Building Back Stronger: Urban Resilience Through Post-Conflict Reconstruction

Rebuilding cities and towns after protracted conflict is a more common occurrence than many would find acceptable. It is also a policy challenge that can either exacerbate or help alleviate simmering tensions. Urban planning in the face of conflict, therefore, is an instrument by which economies and societies can be rebuilt. Urban spaces are often microcosms of social space; this can be seen, for example, in residential segregation by race or ethnicity derives, or spaces such as clubs that may be closed to some groups of people, or the symbolic manner in which some groups may feel alienated from a public space that is named after a contentious person or event. This paper examines the cases of cities that have used urban planning to promote peace and build resilience. In particular, it looks at the examples of Medellín, Colombia; Mogadishu, Somalia; Timbuktu, Mali; and Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Each of these cities has powerful lessons for other contexts, even as none offers a perfect answer for post-conflict reconstruction. Through these case studies, this paper seeks to demonstrate the complexities and challenges of a non-linear reconstruction process and how a people- and place-based, integrated approach can improve the resilience of cities affected by conflict.

Editor's note:

This argument appears in Vol. 74, No. 1, "Global Urbanization: Nations, Cities, and Communities in Transformation" (Fall/Winter 2021).

Sameh Wahba
Maitreyi Bordia Das
Yuna Chun
March 15, 2022


Conflicts affect cities in diverse ways that render peacebuilding difficult. They often take a heavy toll on the most vulnerable people, especially those with lower human capital endowments, smaller networks and safety nets, and limited political representation. Conflicts also force people to relocate in search of security, safety, and livelihoods. More than 79.5 million people, of whom 40 percent were children, had been forced to relocate as of 2019—the highest number on record—and two out of three internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in urban or peri-urban areas.[1], [i] Such a sudden and large inflow of people can change the dynamics of host cities, overstretching existing urban infrastructure and service delivery systems that may already be strained or fragile. This can result in increased security risks, discrimination, and xenophobia against the migrant or minority groups, driven by competition over scarce resources, politicized violence, governance failure, and deep-rooted ethnic or religious division. Conflicts shatter urban agglomerations by disrupting critical urban systems and services such as housing, sanitation, transportation, and health. They can also destroy buildings and monuments that hold intangible value to collective memory, unsettling people’s identities and their connection to place. At the same time, conflict compounds the effects of other shocks. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has exacerbated the challenges in conflict-affected and fragile settings, intensifying the deprivation of marginalized groups like refugees who often have inadequate access to basic services, information, and social and political spaces.[2] Pandemics, natural hazards, and other such shocks do not cease because a city is in the throes of conflict.

Regardless of the channel through which conflicts affect cities, rebuilding an urban area’s physical, economic, social, and political dimensions after conflicts—especially protracted ones—is an onerous undertaking. It necessitates integrated approaches that focus on both people and place to address the underlying dynamics of vulnerability. Rebuilding that fails to address the root causes of conflict can magnify and reinforce existing tensions and undermine social inclusion and economic growth. Instead, rebuilding can and should serve as an opportunity to leverage cities’ unique social, environmental, and spatial endowments to emphasize inclusion, diversity, and pluralism. Lasting resilience is founded on an inclusive and participatory approach, whereby the city and state—along with key stakeholders like communities and development partners—first understand who has been disproportionately affected by conflicts or is at risk of being left out of the reconstruction process, in what way, for what reasons, and then come to a determination of what can be done.[3] This requires building or strengthening institutions and nurturing human capital while investing in physical and economic capital.[ii] Investing in people encompasses efforts to ensure community participation, support livelihoods, and invest in basic social service delivery including health, education, and social protection, and integrate vulnerable populations and marginalized groups. Investing in place covers urban regeneration, infrastructure, service delivery, and public amenities, and a specific focus on mobility for the poor to enable access to jobs and services.

Successful post-conflict reconstruction, in its broadest sense, is about strengthening the ability to cope with future shocks, thus increasing the odds of lasting peace.[4] Many cities have had partial success with this. But those that have achieved sustained peace have done so by investing in both people and place. This article uses four examples to illustrate how cities have attempted to build spatial, social, and economic resilience to conflicts and other shocks with a focus on people and place: Medellín, Colombia; Mogadishu, Somalia; Timbuktu, Mali; and Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.[iii] Each has lessons for other contexts, even if none offers an all-encompassing example of successful post-conflict reconstruction. Through the case studies, this paper seeks to demonstrate the complexities and challenges of a non-linear reconstruction process and how a people- and place-based, integrated approach can improve the resilience of cities affected by conflict.  

Four Cities, Two Ingredients, One Integrated Approach

Each of the four cities below has prioritized people- and place-based approaches in its reconstruction process. Each has also adopted these approaches in tandem, ensuring an integrated response to post-conflict challenges. This section describes the trajectory of the four cities.

Medellín, Colombia: A Regeneration Process Founded on Community Participation and Investments in Public Space, Amenities, and Mobility Infrastructure[5]

Medellín, Colombia was once characterized by protracted crime and violence that was fueled by the drug trade. It had the highest global homicide rate in the 1990s—one that was nearly 40 times greater than what is defined as “epidemic violence” by the UN.[iv] At the same time, the city was fraught with deep-seated socio-economic inequalities exacerbated by its geographical features and urban fabric; marginalized communities were isolated on the Andean hillsides with limited infrastructure to access other parts of the city. These conditions were aggravated by large numbers of rural migrants or IDPs who had arrived in the city after fleeing armed conflict elsewhere in the country. Migration and its spillover effects impacted the spatial and economic characteristics, as well as the growth, of Medellín. Informal settlements and neighborhoods that were already disconnected and ill-equipped with infrastructure and services became centers of violence and the influence of infamous drug cartels, exacerbating the city’s existing challenges.

Against such pressing issues, Medellín introduced a series of innovative urban development policies to address its socio-economic challenges with the objectives of reintegrating the poor and marginalized groups into mainstream society and reconnecting their neighborhoods with the rest of the city. First, the city nurtured a new form of collaborative urban politics based on broader political participation and public debate, accompanied by a new national constitution in 1991 that mandated participatory democracy. The city’s grassroots community organizations, religious and academic institutions, businesses, and artists regularly convened to discuss ideas to combat the culture of violence and inequality and engaged the most marginalized groups to build a shared vision for the city. Communal forums at the neighborhood level drew attention to the needs of residents and placed them at the center of the urban planning process. By bringing urban governance closer to communities, communities were empowered to influence the decision-making process around issues like municipal budgeting and cultivated a sense of ownership over their city. Public debates and social interactions also served as means through which the people of Medellín came together to address problems. The city thus provided a vital platform to reconcile and overcome collective trauma and to plan for a better future.

Medellín also recognized the role of physical spaces and infrastructure in bridging territorial divisions and inequalities and in building trust. In the early 2000s, it embarked upon the notion of “social urbanism”, establishing libraries, educational and cultural centers, and health clinics. It restored more than 40,000 square meters of parks and gardens in marginalized neighborhoods, providing the areas with safe, inclusive, and green public spaces and amenities. It built metro cable cars and outdoor escalators to facilitate mobility and transport residents across diverse socio-economic boundaries, connecting impoverished neighborhoods in Medellín’s mountainous periphery to the rest of the city. In doing so, the city helped break down physical and psychological barriers to cohesion. Furthermore, it created digitized maps for Comuna 13, which was once a notorious neighborhood controlled by drug cartels.[6] These maps marked the location of violent and illegal activities and introduced new urban features to enhance safety, such as additional street lighting, pedestrian bridges, and community centers.

The transformative public spaces and infrastructure played more than just the obvious physical roles; they were powerful symbols that embraced the once excluded and most deprived groups as an integral part of the city and served as catalysts for a new civic culture that promoted a sense of co-existence and safety. The transformation helped build a sense of pride and belonging among the city’s once-excluded residents, as they received quality investments in their neighborhoods as the rest of the “formal” city. In doing so, the city attracted new businesses in and around the once ill-famed area, creating new economic and social opportunities. Medellín’s new participatory urban governance and social innovations laid the foundation for social cohesion as well as greater trust in institutions. Emphasizing an “urban resilience” built on investment in people and place as the city’s core value, Medellín continues to transform and advance as a laboratory of resilience at a global level and move away from its troubled past.[7]   

Mogadishu, Somalia: Recovery Efforts Amid Fragility Focusing on Basic Service Delivery and Integration of Vulnerable Groups Including Refugees and Returnees with Host Communities[8]

Decades of armed conflict, ad hoc regime change, and weak institutions—exacerbated by climate shocks, especially droughts and seasonal floods, significantly denuded Somalia’s human, economic, institutional, and social capital. As a result of the compounded shocks and stresses, it is estimated that approximately 2.6 million Somalis are displaced within their own country; most moved from rural areas to informal development sites in urban and peri-urban areas in search of safety and better access to basic services.[9] The population dynamics and social structures have further accelerated urbanization, but host cities that lack the capacity to absorb and cope with the large displacement accentuated the vulnerability of already marginalized groups.

Massive internal migration, accompanied by Somali returnees and Yemeni refugees seeking shelter in Somalia, have reshaped the urban fabric of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. More than 500,000 IDPs settled in the urban fringe of Mogadishu, putting additional pressure on its already frail and stretched environment. Under these circumstances, the IDPs were reported to face multilayered hardships, including forced evictions due to the absence of laws to regulate land transactions or policies to protect informal settlers,[10] In addition, some groups, such as women, were exposed to violence and sexual exploitation at the community and inter-personal level without adequate protection and enforcement of laws.[11] Mogadishu was named one of the world’s most fragile cities in 2015 by the World Economic Forum. In 2018, its poverty rate was 57 percent compared to the national average of 49 percent.[12]

Addressing the fallout of the conflict in its many manifestations has been the government’s first priority. Somalia’s National Development Plan for 2020 to 2024 acknowledges the marginalization and multi-dimensional deprivation of women, youth, IDPs, persons with disabilities, and other excluded groups and commits to reintegrating them into society.[13] The government’s recovery tools have included the World Bank-financed Somalia Urban Resilience Project,[14] that aims at strengthening the spatial, physical, social, economic, and institutional resilience of select cities, including Mogadishu. The project recognizes that rebuilding requires a comprehensive, resilience-based approach to respond effectively to the different shocks and fluid conditions induced by the protracted displacement. With a particular focus on building physical resilience, it supports host cities in alleviating immediate pressures on infrastructure and services, enhancing their capacities for the long-term, and building social and climate resilience. Given the climate-related challenges, the project has supported the local governments to incorporate climate-smart measures into infrastructure design to mitigate and adapt to shocks. The project also focuses on enhancing the physical and social integration of marginalized groups into the urban fabric of Mogadishu by mainstreaming inclusion into the overall planning and ensuring equitable access to public infrastructure and services.

The project also highlights the importance of citizen engagement, transparency, and participatory processes. It has assigned community engagement officers (one male and one female) in project implementation units to facilitate broad community participation and ensure that civic works reflected the voices of the community, especially women, youth, and IDPs. Furthermore, the project requires that all investments in urban infrastructure benefit the IDPs, returnees, refugees, urban poor, and host communities to foster social resilience and prevent further displacement and poverty. For instance, investments in road networks in ten districts of Mogadishu focus on enhancing the interconnectivity of the disjointed communities within the city and providing better access to schools, markets, and health facilities for marginalized groups. At the same time, infrastructure from pedestrian walkways to drainage systems and street lighting is designed to reflect the city’s climatic conditions, especially droughts and torrential rainfall, and to mitigate and recover rapidly from disruptions.[15]

Despite ongoing challenges and perceived risks, the early rebuilding efforts based on participatory process and mainstreaming the tenets of inclusion into the construction of infrastructure and delivery of services provide pointers to steps towards urban resilience. The interventions are both place-based and people-centered. Successful implementation will help establish the link between physical rebuilding and social inclusion, providing equitable access to services and resources for all, while strengthening the city’s public service delivery capacity and the overall urban resilience to restore and sustain stability in the long run.

Timbuktu, Mali: A Recovery Process Based on Rebuilding Destroyed Mausoleums, Restoring Manuscripts and Rejuvenating Traditional Ceremonies and Rituals to Heal and Reknit the Community[16]

As Mali fell into turmoil with an unprecedented political, institutional, and security crisis in 2012, devastation struck the city of Timbuktu, a historical center of trans-Saharan trading routes and Islamic scholarship. The population suffered massive displacement, social divisions, and trauma, as well as the destruction of the city’s physical assets and its invaluable heritage. Affected heritage assets included mausoleums and mosques, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and other cultural assets, such as the ancient manuscripts and traditional practices closely linked to the local communities’ history and identity. During the conflict, mausoleums to which many communities have a close spiritual connection were vandalized and destroyed, while traditional practices such as communal dances, music, and religious ceremonies were forbidden. Ancient manuscripts were burned or stolen, including a collection of testimony to the history of Malian empires, their multi-ethnic governance, tolerance, conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and humanity, as well as rich literary traditions.[17] These tangible and intangible assets were deliberately targeted so as to eradicate the local communities’ cultural identity, living traditions, and dignity, and to promote radical ideologies and fear. In doing so, the armed groups disrupted the urban fabric and broke down communal values, threatening the social cohesion and pluralism that defined and sustained Timbuktu for centuries. The crisis also caused a loss of human and social capital, displacing a majority of local craftsmen, artisans, and scholars to the city of Bamako or neighboring countries and unsettling the local creative and cultural practices. 

In the face of these daunting challenges, the international community came together to support the 2013 Action Plan for the Rehabilitation of Cultural Heritage and Safeguarding of Ancient Manuscripts in Mali.[18] This reconstruction project aimed to go beyond restoring physical monuments and damaged manuscripts; it used culture as a source of resilience and sustainable development to build Timbuktu back stronger. It also actively engaged diverse actors at the international, national, and local levels. At the heart of the multi-faceted collaboration were local Malian communities, who shared traditional knowledge to help rebuild their heritage and way of life.

The process used culture as the glue to bring diverse communities and the state together, with the former leading the charge. For example, local masons, including master artisans and specially-trained apprentices, were assigned the task of reconstructing and restoring the earthen buildings that embody the ancestral knowledge and the communal traditions of regular maintenance practices. Masons rebuilt their distinct heritage with local materials like alhor stone and traditional building techniques, including stone mortaring with the mix of clay and straw.[19] Other local communities came together to carry out plastering and resumed their rituals, including dancing, prayer ceremonies, and sacralization, bringing back different forms of traditions and cultural expressions and reinstating the community’s identity, self-esteem, and pride. At the same time, locals and NGOs, which covertly rescued and transported 285,000 manuscripts in 2,400 metal boxes during the occupation, worked with professionals to locate, clean, store, catalog, and digitize surviving manuscripts. The process of restoring Timbuktu’s physical and intangible assets, which ensured the use and transmission of ancestral knowledge and culture-sensitive mechanisms, recreated the sense of ownership and shared values for the communities and also demonstrated the local community’s capacity for resilience.

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Recovery Process Through Restoring the City’s Physical Contours, Strengthening Local Capacity, and Leveraging Culture for Reconciliation[20]

The war between 1992 and 1995 in Bosnia and Herzegovina took a heavy toll on lives lost, communities displaced, infrastructure destroyed, and collective trauma. More than 100,000 people were killed, 1.2 million Bosnian refugees fled abroad, and another million were internally displaced.[21] The conflict was especially catastrophic for Sarajevo, the country’s capital. Sixty percent of buildings suffered damage, 80 percent of utilities were disabled, and important historical and cultural assets like the National Library were damaged or destroyed.[22] In many cases, the burned and blasted remains of assets were removed from the sites in an attempt to erase the community’s cultural memory and disrupt its sense of belonging and shared values.[23] Following this colossal destruction, sometimes referred to as “urbicide,” the international community sought to transform Sarajevo into a united, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and pluri-religious city, emphasizing the importance of the return of refugees and IDPs.[24] In 1997, the entire historic urban area of Sarajevo was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List as “a unique symbol of universal multi-culture - continual open city,” providing symbolic value and a vision for the city.[25]

Sarajevo’s reconstruction faced challenges from the beginning. The 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace, also known as the “Dayton Accords,” provided the legal foundation for international communities to give financial and technical assistance to initiate the rebuilding process. The efforts focused on restoring basic infrastructure and services. But the responsible agencies had discrete initiatives and visions that often conflicted; they worked in parallel at varying speeds, rendering it difficult to harmonize procedures or develop monitoring and accountability mechanisms. Given the country’s socio-political complexity, these initial projects achieved limited success.[26] In the absence of culturally-informed interventions, some new war monuments and reconfigured religious buildings were considered divisive and contested.

Sarajevo increasingly recognized the spatial, political, and cultural complexity of the rebuilding process as it evolved; the wide range of stakeholders and systems required coordinated, culturally-informed and place-based interventions that reflected the needs of the local people. Early efforts demonstrated that a linear, goal-oriented approach, focused primarily on restoring physical infrastructure without community participation or sectoral linkages, was not a sustainable solution. Historically, the city had a non-linear and complex growth trajectory from the Ottoman to Austro-Hungarian to the socialist era.[27] Recognizing the shortcomings of the early interventions, it was deemed crucial to strengthen local capacity and improve coordination between residents and the local, national, and international bodies in order to restore the city’s heterogeneity.[28] Over time, local institutions regained their capabilities, and the role of culture in the reconciliation process became more evident. At the heart of the process were the city’s diverse social, political, and religious communities, which contributed to planning and implementation by sharing views and challenges.[29] From the time the city was under siege and throughout the rebuilding process, civic societies, artists, and residents strengthened and showed their resilience by holding cultural events and exhibitions, including concerts, plays, and literary meetings. They used damaged urban spaces that were considered “neutral,” such as the National Library, as a backdrop, showing the world that culture and cultural venues were a source of dignity, life, and resilience, and also a means to unite.[30]

Sarajevo’s rebuilding process was fraught with challenges and produced mixed results.[31] Due to the complexity of coordinating a wide range of actors—including national governments, international organizations, donors, and NGOs—during the highly fragile transition period, the immediate post-conflict interventions prioritized rebuilding the physical fabric and services of the city and did not actively involve local authorities or other stakeholders, which is a crucial element for resilient city planning.[32] While the process mitigated some implementation hurdles that were anticipated because of political disagreements, it missed opportunities to incorporate inclusion and resilience into spatial strategies and social contracts at the institutional level.[33] On the other hand, civic organizations, artists, and local communities continued to stress the importance of cultural memory and the heterogeneity of the urban fabric in rebuilding Sarajevo and embraced creative methods to demonstrate its resilience.

Lessons from Sarajevo underscore the importance of strengthening local capacities toward an integrated and culturally-informed approach and ensuring a participatory rebuilding process that goes beyond brick-and-mortar interventions. Drawing on the lessons and challenges from Sarajevo’s recovery process, the Mostar Bridge—named after a city destroyed in the conflict—was rebuilt after locals identified it as a crucial investment for restoring the city’s physical fabric and connectivity between diverse communities. “A person killed is one of us; the Bridge is all of us.”[34] The fact that locals prioritized it over housing demonstrates its significance to their cultural heritage and symbolic importance in reconnecting communities, as well as the people’s understanding of its role in reconciliation and peaceful co-existence going forward.


Medellín, Mogadishu, Timbuktu, and Sarajevo highlight important lessons for reconstructing cities after conflict and building urban resilience to crisis. In particular, they show the limited success of merely focusing on restoring the functionality of the built environment or reconstructing landmarks and other physical infrastructure.[35] City and federal governments may believe that conflict-affected communities lack the organization or cohesion to participate effectively in the reconstruction process. Further, the former may want to focus on efficient physical reconstruction. However, such interventions are often top-down, ignore the needs of affected communities, and miss the opportunity to learn from their inherent understanding of the conflict’s context.

Cities are complex, multi-faceted places with layers of diverse historical and social narratives. As microcosms of nations’ broader social dynamics and tensions, urban areas are laboratories within which inclusion and integration strategies can be fostered.[36] Recent approaches recognize post-conflict reconstruction as an opportunity to renew physical, social, and institutional fabrics. Given the interconnectivity of sectors, including housing, transport, energy, and cultural heritage, an integrated approach based on community involvement is the only route to long-term peace and resilience. Instead of restoring the physical elements of the pre-conflict conditions, recent practices propose an integrated and broader participatory approach to the design, reconstruction, and recovery process that invests in people and place. In short, it is an opportunity to “build back stronger” and address the roots of conflict in the process.[37] Since building inclusion and resilience often go hand in hand, post-conflict reconstruction can be an opportunity to tackle the drivers of exclusion and alleviate historical tensions.

Post-conflict reconstruction can serve as the platform for building an inclusive future, renewing social contracts, encouraging social cohesion, and building social capital.[38] Participatory and collaborative planning is a critical tool that can help address issues from an early stage and prevent further spatial and social fragmentation. It can also enable communities to withstand challenges over the long-term. Yet, this article underscores that building urban resilience after conflict is a complex and often non-linear and iterative process. It has interlinked challenges, including limited institutional capacity, operational, and funding challenges in the provision of urban services and infrastructure, changes in demographic and social structures, conflicting interests, and fragile social fabrics characterized by inequality and eroded trust and identity.

While each case study is anchored in specific urban conditions and challenges, all emphasize the importance of linkages between physical recovery and social reconciliation through inclusive and participatory processes to address the immediate needs and root causes of vulnerability. In successful cases, post-conflict reconstruction and recovery hinged on investing in people and place, with culture serving as the glue for an overall integrated approach.[39] These cases emphasized the strengthening of institutions, including participatory urban planning, decision-making for investment prioritization, and capacity building, with investments in infrastructure and equitable service delivery and social programs. In short, a combination of place-based and people-centered approaches hold the key to lasting peace and resilience.

In the case of Medellín, the role of civic engagement and public spaces and infrastructure that connect people across diverse socio-economic boundaries was crucial to address inequality and reshape social norms. In Timbuktu, the recovery process focused on the community and combined restoring the city’s both tangible and intangible heritage. Timbuktu's case also illustrates how collaborative rebuilding of the cultural heritage by local communities using traditional knowledge and skills can help locals reestablish their cultural identity and demonstrate resilience. By collectively rebuilding their heritage, these communities were united through communal practices, rooted in their history and shared values, and regained a sense of ownership of their city.

Mogadishu’s case showed that early interventions focusing on restoring the critical municipal infrastructure and services reflected and prioritized the needs of the most marginalized groups through the open and multi-stakeholder participatory mechanisms. Interventions considered the changing population dynamics of the (host) city and integrated the vulnerable groups and the informal settlements as part of the urban fabric in the overall rebuilding process to ensure inclusive and equitable service delivery. Sarajevo's experience highlighted the importance of moving beyond brick-and-mortar interventions and developing culturally-informed strategies involving the locals and other stakeholders from the outset. It also underscored the need for strengthening the local institutions' capacities and enabling them to sustain the efforts in the long-term. Finally, it demonstrated the power of citizens and grassroots initiatives in leading culture-centered rebuilding approaches for social reconciliation and restoration of shared values.

Post-conflict reconstruction and recovery is a long process, and there are no universally applicable solutions. It is therefore important to take a long-term view and to monitor progress to ensure that the marginalized are integral contributors to the recovery process and become architects of their own resilience. As the Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery Framework proposes, it is vital to put local communities and their cultures at the heart of the recovery planning process, connecting them to the places that strengthen their identity, and facilitating policies to implement the resilient recovery measures.[40] Finally, accountability of the local government and the state to all its residents—irrespective of their power and voice—must be foundational to reconstruction, recovery, and long-term resilience. Rebuilding can catalyze processes of positive changes, bridging inequalities by reestablishing and restoring physical, social, and human capital and integrating all groups into the urban fabric, thus creating an opportunity to build back stronger.

[i] Of these, 45.7 million were internally displaced persons and 26.3 million were refugees.

[ii] Investing in people and in place are at times portrayed as a trade-off between a “leave no one behind” policy, as that underlying the Sustainable Development Goals, and a “leave no place behind” approach for spatial and territorial development. However, building back stronger requires simultaneous investment in people and in place.

[iii] The paper also draws on lessons from an internal review of the World Bank’s portfolio of projects that address urban forced displacement in particular. Although it is difficult to assess the extent to which resilience has been built in any of the cases, stress testing tools can help assess how well a city would perform in a crisis. Examples include the process by which the municipal budget is allocated among competing priorities and whether adequate support is provided to marginalized neighborhoods, and the extent to which the city has worked to tackle underlying drivers of conflict, including investment in improving access to and the quality of education or in reducing the insecurity of tenure, which fuels conflict and disproportionately impacts the poor and vulnerable. However, since we do not have stress testing tools available for this paper, we reflect upon the trajectory of four cities as best we can. The review draws from previously documented case studies that were selected to illustrate diverse approaches to fostering urban resilience in post-conflict settings. The cases are intended to provide a glimpse into the various and non-linear processes towards addressing the needs of diverse groups across multiple sectors rather than to prescribe specific approaches.

[iv] A homicide rate of 10 per population of 100,000. 

[1] UNHCR, “Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2019”,; UNHCR, “Refugee Data Finder” (database, UNHCR, 2020),

[2] WHO, “Apart Together survey: Preliminary overview of refugees and migrants self-reported impact of COVID-19,” December 18, 2020,; World Bank, “Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity” (report, World Bank, 2013),; World Bank, “Peacebuilding and Recovery in the Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery (CURE) Framework” (report, World Bank 2019),

[3] World Bank, “Social Inclusion Assessment Tool” (subsidiary release to “Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity” report, World Bank, 2018),

[4] World Bank, “Investing in Urban Resilience: Protecting and Promoting Development in a Changing World” (report, World Bank, 2016),

[5] World Bank and UNESCO, “Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery” (report, World Bank and UNESCO, 2018),; Santiago Uribe Rocha and Ursula Baigorria Köppel, “The Cultural Transformation of Medellín” (internal report, World Bank and UNESCO, 2018: unpublished); Cosima Malandrino, “On the ‘Medellin Miracle’ and the ‘Social Urbanism’ Model,” Urban Media Lab, October 11, 2017, Blanco and Hidetsugu Kobayashi, “Urban transformation in slum districts through public space generation and cable transportation at north-eastern area: Medellín, Colombia,” Journal of International Social Research, 2, no. 8 (Summer 2009): 75-90.

[6] Francis Fukuyama and Seth Colby, “Half a Miracle,” Foreign Policy, April 25, 2011,

[7] Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and Pamela Sofia Duran Vinueza, “How is Medellin a model of urban transformation and social resilience?” World Bank, June 2, 2017,

[8] World Bank, “Somalia Urbanization Review: Fostering Cities as Anchors of Development,” (report, World Bank, January 2021),; World Bank, “Somalia - Systematic Country Diagnostic” (systematic country diagnostic, World Bank, May 1, 2018),; World Bank, “Forced Displacement: An Agenda for Cities and Towns” (report, World Bank, forthcoming); World Bank, “Somalia - Urban Resilience Project” (project summary page, World Bank, 2018),; World Bank, “Somalia - Urban Resilience Project II” (project summary page, World Bank, 2019),

[9] UNHCR, “Somalia: Estimated IDP Population in Informal Sites and Camp-Like Settings” (map, UNHCR, July 12, 2019),

[10] World Bank, “Somalia Urbanization Review”; IDMC, “UnSettlement: Urban displacement in the 21st century - City of flight: New and secondary displacements in Mogadishu, Somalia” (report, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, November 2018),

[11] “Gender-based Violence Information Management System.”

[12] The Igarapé Institute, “Fragile Cities,” (data visualization, The Igarapé Institute, United Nations University, World Economic Forum, and 100 Resilient Cities, 2015),; World Bank, “Somalia - Systematic Country Diagnostic.”

[13] Ministry of Planning, Investment and Economic Development, “Somalia National Development Plan 2020 to 2024: The Path to a Just, Stable and Prosperous Somalia” (National Development Plan, Federal Republic of Somalia’s Ministry of Planning, 2020),

[14] World Bank, “Somalia - Urban Resilience Project”; World Bank, “Somalia - Urban Resilience Project II.”

[15] World Bank, “Somalia - Urban Resilience Project”; World Bank, “Somalia - Urban Resilience Project II.”

[16] World Bank and UNESCO, “Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery”; Lazare Eloundou Assomo, “Integrating culture, recovery and reconstruction for sustainable urban development: Reconstruction after crisis: Timbuktu case study” (internal report, World Bank and UNESCO, 2018: unpublished); Thierry Joffroy and Ben Essayouti, “Lessons learnt from the reconstruction of the destroyed mausoleums of Timbuktu, Mali” (report, International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, HERITAGE2020 conference, Coimbra: September 9-12, 2020), 913-920.

[17] UNESCO, “Rebuilding Cultural Heritage in Mali” UNESCO World Heritage Convention, July 1, 2014,

[18] UNESCO, “Final Report and Action Plan for the Rehabilitation of Cultural Heritage and the Safeguarding of Ancient Manuscripts in Mali,” (report and action plan, International Experts Meeting for the Safeguarding of Mali’s Cultural Heritage, Paris: February 18, 2013),

[19] Lassana Cissé, “Role of the Traditional Masonry Corporation in the Process of Reconstruction of the Destroyed Mausoleums in Timbuktu, Mali,” in The Future of the Bamiyan Buddha Statues, ed. Masanori Nagaoka (London: Springer Nature, 2020): 123–124.

[20] World Bank and UNESCO, “Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery”; Amra Hadžimuhamedović, “Participative reconstruction as a healing process in Bosnia,” (case study, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands, UNESCO Funds-in-Trust Project, 2018),; Galen Lamphere-Englund, “Rebuilding Sarajevo” (report, The Aleppo Project, October 5, 2015),

[21] International Crisis Group, “Going nowhere fast: Refugees and internally displaced persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina (report, Bosnia Report no. 23, International Crisis Group, May 1, 1997): 1–67.

[22] Scott Bollens, “Urban Planning and Peace Building,” Progress in Planning 66, no. 2 (August 2006): 67-139.

[23] Amra Hadžimuhamedović, “Participative reconstruction.”

[24] UN Security Council, Resolution 900 on restoration of essential public services and normal life in and around Sarajevo, 3344th meeting, March 4, 1994.

[25] Institute for the protection of cultural, historical and natural heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina, “Sarajevo - unique symbol of universal multiculture - continual open city” (Tentative World Heritage Site List, UNESCO World Heritage Center, January 9, 1997),

[26] Gruia Bădescu, “Dwelling in the Post-War City Urban Reconstruction and Home-Making in Sarajevo,” Revue d’études comparatives Est-Ouest 4, no. 4 (2015): 35–60.

[27] Armina Pilav, “Before the war, war, after the war: Urban imageries for urban resilience,” International Journal of Disaster Risk Science 3 (May 23, 2012): 23–37.

[28] Lamphere-Englund, “Rebuilding Sarajevo.”

[29] Amra Hadžimuhamedović, “Culture-based urban resilience: post-war recovery of Sarajevo,” (case study, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands, UNESCO Funds-in-Trust Project, 2018),

[30] Hadžimuhamedović, “Culture-based urban resilience.”

[31] Lamphere-Englund, “Rebuilding Sarajevo.”

[32] Armina Pilav, “Before the war, war, after the war.”

[33] Amra Hadžimuhamedović, “Participative reconstruction.”

[34] Slavenka Drakulic, “Falling Down: A Mostar Bridge elegy,” The New Republic, December 13, 1993: 14–15.

[35] Grant Garstka, “Post-conflict urban planning: The regularization process of an informal neighborhood in Kosova/o,” Habitat International 34, no. 1 (January 2010), 86-95; Esther Charlesworth, Architects without frontiers: War, reconstruction and design responsibility (Oxford: Architectural Press, 2006).

[36] Bollens; Nicolai Steinø, Marwa Dabaieh, and Karima Ben Bih, “Post-conflict reconstruction in the Middle East and North Africa region: A bidirectional parametric urban design approach,” International Journal of Architectural Computing 18, no. 3 (February 17, 2020): 296–313.

[37] UN-Habitat, “Urban Planning Responses in Post-Crisis Contexts” (report, UN-Habitat, 2020),

[38] World Bank and the German Development Cooperation, “Building for Peace: Reconstruction for Security, Equity, and Sustainable Peace in MENA” (report, World Bank and the German Development Cooperation, 2020),

[39] World Bank and UNESCO, “Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery.”

[40] World Bank and UNESCO, “Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery.”