Informality: What does urban violence mean for planning in the Global South?

I came across this video on CNNLatinAmerica and it sparked a curiosity on urban violence in Latin America….

Mexican city makes a comeback

Urban violence has spread fear among many residents in the developing world, particularly in Latin America and my native Nicaragua. In Mexico, for example, the levels of violence have matched that of Iraq and Afghanistan (Molzahn, 2013) . In fact, violence levels are consistently so high that city officials have called upon the United Nations for aid in the war on urban violence (Davis, 2012). Much of this violence concentrates in rapidly growing urban environments where poverty, lack of jobs, and growing inequalities fuel criminal activities. As the amount of the world’s population that becomes urban increases, surely with the violence will increase as well. In fact, according to a 2007 UN Report, “the wave of urbanization is without precedent. The changes are too large and too fast to allow planners and policymakers simply to react: In Africa and Asia, the number of people living in cities increases by approximately 1 million, on average, each week” (McKeegan, 2007).

Although violence isn’t specific to only poor neighborhoods, it does tend to flourish in more marginalized areas of cities, “the periphery.” Especially in informal settlements where citizens have often been left to reproduce their own shelter and livelihood. In the face of neglect, they often turn to elicit actors and activities to guarantee their services, resources, and protection that local planning and policy authorities have failed to provide. In Mexico for example, organized drug cartels promise security of areas as well as the provision of services – pirated water, electricity, and informal squatter settlements but for a high cost.

“Gangs and militias have come to substitute for public authority, offering some protection to communities, but often at great cost.” – Molzahn

In my opinion, this is a very new and interesting issue in planning, yet very little scholarship is available to attest to its’ prevalence. Violence isn’t something new, but in a country like Mexico where cartels literally have surpassed government, what do you do?

How do we plan for violence?


For more info, please visit:


One thought on “Informality: What does urban violence mean for planning in the Global South?

  1. It is an interesting topic for debate. The Urban Violence can be related to any activity which the governments declare as illegal. Though the boundaries of violence are not limited to urban areas. For example, Naxalism in India is not prominent in urban areas but the reason for flourishing is still the dissatisfaction on some level. Obviously, their are two ways of approaching this, one is suppressing and other is involvement. As mentioned by Edwin in the blog, ‘neglect’ can be one of the reasons behind dissatisfaction. So, I am not positing that the inclusive nature of policies would eradicate the issue but I believe, that a framework of participatory negotiation would help the case.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s