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Issue Brief No. 7 Urban Black Holes: The changing face of state failure

7 April 2011

In astronomy, a black hole is a “cosmic body with gravity so intense that nothing, not even light, can escape.” Recently, the term has also found its way into international security parlance, where it is used to refer to a zone where state power has collapsed. Black holes are usually thought of as rather remote areas, geographically far removed from
national seats of power. Notorious examples are the Pakistani region of Waziristan and the tri-border area of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. However, as the segment of the world population that lives in cities keeps growing, the security threats posed by urban black holes are growing as well.

This Issue Brief shows how urbanization can set in motion a social dynamic that will severely undermine state control over urban areas. It also highlights some examples to show that this development is already underway.

To read the complete report see the PDF on the right

Experts on this report

Director of the Strategic Futures Program

Erik Frinking

Erik Frinking is the Director of the Strategic Futures Program at HCSS. He holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from Leiden University.

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Strategic Analyst

Marjolein de Ridder

Marjolein de Ridder is a strategic analyst at HCSS. She holds a degree in Political Science from the University of Leuven and a Master’s degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from Leiden University and the Clingendael Institute.