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A Secure IFRC Neighbourhood

The presence of a community creates a safety net for all users of a shared space. However, to be effective, it needs to be accompanied by a responsive institutional structure that values reciprocity with its neighbours. It is such reciprocity that eventually makes for a secure and safe environment for all.

There is a nourishing, caring and protective element that grows spontaneously around a neighourhood with a strong sense of community. This includes providing security to its human, non-human, physical and ecological components together. Creating security, by protecting and nourishing the natural environment (for example, an urban forest) is as important as protecting its users and inhabitants.

It is this coming together of the meaning of environment (as a protective sheen around an object) and a community (secure networks of co-dependent relationships) that generates the practice of Security in its most positive connotations. It is not a hostile concept, it is not against the outsider or the unfamiliar, but a positive assertion of its role as a protective layer for all that exists within its fold.

Of course, there is always a sense of boundary creation that happens. A fold has markers and the possibility of exclusivity is always there.

The most interesting thing about combining the protection of natural and social components of a shared space is that all its resources can be used creatively. For example, the park or the urban forest can act as a boundary as well as a site of shared use. The more the space is used and shared the more the community can be both, a host as well as guardian.

The best forms of security protocol follow such a template - thus providing safety without hostility, security without exclusivity - and at no point does it compromise its primary role of protecting the environment and the community.

Many studies and practices connected to urban security acknowledge such moves. They demonstrate links between parks and public spaces, and how elements of the built and natural environment affect people’s perception of safety, can guide the use of technological systems and equipment in a judicious, effective and sensitive manner.

The UN Habitat programme for safer cities speaks about the need to manage a city’s public spaces to ensure the safety of neighborhoods not just with local or institutional mechanisms but through community ownership and management. The Safer Cities Programme proposes moves that improve ‘social cohesions and community engagement’. They in fact recommend the “institutionalization of the participatory approach by incorporating safety as a cross-cutting dimension”.

The IFRC Community Park project can well be considered an important move in developing an innovative model for security of public and shared spaces in which it combines environmental and community concerns incorporating both as tools for promoting security.

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