KARACHI: “We need to think beyond the interests of the nations we live in, our fates are intertwined,” said Dr Mutuma Ruteere, director, Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies, Nairobi, and former UN Special Rapporteur, Con­tem­po­rary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance.

Dr Mutuma, was speaking at an online roundtable discussion on ‘Connecting Urban Violence and Climate Change in African Cities’, organised by the GCRF Climate Change and Urban Violence Global Engage­ment Network (CCUVN) led by Karachi Urban Lab at IBA and School of Geography, University of Nottingham, UK.

Dr Mutuma talked about violence in many of the postcolonial African countries and the state creation in Kenya. Highlighting instances of climate-driven violence in many of the postcolonial African countries and its connection to the state creation in Kenya, he brought to light the problems faced by vulnerable groups in Nairobi, and the negligence by the state in combating such issues. He stressed on looking into the past to find out the roots of present-day issues.

Dr Salah Osman, Associate Professor of university of Khartoum, Sudan, discussed the prospects of a sustainable approach to control urban violence and climate change in African communities.

Question raised over who will be the beneficiaries of massive Karachi transformation package

He suggested that tackling the urban-violence and climate change link would involve challenging the assumption that such violence was an inevitable result of urban expansion and that the urban violence needed to be incorporated into urban planning strategies through the means of analysing climatic stressors.

Dr Patrick Bond, a professor at the School of Government, University of the Western Cape, South Africa, also shared his thoughts and ideas.

Prof Bond talked about the assassination of an anti-coal mining activist, Fikile Ntshangase in South Africa, a few weeks ago, due to her involvement in the legal dispute over extension of a coal mine in KwaZulu-Natal.

He said people in Cape Town were linking the issue between climate and oil, “and bringing forward the people who are the problem, including Barack Obama and Jacob Zuma, who involve agencies such as the United Nations in their own interests particularly related to the oil and coal industries”.

The final presentation was made by Dr Idowu Ajibade, the assistant professor of geography at Portland State University, US.

Dr Idowu consolidated the arguments made by the first three panelists. She focused on how violence in rural areas connected with what was happening in the cities, youth activism, and the political economy crisis, all under the wider notions of climate change.

Bringing the discussion to a close, Dr Nausheen H. Anwar, a professor of city and regional planning at IBA and director of the Karachi Urban Lab and CCUVN, drew parallels between the crises of climate change and urban violence in South Asia and African states.

She mentioned the need to re-evaluate state policies in terms of catastrophes, which are often more reactive than proactive.

Bringing to light the US$6.8 billion Karachi transformation package, she expressed her concerns regarding such large-scale transformations being controlled by a “securitised, militarised state,” especially how it brought to question who would benefit from the consequential development, and what vulnerabilities would it lead to being exploited.

She highlighted the difficulty in forming solidarity among nations in South Asia that are still tangled in relations based on complicated histories.

The roundtable discussion was chaired by Vera Bukachi, research director and co-lead of Kounkuey Design Initiative, Kenya, and Dr Charlotte Cross, a lecturer of international development at the Open University, UK.

Earlier, Dr Arabella Fraser, CCUVN co-director and Nottingham research fellow at School of Geography, University of Nottingham, welcomed the participants.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2020

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