David Howard (Lecturer in Sustainable Urban Development, University of Oxford) looks at larger concerns over social and spatial equity, conceptual approaches to sovereignty and the practical interpretation of sustainable forms of justice.
Abstract: Recent urban policy initiatives in the Caribbean have shifted from producing material infrastructural change to a greater emphasis on confronting 'civil disorder' via new forms of policing and surveillance. Just as development policy witnessed a 'cultural turn' during the 1990s, so too have sustainable development initiatives at local and international scales recognised and revised attention on forms of social sustainability. Increasing levels of violent crime over the last decade across the Caribbean, one of the most urbanised regions in the world, has placed particular focus on the economic and social vulnerabilities of urban populations. Recent UN and World Bank reports indicate that urban violence is the singular greatest hindrance to economic development in the region. The paper will draw on recent fieldwork in the Dominican Republic, most notably concerning the government's Plan de Seguridad Democrática. A key component is the Barrio Seguro ('Safe Neighbourhood') project, which relies on 'zero tolerance' policing and prolonged militarised intervention in demarcated neighbourhoods to 'secure' the city and its citizens. Such policies raise concerns over social and spatial equity, conceptual approaches to sovereignty and the practical interpretation of sustainable forms of justice.