25/10/2011The events of Port-au-Prince, Benghazi, Abidjan and Fukushima remind us that the history of cities, wars and natural disasters have been intimately linked since the dawn of civilisation. As centres of power and wealth, cities have always been a major driving force of progress: Babylone, Carthage, Rome, Florence… Paris, Vienna, New-York, Shanghai, Port-au-Prince… Two characteristics or urban dynamics – increased population density and the accumulation of wealth and power – have always created or reinforced both natural and political risk factors. The collective memory of humanity is full of images of devastated cities and modified socio-political systems following major destruction in cities: one of the clearest illustrations of this is the history of the Mediterranean, and particularly that of Lebanon. With the growing urbanization of the planet and the growing number of megacities, the human population is increasingly concentrated in and around cities. There is therefore an urgent need to take a closer look at these “fragile cities”, where more than 50% of the earth’s population already lives.