weforum | Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, is home to just 8% of the world’s population, but registers 33% of its homicides. At the city scale, residents of cities in Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela are most at risk. An astonishing 47 of the 50 most homicidal cities in the world are located in Latin America.
So what are some of the wider implications of this morbid retreat into the data of violent death? At the outset, it is a reminder that a comparatively modest number of countries (and cities) are dramatically more at risk of terrorist and homicidal violence than others. Clearly, greater investment in diplomacy, crisis management and conflict prevention is urgently needed, alongside improved intelligence sharing within and between cities. This would certainly be more cost-effective – both economically and in terms of live saved – than hardening potential targets from asymmetric attacks in Western cities.
Perhaps even more important, the data shows that homicidal violence is a much larger problem than terrorism. What is more, it is just a handful of cities – most of them in Latin America, the Caribbean and parts of Africa – that account for the lion’s share of murders globally. If lethal violence is to be reduced in these areas, the issue must be prioritized by national and municipal authorities, with a focus on driving down inequality, concentrated poverty, youth unemployment and of course corruption and political and criminal impunity. Doubling down on the world’s most violent cities could do much to drive down the global burden of violent death.
In the end, it is important to recall that the threats of urban fragility are broader than a narrow focus on the prevalence of lethal violence. If cities are to become more resilient – to cope, adapt and rebound in the face of shocks and stresses – they will need to contend with a wide range of threats, not just terrorism and homicide. This is as much about promoting good governance as reducing structural social and economic risks in cities that give rise to extremism and murder. At the very least, it implies rethinking the role of cities as not just a site of violence but a primary driver of security in our time.