This week city leaders from around the world will gather in Madrid, Spain, for the 2nd World Forum on Urban Violence and Education for Coexistence and Peace. They will share their ideas and experiences in trying to prevent and transform conflicts and reduce violence in urban settings.
The global urban population is continuously on the rise. Currently, 55 per cent of the global population lives in cities, and this figure is expected to rise to 66% by 2050.
Could these fast-growing cities provide a peaceful and safe space for all?
While high rates of urbanization are associated with many positive development outcomes, including higher income and lower infant mortality, rapid urbanization also often increases the threat of conflict and insecurity. Many fast-growing cities create conditions of significant disparities in standards of living, which can set up a fertile environment for violence and conflict.
The World Forum of Madrid offers a timely opportunity to reflect on how we can build cities that promote a culture of peace, ensure equal rights and access to public goods and services, and ultimately, provide protection and safety to all.
Who can address urban violence and conflict?
Local governments are the primary actors that can tackle the roots causes of violence and conflict, and reduce inequalities in urban areas. They know the challenges that their citizens face. In most countries, they also have the mandate and responsibilities to find the solutions and take action.
Dozens of city leaders from around the world are already working hard in this regard by adopting policies and implementing strategies to localize the Sustainable Development Goals. They are striving to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (SDG 11), while promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, providing access to justice for all and building effective and accountable institutions (SDG 16). But this is not an easy task that can be taken by local governments alone; it depends on the active engagement of all societal actors and coordination with central governments.
Local action as a crucial building block for the UN Sustaining Peace Agenda
In 2016, the General Assembly and the Security Council came together to express their commitment to building and sustaining peace. In the two resolutions (A/RES/70/262 and S/RES/ 2282) highlighted the need for national governments to work better together to sustain peace at all stages of conflict and in all its dimensions, and stressed that sustaining peace was imperative to prevent the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict. The Secretary-General, in turn, has sought to develop a coherent vision, tools and approaches to better support member states and civil society in building more peaceful and just societies, as in his peacebuilding and sustaining peace report (A/72/707-S/2018/43).
Cities taking the lead
In organizing the second forum 2nd World Forum on Urban Violence and Education for Coexistence and Peace, the city of Madrid is setting the stage for many actors to discuss how more peaceful societies can be built by dedicated action at the city level, but also showing continued commitment to facilitate a city movement dedicated to foster a culture of peace. The forum will include a session - organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) - where UN (UNDP, UN-Habitat, UNICEF, PBSO) and global city leaders will discuss how can the local vision and initiative, and the international agenda for sustaining peace can be better integrated and mutually reinforce each other.
UNDP provides local governments guidance and support to foster an inclusive and accountable urban governance. Responsive local governments, inclusive local governance and local development arrangements are the building blocks of peace. Working with local governments, the aim is to foster social cohesion in divided communities, encourage participation in public life, distribute resources and opportunities equitably, and test new forms of participatory decision-making processes. For example, in partnership with the City of Madrid, Spain, UNDP is facilitating the sharing of innovative practices with cities of Latin America and Africa to promote participatory processes and engage citizens, also through the use of digital technology, and in the co-creation of public policies for inclusive and sustainable cities. By promoting such partnerships, UNDP connects committed local decision-makers with their counterparts from around the globe, so they can share vision, challenges and innovative solutions to achieve more peaceful and just societies.