livelihoods, and the decision by some of them not to plant the crop [this] year will result in nutrition insecurity among most families,” Koech said.

Categories
Conflict Global Voices

Madagascar Struggles to Control Domestic Instability

Student clash in Madagascar. Photo: r1_lita/flickr

Following the deaths of around a hundred people in southern Madagascar in clashes between zebu cattle rustlers (“dahalo”) and farmers, the government has decided to take special security measures to restore order. The violence is a symptom of the growing political instability in Madagascar that is affecting urban centers as well as rural communities.

People’s Justice in the South

Thefts and armed attacks are a recurring problem in Madagascar and have been growing more and more frequent since the political crisis in 2009. To overcome this problem, a national counter-instability plan [fr] was formally introduced in April 2012. The government has now mobilized the armed forces in the capital as well as in areas particularly affected by cattle theft.

However, initial attempts at stabilizing the southern region were far from successful. As Alain Rajaonarivony explains [fr]:

The military campaign carried out against the dahalo in the bush of the great south in June and July 2012 was a disaster. Not only were they more familiar with the local terrain, the dahalo were also just as well equipped as the government forces – and the lack of helicopters was sorely felt by the latter. The government forces were especially noted not for their combat ability but for their atrocities, when they burnt villages that could serve as support bases for the dahalo.