Urbanization has become a central issue in global security, development, and governance. While rapid urbanization can offer higher standards of living and opportunities for millions of people, it can also come at a cost: cities that are unable to respond to the needs of their growing populations face rising violence, crime, and poverty. As a result, urban fragility has emerged as a key issue for national and municipal governments and for global and local security and development actors.
This report aims to highlight diverse sources of urban fragility and approaches to urban transformation, renewal, and resilience. Five authors explore the drivers of fragility in their cities and offer examples of policies and programs that can build resilience. The case studies are: (1) Bangkok, (2) Dhaka, (3) Mumbai, (4) Lagos, and (5) Medellín. These cases demonstrate that every city is fragile in different ways, but three common features emerge: socioeconomic and spatial segregation, rapid population growth, and suboptimal governance systems. The lessons emerging from these cases suggest four guiding principles for strengthening urban resilience:
- Adapt dynamic and scenario-based urban planning. This dynamic process can enable city planners to prepare urban systems to absorb future shocks.
- Optimize urban governance. Leaner government structures and clearer lines of authority and responsibility can improve engagement and coordination with multiple stakeholders.
- Add voices to decision making. Urban decision makers can learn from community-led initiatives and facilitate community participation—from planning to implementation.
- Focus on spatial segregation. Segregation remains a key factor of urban fragility, and inclusiveness is a policy principle central to urban resilience.
About the Authors
Francesco Mancini is a Non-resident Senior Adviser at IPI, where he was Senior Director of Research before relocating to Singapore in June 2014. His work focuses on geostrategic analysis, global risks, multilateral diplomacy, and armed conflicts and the means to prevent and solve them. He regularly lectures at academic institutions and presents at conferences and to governments on global peace and security issues. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), a member of the Board of Directors of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS), a member of the Research Committee of the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), and a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Peacebuilding.
Prior to joining IPI, Francesco served as an Associate at the EastWest Institute in New York, where he co-managed the Worldwide Security Initiative, a program designed to enhance international cooperation in addressing new security threats, particularly transnational terrorism. Earlier in his career, he was a management consultant at Group CRCI in France, Italy, and Morocco.
Francesco earned his BS in business administration from Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. He received a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, where he studied international security policy and conflict resolution. While at Columbia, he was awarded a fellowship within the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. In 2002, he researched the peace negotiations in Cyprus at the University of Cyprus in Nicosia.
Andrea (Laidman) Ó Súilleabháin joined IPI in January 2013. She currently works on inclusive peacebuilding at the country and international policy level, South-South cooperation among fragile states, and the role of women in conflict mediation and peace processes. Andrea also conducts research and writes about the diplomacy of small states at the UN.
Andrea holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she specialized in international human rights and refugee law. Andrea conducted research on the gender-based impacts of US counterterrorism policy for the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. She completed legal and policy advocacy on behalf of migrants for the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Program in New York and Doras Luimní in Limerick, Ireland.
Prior to law school, Andrea was a George J. Mitchell Scholar in Ireland and Northern Ireland, where she completed graduate coursework in anthropology and international development, and conducted extensive fieldwork among Ireland’s new refugee communities.
Andrea received her B.A. in Political Science and International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. She was awarded a fellowship for her research on gender violence in South Africa, the Program for American Democracy Prize for her thesis on civil liberties and habeas corpus in wartime America, and the Howard Swearer Student Humanitarian Award for her leadership on capital punishment and restorative justice issues.