How can we make South African cities safer?

How can we make South African cities safer? – Blog

Medellín’s famous mass transit cable car system is one example of how the city has invested in mobility for poor residents, which has contributed to making the city safer.

Medellín’s famous mass transit cable car system is one example of how the city has invested in mobility for poor residents, which has contributed to making the city safer.

Guest post by the Urban Safety Reference Group, coordinated by Siphelele Ngobese, South African Cities Network (SACN)

Cities are centres of economic growth and innovation across the world. People are increasingly drawn to these urban hubs; often in the hope of finding a better job and affording a better life for themselves and their families. According to the United Nations, more than half of the world's population today is living in cities. In South Africa, it is estimated that over 60% of the population currently live in urban areas – a trend that is expected to continue and increase to 80% by 2050.

While well planned and managed cities can offer inhabitants access to improved livelihoods, not all cities live up to their potential. Particularly in the global South, cities are often characterised by social exclusion, inequality and high levels of violence and crime. The lack of safety in many South African cities directly affects both the economic and social development of the country. Colombia and Brazil are dealing with similar challenges, but in recent years these countries have achieved dramatic results in reducing urban violence in some of their major cities.

Download the study tour report
In order to facilitate learning between these countries that share challenges and solutions to urban violence, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention (VCP) programme in partnership with the South African Cities Network (SACN) and the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG) organised a study tour to Colombia and Brazil for South African local and national government officials working on urban safety to learn about effective community safety concepts and get ideas for strengthening urban safety strategies. During the two-week trip, the officials met with various stakeholders, visited projects in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Bogota and Medellin (Colombia), and participated in the 7th World Urban Forum in Medellin.

The study tour yielded important lessons for how to make South African cities safer. A recently published report presents the main insights, summarised under two over-riding themes:

  1. Community safety needs contributions from different role-players, not only the police (or criminal justice system).
  2. Urban safety is a human right, and the state has a responsibility to implement measures that support urban safety.

A police officer explains how the UPP intervention in Santa Marta has dramatically reduced levels of violence in that community.
Based on the main lessons from the study tour, the report presents recommendations for the South African context, focusing primarily on supporting city administrations (and local government more generally) to develop the necessary capabilities to drive local violence prevention and community safety interventions. It offers advice at policy level and highlights both operational issues and resource aspects.

These recommendations do not offer a quick fix. They are meant as an inspiration for thinking about what different role-players can do, collectively and individually, to promote urban safety in South Africa. As such, they are being taken forward through the Urban Safety Reference Group, a newly established platform for peer-to-peer learning and knowledge sharing on urban safety and violence prevention amongst practitioners from the SACN and national government.

The aim is also to support relevant policy processes in how to include safety as a core theme. One such process is the currently on-going development of a national Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) by the South African government. The IUDF will help shape how urbanisation is planned and managed in the future. The experience from Colombia and Brazil shows how dramatic reductions of urban violence are possible as a result of integrated strategies that understand safety as both a precondition and an inherent aspect of liveable and inclusive urban areas. In time, and with safety at its core, effective implementation of the IUDF similarly has the potential to radically change South Africa's cities for the better.

To find out more about the Urban Safety Reference Group, check their profile - click here

The study tour report is available here

Also check out the Urban Safety Reference Group's blog:


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