The August riots may have been predicted or ‘anticipated’ through a new method of assessing conditions that can lead to urban violence, a Manchester research team claimed today.
If Manchester’s conditions were assessed by the Participatory Violence Appraisal (PVA) method last year, the University of Manchester team argue, then the ‘tipping points’ that led to last summer’s riots could have been predicted.
PVA identifies how common civil mechanisms cannot cope when different forms of violence emerge.
These include the lack of public space where different social groups can interact, which leads to ‘hotspots’, as well as multiple and competing forms of authority within a city.
Global Urban Research Centre (GURC) Director Professor Caroline Moser, who led the study, said: “Urban violence is an increasingly significant but much misunderstood global phenomenon.
“But there are no blueprints for when conflict tips into violence; each situation has different underlying causes and our research is about trying to understand them.
“Participatory Violence Appraisal helps us to more fully understand the circumstances where conflict can tip over into generalised violence – and could actually make us reassess what constitutes a violent city.”
The project challenges stereotypical causes of violence, such as poverty and political exclusion, finding that it often arises instead through sudden and discontinuous tipping points, sometimes building into ‘chains’.
Professor Moser added: “One type of violence can often lead to another so our research is also about understanding how to these break chains.
“In the August riots, the rapid intervention of civil society, the police and local government meant that the chain appeared to be broken early on– though without carrying out PVA, we can’t know if any further types of violence, such as economic or gender-based violence resulted.”
PVA was used by the teams in Santiago, Chile and Nairobi. In Santiago they found that violence is not confined to poor areas, while domestic violence – which is often invisible – was one of the top two most dominant forms of violence in Nairobi.
Ethnic and economic violence – both accepted by the community as ‘normal’ – each constituted 18 percent of the total.
These significant and previously unrealised figures were presented to international agencies such as WHO and UNICEF and a range of donors in Geneva last week.
Their project was described as ‘being close to the perfect research project’ by Dr Duncan Green, Head of Research at Oxfam GB.
The project is funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Government’s Department for International Development.
Visit http://www.urbantippingpoint.org/ for more information.