Engage policymakers to cut urban violence

Riot police on the streets of Goma
Copyright: Panos

Speed read

  • Poor governance contributes to violence in cities of the global South
  • Experts in violence research discuss a need for engaging policymakers
  • Approaches that make policymakers easily access knowledge are needed

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[NAIROBI] Researchers should refine and communicate relevant scientific research findings effectively to policymakers and development practitioners to inform strategies and interventions needed to address urban violence in Sub-Saharan Africa, a meeting has heard.

The Safe and Inclusive Cities (SAIC) initiative meeting which was held in Kenya last month (29-31 May) attracted researchers from around the globe to discuss findings of research that links urban violence, poverty and inequality.

The researchers found that poor governance, restrictive gender roles, and lack of access to basic services for young people are among the main factors driving violence in many of the global South’s urban centres.

The initiative that began in 2012 is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development in collaboration with Canada’s International Development Research Centre   to support experts globally to find pathways and innovations to reduce violence in urban centres.

“It is prudent that policymakers and urban planners are presented with research results and policy briefs to use in decision-making.”

Charlotte Wrigley-Asante, University of Ghana

With 15 research teams globally, SAIC researchers have been working in cities across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America to test the effectiveness of violence reduction strategies, innovations and key knowledge gaps in the links between urban violence, inequalities and poverty.

For example, through focus group discussions and community debate groups, policymakers, local people, police, and urban planners in two Ghanaian cities — Accra and Kumasi — are presented with research results to help make informed decisions on security.

Charlotte Wrigley-Asante, a senior lecturer at the University of Ghana’s Department of Geography and Resource Development, says that Sub-Saharan Africa need to increase the uptake of research in policies and decision-making as these studies give factual information of problems affecting the continent.

“Scientific research is on the increase, creating innovations and new interventions to address problems in our cities such as violence,” Wrigley-Asante tells SciDev.Net. “It is prudent that policymakers and urban planners are presented with research results and policy briefs to use in decision-making.”

She explains that the use of geographic information system to map out violence hotspots in urban centres is helping police plot out hotspots to reduce violence in Accra and Kumasi.

Researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa, adds Wrigley-Asante, should look beyond publications and increase efforts to explain research findings to policymakers and members of the public to help increase research uptake and adoption of innovations that offer solutions to developmental challenges such as insecurity.

Hugo van der Merwe, the head of research, learning and knowledge at South Africa-based Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, tells SciDev.Net: “The challenge we still experience in Sub-Saharan Africa today is the huge gaps between researchers and policymakers.”

Merwe, who is part of the SAIC research teams, says that researchers need to find new ways to present knowledge in accessible manner to policymakers and urban planners such as through discussion forums. “We need to create more opportunities for researchers to interact with policymakers,” Hugo adds.

Joan Clos, the executive director UN-Habitat, urges researchers to contribute to urban planning and design as this has the potential to create jobs and wealth.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.