You currently share the planet with an estimated 7.2 billion people. By 2050 this number will hit 9 billion, with the majority living in cities.
In fact, By 2050, the urban population will grow by a further 2.5 billion people – nearly 1.9 billion will be in countries that currently have low levels of peacefulness.
With these population shifts, it is imperative that we better understand the effects of increasing urbanisation on peace.
Contrary to common concerns, high levels of urbanisation do not necessarily reflect higher levels of violence.
It is often hypothesised that the stress of rapid urbanisation leads to violence. However, the 2015 Global Peace Index found that high levels of urbanisation actually tend to correlate with higher levels of peace. This is because high levels of urbanisation reflect high levels of development, and, in most places, this is associated with better safety and security.
Urbanisation is an integral part of the development process, and has positive results for many countries. Countries that are able to build safe, well developed urban centres typically reap many benefits, including economic growth, greater employment opportunities, reduced environmental impact and higher levels of safety and security.
Countries with strong Positive Peace – the attitudes, institutions and structures which create and sustain peaceful societies – will likely be able to manage increases in urbanisation safely.
However, countries with low levels of Positive Peace, particularly weak rule of law, intergroup grievance and income inequality, risk deteriorations in societal safety and security as a result of increasing urbanisation.
So it is not urbanisation alone that leads to violence, but urbanisation coupled with weak social structures.
Our research also found that it is the countries that are currently the least peaceful that will see the greatest population growth in the coming decades.
Creating and sustaining Positive Peace will be critical to managing this growing population, as we continue to urbanize.