Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
This is a guest post by Tinus Kruger, Research Group Leader: Sustainable Human Settlements and Informatics at the CSIR.
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The NDP refers to, for instance, "situational factors (such as spatial or environmental design)" as potentially creating opportunities for crime. Together, these two very significant documents place the issue of safety firmly on the urban planning and development agenda. This is indeed very encouraging.
It recognises the importance of safety as an imperative to the creation of liveable and sustainable urban environments. Urban safety issues are addressed more comprehensively than before in a document that deals primarily with urban planning and development.
Quite significantly, the relationship between crime and the planning, design and management of the physical environment is acknowledged. Crime prevention through environmental design is specifically mentioned as an approach that could contribute to the creation of safer communities.
A good document – with room for improvement
The IUDF should be commended for the fact that it incorporates discussions on safety and crime and violence prevention. It includes a section dedicated to urban safety and also identifies interventions to support the creation of safer urban spaces. There are, however, possible opportunities to strengthen the document by modifying or enhancing certain elements.
It sometimes appears as if there may not be a common understanding of key concepts. There seems to be a lack of consistency in the way certain terms are being used or interpreted, including the terms integration/integrate/integrated and sustainable human settlements. Explaining these terms will improve the overall clarity and legitimacy of the document and pre-empt possible misunderstandings.
Moreover, making better use of a referencing system and acknowledging the contributors and resources consulted would help strengthen certain statements. This would also reduce the risk of the accuracy or credibility of contentious statements or assumptions being challenged.
As with previously proposed policies, strategies or frameworks, questions regarding the issue of implementation will also be an asked during the review process of the IUDF.
This is understandable, given the fact that a number of documents have been prepared since 1994 aimed at transforming the urban landscape and at improving the quality of living environments, including
- the White Paper on A New Housing Policy and Strategy for South Africa (1994),
- Urban Development Framework (1997) - both developed by the (then) Department of Housing,
- the draft National Urban Development Framework (prepared by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and The Presidency in partnership with the South African Cities Network in 2009)
- and the National Strategy for Sustainable Development and Action Plan (2011-14) developed by the Department of Environmental Affairs.
In order to address potential concerns regarding the implementation of the IUDF, its concluding section could be expanded to include more information regarding an action plan (the way forward) and recommendations for implementation.
Integration of urban safety
This section could more effectively demonstrate the connections between urban safety and the other aspects highlighted in the section such as the relationship between crime and the shape of cities and towns (resulting from the apartheid legacy) or safety challenges faced by pedestrians and commuters on public transport as a result of the city structure.
While urban safety is discussed as part of Policy Lever 3 (Integrated and Sustainable Human Settlements),the intrinsic links with most of the other levers are unfortunately not explored at all. For instance, there is no meaningful reference to
- crime and urban safety within the context of spatial planning,
- the safety concerns that should be addressed when dealing with public transport and pedestrian infrastructure,
- the potential positive impact of the efficient provision and maintenance of infrastructure on crime prevention initiatives,
- the link between urban safety and economic development,
- the importance of communities participation in initiatives involving crime prevention through environmental design, or
- the need for effective, responsible governance to support the planning and design of safer urban environments.
Lack of comprehensive interventions
The discussion on urban safety within the context of South Africa's urban reality outlines a number of challenges, but it could be even more uncompromising in highlighting the effects of violence and crime.
Its devastating impact on the quality of life of urban residents (especially in poorer communities) could be acknowledged so as to emphasise the urgency of addressing the issue of urban safety comprehensively.
The section dealing with Integrated and Sustainable Human Settlements as a policy lever incorporates a sub-section on urban safety. Unfortunately, this discussion is not contextualised or referred to in the broader discussion.
The inextricable link between urban safety and the sustainability of settlements is not adequately explored and emphasised. The sub-section dealing with urban safety seems to lack cohesion, possibly due to the fact that it is a summary of a much more comprehensive input document1.
Even though interventions have been included in the sub-section on urban safety, they are not linked to the short-, medium- and long-term policy priorities in this chapter.
Furthermore, many of the role players involved in crime prevention, law enforcement or other components of the criminal justice system have not been identified in the section dealing with key actors, most notably the South African Police Service.
The IUDF should be commended for the way in which urban safety is recognised as "an essential ingredient to the creation of liveable and prosperous cities" and for highlighting the fact that "urban spaces and facilities need to be designed and managed in a way that promotes community safety and makes citizens feel safe from violence and crime."
The following suggestions are proposed as a constructive contribution towards the final IUDF document:
1) Integrate urban safety firmly into the IUDF and emphasise its cross-cutting nature more strongly
Ideally, a whole section should be dedicated to urban safety as a cross-cutting issue, rather than including safety into the discussion of Lever 3. Such a section could explain the interrelationship between safety and all the policy levers in more detail, demonstrating how safety runs as a golden thread through all the aspects outlined in the document.
If safety is to remain in the section dealing with Lever 3, it should be imbedded much more firmly in the discussion so as to illustrate the link between safety and urban sustainability. Cross-references to other Policy Levers should be included in order to highlight the safety issues relating to these Levers.
The section dealing with “Strategic goals” would benefit from a reference to urban safety so as to ensure that the importance of creating urban spaces where citizens feel safe from violence and crime is entrenched in the goals.
2) Exploit the role of crime prevention through environmental design more effectively
Crime prevention through environmental design could play a much more pivotal role in creating safer urban environments than is being portrayed in the IUDF. It could address safety concerns related to a number of the Policy Levers included in the IUDF.
The principles of crime prevention through environmental design as contextualised for South Africa could be applied at various levels, including spatial and strategic planning, urban design, architectural design etc.2
3) Clarify terminology and support key statements
It would be very useful to define or explain key concepts and terminology and to ensure consistency in their use throughout the document. The referencing protocol could be greatly improved in order to substantiate statements where required.
Documents that could provide more information on certain topics or that could assist with the implementation aspects of the IUDF could also be referred to. Specialists could be requested to be actively involved in the process of finalising the IUDF to ensure factual accuracy of the content, while they could also assist in developing effective and suitable implementation mechanisms.
4) Provide a convincing plan of action for implementation
It would be of great value to expand the conclusion section and provide more detail regarding the way forward, specifically with respect to the development of an implementation strategy.
The document could also be more specific regarding actions aimed at implementing the recommended policy priorities discussed in the sections dealing with each of the Policy Levers.
The IUDF's foreword states that the document "outlines the strategic goals, policy levers and strategic priorities that should inform a concrete implementation plan for attaining the urban futures vision outlined in the National Development Plan."
It is critical that this "concrete implementation plan" is in fact formalised, and that it is developed in participation with all role players, so as to ensure that the vision of the IUDF is realised.
Tinus Kruger, Research Group Leader: Sustainable Human Settlements and Informatics, CSIR
1 Peter Gotsch, Obvious Katsaura, Lauren Ugur and Nicholas Katsang (2014) An Urban Approach to Safety and Integrated Urban Development in South Africa: Knowledge and Policy review (Draft version for review).
2 The principles of crime prevention through environmental design as contextualised for South Africa are outlined in:
Kruger, T., Landman, K. and Liebermann, S.(2001) Designing Safer Places: A Manual for CrimePrevention through Planning and Design. Pretoria: South African Police Service & CSIR.