Metropolitan Growth and Security in Asia-Pacific: Correcting the Dislocation of Public Policy
45 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 28 Sep 2014
Date Written: 2009
International development agencies have recently been warning of a ‘dark side of urban growth.’ Fast-growing cities are characterized as potentially destabilizing forces preventing human progress. Indeed, in Asia-Pacific, the world’s fastest urbanizing region to date, the number of large-scale conflicts is now en par with those taking place in Africa. The central analytical question, then, is whether urbanization and armed conflict in the region are not only coexisting but in fact causally linked. Here, one possible direction appears rather obvious across countries; large-scale conflict has played a role in catalyzing urban concentration. The opposite trajectory is less evident. Have growing cities fuelled insecurity, and if so, at which levels? The article first illustrates the dimensions of metropolitan growth and insecurity in Asia-Pacific. The associations rendered by this analysis are then examined in more detail by investigating the dynamics of urban growth and insecurity in five countries in the region; Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. This approach produces several new insights. First, causal relations between different measures of urbanization and large-scale conflict in Asia-Pacific appear moderate at best. On the contrary, the comparative case study analysis suggests that the varying strength of state institutions in the region is the dominant explanatory factor in this context. At the same time, local-level insecurity in Asia-Pacific is on the rise. However, although the latter can be associated with rapidly growing cities, it is not the spatial concentration of poor people per se that seems to cause local insecurity. Rather, features such as asset deprivation and limited access to services, typical of rapidly urbanizing areas, have exacerbated the gap between the urban rich and the urban poor. These findings lend only limited credibility to concerns about fast-growing cities as cradles of national or even regional instability. They do, however, remind planners and politicians that human security in cities cannot be achieved by local interventions alone. On the contrary, rising delinquency and victimisation as symptoms of rapid metropolitan concentration can only be addressed effectively where local urban policies are supported by cogent national agendas to reduce inequality.
Keywords: Urban poverty, inequality, armed conflict, human security, Asia-Pacific
JEL Classification: H7, O1, O2, R5, Z8
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation