VCP and D4UC demonstrate coordinated support for more liveable and safer neighbourhoods in South Africa

The global project, Dialogues for Urban Change (D4UC), in collaboration with the Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention Programme (VCP), held its second peer-to-peer learning and exchange network meeting between eight Cities from South Africa (KwaDukuza, uMhlathuze, Stellenbosch and Nelson Mandela Bay) and Germany (Bottrop, Ludwigsburg, Karlsruhe, Nürnberg) this past September. The first leg of the network meeting, held between 10th and 13th September, was hosted by the City of Karlsruhe, Germany, while the second leg included participation in the 15th Federal Congress on National Urban Development Policy in Berlin, from 14th to 16th of September 2022.

The D4UC is an international learning network functioning to enhance municipal capacities in integrated urban development from a policy perspective – championing the National Urban Development Policy (Germany), the New Leipzig Charter (Germany), the Integrated Urban Development Framework (South Africa) and equivalents in other partner countries (USA, Ukraine) – and from an implementation perspective, through project-specific Living Labs that focus on liveable neighbourhoods and public spaces in particular around equity, social cohesion and urban safety.

The VCP Programme works to contribute to the priority of creating a safer South Africa, centred on integrated and holistic prevention to address the root causes of violence and crime through effective implementation of key national policies such as the White Paper on Safety and Security, the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, and the Integrated Urban Development Framework.

Partnership between the D4UC and the VCP Programme in the South Africa-Germany peer-to-peer learning network is against the backdrop that not only are cities growing at rapid rates across the globe, especially in Africa - continuously reinforcing their critical role as drivers of growth and development - but urban unsafety is also on the rise, with crime and violence recognised as on the one hand undermining this growth and on the other, symbolising unequal socioeconomic development. Viewing safety as a precondition to development mandates more layered and nuanced approaches to integrated urban development that facilitate enhanced cocreation with the communities who are intended to benefit from the interventions, and strengthen inter- and intra-governmental cooperation, a sentiment shared by German and South African cities in the learning network, despite the differences in contexts.

Here are some snapshots of the week-long peer-to-peer learning network meeting:

  1. The first thematic engagement of the network meeting “The value of public spaces in enhancing urban safety”, was kicked off by the VCP Programme, which presented a few common trends in public space-making, including use contestations (such as privatisation, and income generating activities) and inclusion (perceptions of safety by women, children and members of the LGBTQIA+ community and access by people with disabilities) as well as useful guiding principles for designing, developing and managing safe public spaces. These were further evinced by the city practitioners, who shared challenges and practices from their own cities.
  2. Not just talking, there’s some doing” is the spirit of the peer-to-peer learning network, emphasising that learning from each other i.e., through exchange and collegial advice, should be accompanied by the application of these lessons into practice and the “doing” of integrated urban development. Innovative approaches shared by cities included climate change adaptive “pop-ups” that focus on testing low-cost, often temporary interventions for prototyping and upscaling, participatory processes that place vulnerable members of society, such as youth and women, in the centre of the design of interventions, and public space activations that ensure vibrancy and sustainability.
  3. A side event themed “A people-centred approach to urban resilience: Social cohesion, women (and safety) in the city, sustainable planning and building of temporary housing for liveable neighbourhoods”, was held on the 14th of September as part of the congress’ proceedings. The City of uMhlathuze and the VCP Programme shared insights from South Africa on the topic of women and safety in cities, while participants from Brazil and Ukraine, shared their experiences on the topics of social cohesion and temporary housing for liveable neighbourhoods, respectively.

The learning network meeting was a great success, not only reinforcing the value of peer-to-peer exchange in professional learning and capacity building, but also providing a safe space for practitioners from different contexts to honestly reflect on their work and its impact, and engendering a sense of comradery that inspires renewed enthusiasm and inspiration in the work of creating integrated, liveable and safe cities.