Large cities across the developing world are increasingly affected by organised violence. Rapid and unmanaged urbanisation has created ‘disputed territories’, urban areas where state authority is directly challenged by militias, insurgents and gangs. A common policy challenge in the Global South is the calibration of security, governance and development in face of these non-state actors. 

Given the policy dilemmas afflicting a wide array of cities, the IISS Security and Development Programme inaugurated a new stream of research on urban security. The research team introduced this new area of work, as well as the trends and analyses underpinning it. They also launched specific projects covering Bogotá, Rio de Janeiro, Karachi and a number of other cities.


Virginia Comolli is the Senior Fellow for Security and Development at the IISS. Her research interests are in conflict, violent extremism, organised crime and their interplay. She has advised government and private sector clients as well as international organisations, and has conducted extensive research on conflict, violent extremism and illicit economies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Antônio Sampaio is the Research Associate for Security and Development at the IISS. A former journalist based in Rio de Janeiro, he looks at criminal violence in Latin America and urban armed conflict in fragile states. Antônio has recently conducted field research in Rio de Janeiro and Medellín. His analysis has been featured in outlets such as Foreign Policy, The Financial Times, World Economic Forum, El Universal (Mexico) and O Globo (Brazil).


This event took place in the fifth-floor Lee Kuan Yew Conference Room, Arundel House, 13–15 Arundel Street, Temple Place, London WC2R 3DX*.

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Event details

Discussion Meeting
Virginia Comolli, Senior Fellow for Security and Development, IISS
Antônio Sampaio, Research Associate for Security and Development, IISS
Arundel House, London
Wednesday 1 March 2017, 5–6.30pm GMT