Urbanisation and conflict in Pakistan

Question

What are the main links between urbanisation and violence in Pakistan? What positive opportunities does urbanisation offer for conflict reduction? Provide examples of donor approaches to conflict reduction in urban environments.

Summary

There is a broad body of literature on violence in Pakistan, however less specific material drawing links between urbanisation and incidences of violence. Some of the main links between urbanisation and violence identified in the available literature include:

  • Competition for resources, particularly land, water and housing.
  • Weak infrastructure.
  • Demographic change, ethnic divisions and political conflict.
  • Socio-economic disparities and unemployment.

Urbanisation can also provide some (albeit limited) opportunities for conflict reduction. If properly harnessed, the prospective economic advantages of cities could help tackle the socio-economic dimensions that contribute to violent unrest. Experts caution, however, that urbanisation is more likely to increase the chances of conflict in Pakistan, rather than providing opportunities to reduce it.

Curbing urban conflict requires a mix of economic and political solutions. Some of the programmes identified in the literature on urban conflict reduction include:

  • Public order initiatives: Including community policing and Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) control programmes.
  • Employment creation: These are effective when part of wider conflict reduction strategies, such as civil society strengthening, life skills coaching and institutional strengthening of Government ministries.
  • Service delivery: Such programmes can provide opportunities for communities to work together to implement low-cost infrastructure or service provision.
  • Strengthening urban governance: Such as community councils and community safety audits.

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