UN-Habitat’s Global Urban Lectures series began in 2014 and is now starting its sixth season. The lectures feature renowned experts discussing cutting-edge research and practical recommendations on advancing urban sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals in cities. Season 6 consists of 10 lectures.

In this lecture, Jaideep Gupte from IDS, the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, presents cutting edge evidence on the importance of data for inclusive urban governance in the Global South. The lecture shows how data and policy innovations can further security provision for all.

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Issues which the lecture addresses

Violence in cities significantly compromises development and can have detrimental consequences for peace-building and political settlements in both conflict and non-conflict settings. The majority of the world’s most fragile and conflict-affected countries are rapidly urbanising, while much of the global burden of violent crime can be directly or indirectly linked to cities. But cities also abound with social, cultural and technological innovation and can bring 'smart' solutions to complex problems. Efforts to provide security, build political settlements and create safe cities for all need to go beyond reviewing simple statistics of death, destruction and violent crime. They need to engage 'the city' as a complex system.

Short analysis of the above issues 

Urban violence is shaped by and shapes the physical and social landscapes of urban communities. For example, fear of violence prompts the physical separation of high-violence neighbourhoods from surrounding areas, and can force women, men and children to adapt their daily life to avoid areas prone to violence on their way to work, around their homes, or when they play. Beyond the psychological impacts of such circumstances, adapting one’s way of living in this manner usually also has a direct financial cost resulting out of the need to build barriers, take longer routes to work, or forego livelihood opportunities due to safety concerns. Implementing effective violence mitigation strategies therefore requires stakeholders to acknowledge varying types of urban violence, understand how these interact with the mechanics of security provision, and thereby bring a data-driven, spatially relevant, and city-specific thinking to how security is provided, and for whom it is provided.

Propositions for addressing the issue

Jaideep Gupte begins by presenting the nature and extent of urban violence, and summarises cutting edge evidence on data driven approaches to urban security provision in the global south. Approaches that seek to securitise the city are juxtaposed with inclusive visions of the city where no one is left behind.

Three main conclusions are arrived at: (1) To see urban institutions and process as central to security provision. Useful starting points in this regard are to focus on the ‘grid’ or the spatial design, layout and planning of the city to determine the institutions that exclude and include people, with a particular focus on the gendered dimensions that shape everyday realities of those living with violence or in conflict settings. (2) To set clear guidelines for policy responses and policing intervention to recognise different types of violence, particularly in the face of the varied nature of the experiences of violence and ‘everyday insecurity’ for city dwellers. (3) Consider identifying urban futures that are possible, probable, and preferable. Future scenario-planning approaches are useful in helping to assess the nature of future challenges, the types of policy response these might necessitate, and the potential long-term impacts of these interventions. Integrating urban futures within the frameworks of peace-building and political settlements in a rigorous and systematic way is essential as the world continues to urbanise, particularly in the most fragile and conflict-affected contexts.


Dr Jaideep Gupte is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, where he co-leads the Cities Cluster at the Institute of Development studies, and co-convenes the MA in Poverty and Development. He is currently seconded to the UKRI to lead the Cities and Sustainable Infrastructure portfolio of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Gupte’s research is on urban violence, poverty and development. His other research interests and expertise include urban inclusion, justice/security in informal settlements, and using GIS/GPS aided mobile data collection platforms for spatial research. He is currently the Principle Investigator on ‘Smart Data for Inclusive Cities’ funded by the EC; Gupte’s research has received the Global Development Network Medal for Outstanding Research, Category: Rule of Law. He was formerly Fellow of the Urban Design Research Institute, Mumbai. He has conducted primary research in South Asia (India, Bangladesh, Nepal) and sub-Saharan Africa (Sudan, Nigeria).



Blattman, C. et al. 2017. Place Based Interventions at Scale: The Direct and Spillover Effects of Policing and City Services on Crime. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3050823

Goodfellow, Tom. 2018. Seeing Political Settlements through the City: A Framework for Comparative Analysis of Urban Transformation. Development and Change 49 (1): 199-222.

Gupte, J. 2014. Policing Urban Violence: Lessons from South Asia. Brighton: Instittute of Development Studies, UK. Issue 57, March. Available at: http://www.ids.ac.uk/publication/policing-urban-violence-lessons-from-s…

Gupte, J. 2016. "A New Urban Agenda for creating safe and secure cities" Published on IDS Opinions. Available at: http://www.ids.ac.uk/opinion/a-new-urban-agenda-for-creating-safe-and-s…

Gupte, J. 2016. Rethinking Approaches to Peace-Building and Political Settlements in an Increasingly Urbanised World. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, UK. Policy Briefing Issue 112 (February): Output #576. Available at: http://www.ids.ac.uk/publication/rethinking-approaches-to-peace-buildin…

Gupte, Jaideep. 2017. ‘These streets are ours’: Mumbai’s urban form and security in the vernacular. Peacebuilding 5 (2): 203-217.

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Zeiderman, Austin. 2016. Endangered city : the politics of security and risk in Bogotá. of Global insecurities. Durham: Duke University Press.


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The Global Urban Lecture series is an initiative by UNI – UN-Habitat’s partnership with universities worldwide.