Revolt in the 'Square': Spatial Modelling of Urban Stability in Modern Cities New insights and approaches for preventing conflict and violence

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Politics Int Stu and Philosophy

Abstract

Urban revolutions have been envisaged as hybrid, unpredictable and somewhat incidental in the political arena. In some cases, political instability, mass protests, riots, revolt erupts as a reaction to a particular event, while in others it gathers momentum over a period of time and following a sequence of progression and acts of dissidence in the public space. This project aims to explore, map and visualise patterns, modes, and state of development of urban unrest in Beirut Martyr Square during three major pretesting events (2006, 2011 & 2015) to develop a Spatial Model of Urban Stability (SMUS). Using five indicators of urban stability that involve socio-economic, political and spatial factors, a 10-point scale of urban unrest will be designed to trace and understand, through time and space, patterns of spatial unrest in Lebanon during this period. The project will reconstruct historical events and narratives and use spatio-temporal analytics to relate frequency of acts of dissidence to the social-political and economic condition of that time. This approach could later be applied to other cities/contexts facing situations of conflict and revolt. Analysis of causes of conflict and its damaging consequences on local communities and their cities are generally presented from a one sided point of view which is governments and authorities in charge of maintaining order and law. But in this work, we aims to bring and present another side of the narrative and other viewpoints of other players witnessing these incidents (NGOs, communities, Political analysts etc) in order to avoid biased analysis and move towards more reliable predictors of stability. The SMUS will enable analysts, decision makers, planners and activist groups to trace and reflect on previous practices, pattern of escalation, time span of revolt or unrest through intelligible visual maps and supporting datasets. The project will also enable policy makers to consider the economical and physical disturbing effects of such patterns and actions of unrest not only on the city's future development, but on the local communities living facing massive drop in providing minimal infrastructure services e.g. waste management problems. We plan to run interdisciplinary and interactive workshops in Beirut and Belfast to bring together a multidisciplinary team including the humanities and social sciences.

This project seeks to generate data that can enable governing authorities as well as non-governmental actors to engage in conflict prevention to prioritize a systematic approach to the collection of information on how urban spaces such as public Squares becomes sites of conflict from protest. The project will allow such information to inform policies and support community stakeholders to an understanding of what might be done to allow protest but prevent conflict in such important public spaces. The project will explain indicators of unrest and the viability of statistical information derived from credible governmental/international agencies and independent NGOs in Beirut, along with spatial patterns of movements and occupation. This will enable unrest actions to be verified and analysed in line with changing political situations in the pilot case study city. This project will be supported and facilitated through a series of workshops and focus groups, visual displays and a conference to effectively communicate the findings to policymakers and maximise the potential for impact, through advocacy for the adoption of implementable measures that increase opportunities for protest without conflict.

Planned Impact

Our user groups, beneficiaries and stakeholders comprise the following:

1. Local Stakeholders (Social movements, NGOs and community-based organisations): These groups, often heavily involved in the organisation and stewarding of protests will benefit from an enhanced understanding of the potential consequences of their activities and allowing develop strategies to avoid conflict. Engagement with spatial modelling will aid in developing creative learning material and tools for specialist training of social and human rights activists and local communities. Central to this project is the network of local partners whose research capacity will benefit from the project's main activities, inclusive of data gathering, analysis and dissemination of findings and outputs, in a creative manner. This would facilitate transfer of knowledge and skills to local researchers, informants and actors, with much autonomous impact on the local professional and research cultures.
2. Policy Makers, National, regional and local government/authorities (planning councils, The FCO, think-tanks, etc.): It is anticipated that the research will be of use to policy-makers in two ways: firstly, by situating the SMUS in relation to conflict responsiveness and reconciliation with a more focused approach to policy development beyond traditional 'soft diplomacy' and 'cultural understandings' of the planning and architecture and secondly, by integrating debates about the public space such as the Square within both domestic national and international security and defence policy approaches (strategic advisors from the Metropolitan Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and others). Furthermore, engagement with this project and its outputs will enhance the opportunities and pathways for data sharing, coordination and collaborative activities, it will also lead to increased dialogue between policymakers and 'protesters' and contribute to the avoidance of conflict.
3. Professionals & Practitioners (Architects, urban designers and planners, media outlets): Due to the interwoven reciprocal implications of events, the cross-disciplinary integration of data would introduce a new knowledge- base and practices of data-integration and urban modelling to professionals and experts who advise governmental agencies and policy makers. This will include debates and discussions with main actors, architects, urban planners as well as strategic advisors from relevant authorities. It will also inform practices of urban designers, strategic analysts, geographers and city planners and encourage debates on policy issues. Furthermore the spatial visualisations will provide a useful visual aid to local and national media outlets when reporting on relevant events.
4. International Donors (Aid agencies, conflict prevention and human rights organizations): Conflict negatively impacts the conditions for effective aid and support from donor agencies and as noted in the case for support can lead to an amplification of pre-existing development needs. By creating the conditions that lead to an avoidance of conflict and enabling a deeper understanding of the specific issues driving protests this project will contribute to a more effective understating and implementation of peace process in Lebanon.
5. Wider Society (Nationally and internationally): The development of effective tools and appropriate policy responses to assist in the avoidance of conflict arising from protest will have an immediate and long-term benefit for Beirut and wider Lebanese society given the demonstrable impacts that conflict can have on societies and the economy. Application of this project's findings in other localities and contexts would be expected to lead to similar benefits elsewhere.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Influenced training of practitioners and researchers
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Beirut Arab University Faculty of Architecture 
Organisation Beirut Arab University
PI Contribution Co-ordination, planning, and delivery of lectures, talks, and workshops, including site visits in Beirut Lebanon - see below - In this context, BAU will support interviews, and organise and facilitate workshops in Lebanon. BAU will be involved in the following activities: 1. We coordinated and jointly ran the Workshop 1(b) 'Digital Mapping of Landscapes of Urban Revolt': participants were awarded a BAU recognized certificate on completion a. Invited 25 participants (NGOs, community representatives, urban planners/architects, researchers in visual politics, digital mapping specialists). b. We arranged and contributed 4 speakers - including PI and Co-I to deliver keynote speeches and lectures on Protest and urban stability and the subject of digital mapping and data visualization. c. Aided with recruitment and sending invitations by email (aims of the workshop, duration, anticipated outcomes, etc.) d. In collaboration with the BAU we designed the workshop activities, provided appropriate equipment, planned interventions and ensured successful site visits that included Martyrs Square itself. e. RiS team facilitated and co-ran the workshop activities. 2. Coordinated focus group discussions with target engagement of a sample of 15 participants in protest events - in particular 2015. 3. We facilitated dissemination events such as a major lecture at BAU which over 250 people attended, social media attention including Twitter, and Facebook as well as local media coverage. At the major lecture invited and attending dignitaries, professionals and students included: The Mayor of Beirut, the head of Civil Police, the Head of the Civil Defense department, the Rector of BAU, Faculty and Students of BAU, AUB, LU, and professional artitects and planners including the head of the Arab Association of Architecture. The former Lebanese Ambassador to Egypt also attended and participated.
Collaborator Contribution Co-ordination, planning, and delivery of lectures, talks, and workshops, including site visits in Beirut Lebanon In this context, BAU will support interviews, and organise and facilitate workshops in Lebanon. BAU 1. Coordinated and ran the Workshop 1(b) 'Digital Mapping of Landscapes of Urban Revolt': a. Invited more than 25 participants (NGOs, community representatives, urban planners/architects, researchers in visual politics, digital mapping specialists). b. Proposed 2 to 3 speakers on the subject of digital mapping and data visualization. c. Aided with recruitment and sending invitations by email (aims of the workshop, duration, anticipated outcomes, etc.) d. In collaboration with the RIS research team, BAU will designed the workshop activities. e. BAU will facilitate and run the workshop activities. 2. Coordinate focus group discussion with target engagement of a sample of 15 participants. 3. BAU will facilitate dissemination events such as the touring exhibition, to which, among others, social professionals and artists and/or artistic groups will be invited. BAU will also assist in the workshop's media exposure and the recording of activities. 4. BAU will participate in the final and closing conference at the end of Phase 3 with travel and accommodation costs covered by the project.
Impact The outputs include the participation by and completion of a 2-day training workshop in mapping mobility, including site visits, mapping captures, and lab training and assessments by 25 Lebanese participants. Furthermore all the lectures at the 1-day conference were recorded and will be disseminated through captures on the RiS website https://www.revoltinthesquare.org.uk/. Mapping workshops where narratives were recorded and mapping onto maps took place will also result in outputs. This was multi-disciplinary
Start Year 2017
 
Description Lebanese University 
Organisation Lebanese University
Country Lebanon 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In this context, we supported a half-day conference and a half-day mapping narratives workshop. We were involved in the following activities: 1. Co-designed and ran a Workshop 1(a) 'Storytelling and mapping urban unrest'. a. Invited 25 participants (NGOs, community representatives, activists, urban planners/architects). b. Co-organised and ran a half-day conference and had key-note and other lectures delivered by PI and Co-I on the subject of protest movements and urban unrest. c. Aided with recruitment and sending invitations by email (aims of the workshop, duration, anticipated outcomes, etc.) 2. Coordinated and co-ran a focus group discussion within the workshop activities with target engagement of a sample of 15 participants. 3. Facilitated dissemination of the two events including social media, and local media. We also assisted in the workshop's media exposure and the recording of activities.
Collaborator Contribution In this context, The Lebanese University supported fieldwork interviews and a workshop in Lebanon. The Lebanese University was involved in the following activities: 1. Running of the Workshop 1(a) 'Storytelling and mapping urban unrest'. a. Helped Invite 25 participants (NGOs, community representatives, activists, urban planners/architects). b. Proposed and organised 7 speakers, including the Dean of Faculty, on the subject of protest movements and urban unrest. c. Aided with recruitment and sending invitations by email (aims of the workshop, duration, anticipated outcomes, etc.) 2. Helped with logistics for the focus group discussion with target engagement of a sample of 15 participants. 3. The Lebanese University facilitated dissemination. The Lebanese University also assisted in the workshop's media exposure and the recording of activities. 4. The Lebanese University will participate in the final and closing conference at the end of Phase 3.
Impact See above for details of the one-day event.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Public Works Beirut 
Organisation Ministry of Public Works and Transport
PI Contribution With Public Works we have designed and run a series of 3 workshops over two-days under the theme of revolt in the square. Mapping Urban Protest in Beirut Public Squares Workshop Brief by Public Works Studio. The Summer 2015 Protests: Groups, Practices, and Trajectories. These were organised as three focus groups and mapping sessions organised to include a range of actors and participants, including urban/rural, new participants and organizers in the events of 2015 during the #YouStink protests. The workshop/focus groups were organised to be held in Beirut at the premises of Public Works. Public Works are one of our designated project partners and are a ngo based in Beirut engaged with research and advocacy activities. We also arranged for mapping, filming and recording of the workshop/FG
Collaborator Contribution Public Works participated in the planning, co-design and implementation of the workshop. Public Works members also gave a lecture to the BAU one-day conference in October 2017. Public Works premises were used for the duration of the workshop/focus groups. Public Works recruited the participants according to pre-agreed and co-designed categories of inclusion.
Impact Outcome is the successful organization and implementation of the workshops/focus groups in Beirut in February 2018.
Start Year 2017