About the Security and Development Programme

Insecurity in the developing world is increasingly manifesting itself in a hybrid form of conflict – spanning a spectrum involving insurgency, terrorism and criminality – and in ways that defy convenient categorisation, but jeopardise social and economic development.

Against this backdrop, large and mega-cities across developing and emerging regions have been affected, with increasing intensity, by various forms of organised violence highlighting widespread fragility and the need to improve resilience.

Specifically, government authority in slums and chaotic urban peripheries has come under direct challenge by armed groups. This threat has never been so acute, since urban population growth is most accelerated in regions already facing armed violence, notably Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

With the world’s slum population expected to reach 1 billion dwellers in 2020, and given the crucial role played by large cities in promoting the social development of their countries, efficient policies to tackle urban violence are indispensable in order to harness the full potential of cities and promote socio-economic development at the national level.

With this in mind and adopting a multidisciplinary approach, the Security and Development Programme has three overarching purposes:

  • Studying how armed violence affects large urban centres in less-developed countries and limits their ability to meet development goals;
  • Producing policy recommendations to mitigate the impact of insecurity, build resilience and reduce vulnerability to future challenges facing large cities in developing and emerging countries;
  • Assessing the effectiveness of existing military and non-military responses to hybrid threats, with particular attention to the international challenge of organised crime.

In so doing, the team pays particular attention to the role of non-state actors, both illegal – such as armed groups and violent extremists – and legal, most notably the private sector. 


Following its inception in 2014, the programme initially focused on hybrid forms of insecurity in developing regions. As of spring 2016, the programme’s research direction has shifted to urban security – a theme that will serve as the programme’s intellectual framework going forward, and the area in which we wish to make our main contribution.

In adopting this approach, we are guided by the programme's ethos – bringing together security and development communities through events and written work that combine security, defence, foreign policy, development, humanitarian and economic perspectives.


Hybrid Insecurity

Research Fellow for Security and Development Virgina Comolli, discusses the ‘hybrid insecurity’ confronting many developing countries.