The COVID-19 Pandemic, Digital Threats and Urban Violence Prevention

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Around the world, the pandemic is triggering increases in urban violence. Many cities declared their violence prevention units “essential workers” at the start of Covid-19 lockdowns, recognizing the link between the pandemic and various forms of violence. In Europe and other regions, the pandemic is increasing resentment toward refugees and attacks on migrants. Human Rights Watch reported increases in anti-Asian racism and xenophobia worldwide. In Latin America, criminal groups are expanding their reach during the pandemic in what the International Crisis Group deemed “virus-proof violence.” In the United States, a study of 34 cities found a 30 percent increase in homicides in 2020 compared to 2019, noting that the pandemic is increasing physical, mental, emotional and financial stress for at-risk individuals. Gender-based violence became widely known as “the pandemic within the pandemic,” particularly in cities in Africa and Latin America.

Experts in terrorism and violent extremist recruitment warn of increased recruitment during the pandemic. In West Africa, Boko Haram increased terror attacks during the last year. The January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol is but one example of how mass digital radicalization on social media is translating into violence during the pandemic.

This Peace in Our Cities brief offers city leaders ideas for and examples of urban innovations in the use of social media to address various forms of violence during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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