Can Urban Planning Heal the Trauma of War?

To ease the transition from conflict into post-conflict and stability, there is a high need for urban professionals who can artfully balance the demand for security alongside city spaces for healing, argues Mitchell Sutika Sipus.
January 12, 2013, 5am PST | Mitchell Sutika Sipus
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Today, the world is dotted by low-intensity protracted conflicts, stretching onward by scattered acts of terrorism and insurgency, thus continually threatening civil society and undermining the development of state sponsored institutions.  The elongation of war not only drains state resources, but reinforces a cyclical condition of violence, as the population subjected to war must continue to live and die in a constant state of fear and aggression.  Unfortunately in these conditions, the triggers of trauma do not go away, making it nearly impossible for local populations to leave behind painful memories and to move forward in their lives.

While contemporary psychology may have individual methods of therapy, tied to the personal history of the victim, there is a clear demand to move forward at an urban scale.  While there remains risks, a city consisting of fortified defensive walls and military installations is not a city where one wants to live.  Yet at what point do the walls come down?   If there is to be a sufficient transition in contemporary warfare from conflict to truly post-conflict, then urban professionals must take it upon themselves to facilitate this change to create infrastructure that meets the immediate demands of security with the long-term demands of healing.

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Published on Monday, January 7, 2013 in Humanitarian Space
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