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Bottom-up Approach Necessary for Developing Safe Cities

Demonstrations during the 2017 G-20 summit have resulted in a requisite to conduct the ‘largest police operation in the history of Hamburg.’ This escalation has created a cause for concern about the safety of cities, and has raised questions on what needs to be done at the national level to create safer cities for the future. 

In an interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Dr Christina Schori Liang, Senior Programme Advisor at the GCSP who is currently leading a course on “Securing Global Cities” argues that in order to design and develop a safe city, it is best to adopt a “bottom-up” approach – involving civil society, NGOs and the government in both the design and development process, as well as in its execution.  A “whole of society” approach has already been recognised and is being practiced in some Nordic capitals. This approach focuses on creating a network of trust between the state and civil society. In the North, this approach includes the provision of a communication platform where government and civil society can interact. In Helsinki, these models have turned digital, utilizing pre-existing social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram as tools. The overall objective is to present the government in a way that makes it “less intimidating to the public and in a manner that will encourage the population to enter into contact, especially when it is in need of advice, or in order to prevent, or even stop, an evolving security threat.”

However, the major obstacle for this method is that social cohesion is very weak in many countries - most cities have very weak social fabrics - especially big cities where a fully established sense of community is still very much absent. Dr Liang maintains that this hinders resiliency and prevents safe cities. She therefore advocates the importance of building and strengthening civil society as a necessary first step to building stronger cities in the future. Thus establishing trust between the government and its population is of vital importance and one of the most important public tasks to be undertaken when creating and designing safe cities since "a resilient, tolerant and trusting society is at the core of building a safe city".

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