As Delegate-General of the European Forum for Urban Security (Efus), Elizabeth Johnston is responsible for the strategy and development of Efus, in connection with the executive committee, as well as the general management of the organisation. She has also been delegate-general of the French forum for urban security since February 2016.
Furthermore, she is also member of the advisory council of the Global Parliament of Mayors and is a collaborator of the University of Liege (Belgium). Previously, and after having begun her career within a local community, Elizabeth Johnston was director of a programme for the Franco-American Foundation and was an expert in violence prevention in the World Bank. She was awarded a degree in Law by the University of Assas (France), in Political Science by the University of Yale (USA) as well a degree in Public Policy by the University of Marne-La-Vallée (France).
What do you consider to be the challenges to urban security in the decades to come? Tell us the four most important risks to urban security in the near future.
One of the main challenges in terms of security that all European cities have to address is the growing complexity and very fast evolution of the threats they are facing. Apart from the daily security problems that continue to be important, our cities administer the consequences of global phenomena that overwhelm them to a large extent: trafficking of people and goods, terrorist networks, cybercrime… These demand advanced technicality and a capacity for innovation and adaptation, which shake up usual administrative frameworks, impose new forms of collaboration and new ways of visualising security.
Another major challenge is the increase in social and economic inequalities: this generates a resentment that can escalate into violence and crime and cripple social cohesion, which is the only guarantee of durable security. These inequalities also contribute to the phenomenon of polarisation and make it even more difficult to create the common good reflected by security.
Linked to this phenomenon of polarisation like the common globalisation-related issues, cities must address a growing distrust on the part of the general public regarding public action. Building and nourishing a trusting rapport between public authorities and citizens is vital in order to establish a durable security policy, and it is for this reason cities must also innovate in terms of transparency, dialogue, and coproduction.
What role must the citizenship play in the field of urban security ? Is it the role of the recipient of the public security service?
As with any public policy, prevention measures and urban security must be defined in accordance with citizens’ needs. Every neighbourhood, every city is different only by fully involving residents will we be able to propose suitable responses. Residents must be involved in all stages of our policies: from their conception, their application and to their final evaluation. A major challenge these days is also to establish citizen participation based on principles of solidarity and representivity in order to bear keep society’s diversity in mind. Women, the elderly and also the young must no longer be simply the focus of security policies. They must become agents of prevention and play a full part in coproduction.
Is there still a role for the State in urban security or is it an issue that must be addressed by local communities and at an international level?
Territorial collectives have been shown to be indispensable actors for many years in order to act within the living environment, in everyday public security but they cannot act alone and must be backed up. Phenomena like violent extremism or organised crime have repercussions that go beyond regional and national borders. They are often very agile networks that often spread out across Europe and on an even more international scale. All levels of government must consult each other to adopt complementary responses. In addition, these days national and European governance structures make territorial collectives even more dependant, both financially and in legislative terms, on other levels of government.
Who are the fundamental players in urban security ? Is there still a role for the police force and the judicial system?
The police, the judicial system, penitentiary institutions have an essential role in urban security. However, other actors like local institutions, civil society or even the private sector also play a key role, giving meaning to the concept of coproduction.
Police forces and judiciary institutions must adapt to their partnerships to push forward their doctrines of use and the training of their agents.