Johannesburg 1 December 2015—The African Forum for Urban Safety (AFUS) was launched Monday on the sidelines of the Africities2015 summit with speakers hopeful that it would be a catalyst for better security for dwellers and visitors to the continent’s cities.

“As a country we have seen and are grateful for the work of Safer Cities Programme especially in Johannesburg and Durban and are indeed optimistic and hopeful that it would be escalated to other cities,” Ms Zoliswa Kota-Fredericks, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Human Settlements said in her remarks, adding that cities must be all inclusive and must promote urban safety.

At the last Africities Summit held in Dakar, Senegal, the City of Durban was endorsed as the permanent secretariat for the Africa Forum for Urban Safety (AFUS) based on its long term institutional practice on Safer Cities, a beneficiary of UN-Habitat’s technical support. AFUS intends to work closely with the United Cities and Local Government Association (UCLG) – Africa and the Africa Union and its subsidiary bodies to enhance the role of local authorities as complementary actors to national governments through the development and implementation of regional guidelines on safer cities.

Local Governments will require the participation and support of all development actors and citizens alike in this endeavor towards enhancing the local governance of safety in cities and towns across the continent. In his speech, the representative of the Mayor of Dakar said that it was of utmost importance that African cities organise regular forums to address issues that pull them back. “Dakar has a lot to learn from the other African cities like Durban and Johannesburg,” he said.

Addressing the meeting, UN-Habitat’s Director of Programmes Mr. Alioune Badiane said that the African continent was facing many new challenges as a result of rapid urbanisation. “With rapid urbanisation taking place in Africa, many of the fastest growing cities in the region are also witnessing a sharp escalation in the incidence and severity of various forms of urban crime, violence and insecurity,” he said. Mr. Badiane said of particular comcern to many African cities was the emerging urban guerilla warfare in the streets, open spaces , in public transport and in city buildings- the rise of violent extremism and radicalization of youth in the cities and towns expanding the potential of victimhood across the city.

The Director of UN-Habitat’s Regional Office for Africa Prof. Oyeyinka Oyebanji gave a detailed background of the events leading to the formation of AFUS. UN-Haabitat had also been instrumental in mobilizing funds for the initiative, he disclosed “Since 1996, UN-Habitat has helped mobilize over USD 8 million to support these municipal capacity building projects in over 10 cities, in East, West and Southern Africa, including the City of Durban and Johannesburg here in South Africa.

In this endeavor, UN-Habitat is particularly grateful to our development partners that supported these pilot projects, in particular, the Government of the Kingdom of Netherlands and Sweden and UNDP – as well as the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime (ICPC) based in Montreal, the European Forum for Urban Security (EFUS) based in Paris and the Institute of Security Studies - Africa based here in South Africa,” he said.  The mayor of Durban Mr. James Nxumalo said security was a critical issue in cities and pledged to work with the African Union and its affiliated organs as it moves towards achieving the Agenda 63.