Global and national politics seem to have imploded into the urban world and led to the proliferation of urban wars. Armed conflict is becoming an overwhelmingly urban phenomenon. In the city, streets are the frontiers; squares the sites of violence; neighbours the enemies; and terrorist attacks are affecting people’s everyday life. These developments pose severe challenges to conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Yet, despite the significance of urban space for armed conflict there is a lack of research that investigates how war as well as peace are manifested in cities. This project asks: how does urban violence link to armed conflict and what strategies of conflict prevention can be successfully employed to prevent the escalation of violence and conflict?
To answer these research questions the project will first map and categorize urban violence, its forms, causes, intensity and duration, and identify the link between different forms of urban violence and armed conflict; second, critically assess how various urban planning, governance and regeneration strategies may generate, sustain, or prevent violence and armed conflict; and third, translate research findings into policy and practice relevant knowledge through developing a conflict prevention toolbox with concrete strategies and measures to reduce violence, insecurity and vulnerability. The project combines within-case analysis and cross-case comparison of four vulnerable cities: Nairobi (Kenya), Belfast (Northern Ireland), Jerusalem (Israel/Palestine) and Mitrovica (Kosovo), with the ambition to advance theory, generate new empirical knowledge and provide policy recommendations of relevance to urban stakeholders.
The analysis will use high-quality empirical data in geo-referenced format from Uppsala Conflict Data Program, maps, policy documents, urban planning documents, civil society reports, articles in local press, participatory observations, and semistructured interviews with political representatives of the city, police officers, urban planners, civil servants working on urban issues, NGOs, and urban dwellers in different areas of the city.The project has societal relevance to cities suffering from violence such as Aleppo and Damascus as well as cities dealing with the legacy of armed conflict such as Beirut and Belfast. Further, the conflict prevention strategies developed in the project will be applicable to other vulnerable cities in which urban violence is present in various forms.