Rapid urbanisation has increased the vulnerability of many cities to armed conflicts. With 2.5 billion new urban dwellers expected by 2050, most of them in Africa and Asia, cities face new challenges beyond warfare, such as sectarian tensions, illicit economies and non-state actors destabilising cities near conflict or transitioning to peace. More than ever, military, humanitarian and development practitioners need to discuss the strategic dilemmas posed by densely inhabited areas.

This event, organised in partnership between the IISS and the International Committee of the Red Cross, took stock of past urban conflicts, including some in Europe, and highlight military, developmental and humanitarian responses.


Avila Kilmurray is Visiting Professor in the Transitional Justice Institute at Ulster University and works as a consultant with the Social Change Initiative in Northern Ireland. She was Director of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland for twenty years. She was also a founding member of the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition and a member of its negotiating team during the 1996–98 peace talks. She is the author of Community Action in a Contested Society, a book exploring how local communities responded to the Troubles.

Vincent Bernard is Editor-in-Chief of the International Review of the Red Cross, a leading journal from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). He is also the head of the Law and Policy Forum, which leads ICRC’s engagement with global research on international humanitarian law. Vincent has worked in ICRC missions in Dakar, Nairobi and Jerusalem.

Antônio Sampaio is Research Associate for Security and Development at the IISS, where he focuses on armed violence in cities, urban security policies and organised crime. He is the author of a recent piece in the International Review of Red Cross and a book chapter on the topic of armed conflicts in cities. His analysis has also been featured in the Financial Times, Foreign Policy and BBC World. Prior to joining the IISS, Antônio was a journalist at Globo TV in Brazil.


This event was chaired by Virginia Comolli, Senior Fellow for Security and Development, IISS. It took place in the Lee Kuan Yew Conference Room at Arundel House, 13–15 Arundel Street, Temple Place, London WC2R 3DX.

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Event details

Discussion meeting
Avila Kilmurray, Visiting Professor, Transnational Justice Institute, Ulster University
Vincent Bernard, Editor-in-Chief, International Review of the Red Cross
Antonio Sampaio, Research Associate for Security and Development, IISS
Chaired by Virginia Comolli, Senior Fellow for Security and Development, IISS
Arundel House, London
Tuesday 13 June, 12.30–1.30pm BST