Mass Violence and Atrocities | Analysis and New Insights

Urban Atrocities: Exploring Identity-Based Mass Violence in Cities

December 2020

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As the world experiences rapid urbanization, leaders at the city level play an increasingly important role in ensuring that people lead lives free from fear, trauma, and violent conflict. More than 80% of violent deaths each year occur outside of conflict zones—primarily in urban areas—and there is often insufficient multilateral engagement from subnational leaders on this issue.

The Stanley Center for Peace and Security and Impact:Peace at the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice have partnered to commission research on the intersections between urban violence and mass violence, including lessons on how best to prevent identity-based mass violence (IBMV) at the city level. Researcher Ariana Markowitz created case studies of urban atrocities in nine different cities around the world: Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Mazar-i Sharif, Afghanistan; Kaduna, Nigeria; San Salvador, El Salvador; Nairobi, Kenya; Flint, Michigan, USA; Aleppo, Syria; Ciudad Juárez, Mexico; and Jerusalem, Israel. Developing a typology of urban atrocities, data analysis by Markowitz revealed unexpected insights about IBMV at the city level.

Enclaved cities exhibited some of the highest risk for IBMV, countering the narrative that a segregated and fortified city is a safe city. Victims in such cities were often targeted on the basis of their national, partisan, racial, or ethnic identity rather than their religion. The research report conveys the importance of the local context and the built environment in preventing violence worldwide. The accompanying policy discussion paper, by Theo Sitther and Rachel Locke, synthesizes key insights from Markowitz’s research into actionable recommendations for how the urban violence prevention and atrocity prevention communities can work together to achieve peace in cities.

Big Events on a Small Scale: Exploring Identity-Based Mass Violence in Cities
Ariana Markowitz
By exploring how urban violence intersects with mass atrocities, this analysis makes the case for establishing identity-based mass violence in cities as a cross-disciplinary field of scholarship and practice. By utilizing a new typology, Markowitz examines nine case studies of urban atrocities and identifies the primary ways that cities impact mass violence.

Preventing Identity-Based Mass Violence in Cities
Theo Sitther and Rachel Locke
Based on Markowitz’s research, this discussion paper identifies key insights to help peacebuilders, policymakers, and city-level actors understand the role of structural inequality in perpetuating acute and chronic violence, apply the Responsibility to Protect to the city level, and engage in partnerships that empower municipal actors and bring about justice and healing.

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