UN-Habitat Projects in South Africa

Promoting Urban Low Emission Development Strategies (Urban LEDS)

The Project was initiated to support innovative strategies in addressing the urban dimension of climate change in cities in emerging economies. The objective of the Project was to enhance the transition to low emission urban development. In South Africa it supported two Model Cities – Steve Tshwete Municipality and Kwa Dukuza Municipality – that received intensive assistance, as well as five Satellite Cities.  The South Africa project established a successful multifaceted approach that focused on local government institutional capacity building and its ability to prepare and implement evidence-based policies and projects. Training and capacity building helped the cities buy-in to LED principals and understanding. GHG inventories were completed in three municipalities – KwaDukuza, Steve Tshwete and Nelson Mandela Bay. Watch the activities and outcomes of the project here.

Duration of project:  1 March 2012 – 31 March 2016

Value: € 6.700.000 (Multi-country)

Donor: European Commission

Implementing Partners: National government, respective local governments, ICLEI

For more information, click here.


Durban Safer Cities: the Durban Safer Cities Strategy brings different role-players together in a prevention partnership with: Effective Policing and Crime Prevention, Targeted “Social” Crime Prevention and Crime Prevention through Environmental Design as the three pillars. Safer Cities Steering Committee of city councilors, public officials, South African Police Services and Business Against Crime members was established to guide the project development. A Research Advisory Group was established to advise on research, information gathering, analysis and best practices, mainly in the area of “social” crime prevention: violence against women, victim support, youth development, understanding the causes of violence.

City Resilience Frameworks for Action: A Training of Trainers for CityRAP, the participatory planning approach for building urban resilience developed by UN-Habitat and DiMSUR, was conducted for three South African Cities (George, Port Alfred and Potchefstroom). The three cities will be rolling-out full CityRAP implementation in 2020 and will be supported by a network of international academic institutions with a research focus on urban resilience and disaster risk management. South Africa is discussing with UN-Habitat becoming the 5th Member State of DiMSUR.

Vista general

The Republic of South Africa is one of the most urbanized countries in Africa with around 67% of its population living in urban areas, projected to increase to around 80% by 2050.

South Africa is involved in a number of trans-African transport corridors (e.g. Cairo-Gaborone and North-South Corridor) that, along with national development corridors, influence the urban growth pattern across the country. The north-eastern part of the country is witnessing the highest growth rates due to the regional and national development corridors that reach South African seaports (Durban and Cape Town) through Johannesburg and Pretoria (see map).

The socioeconomic and political residues of apartheid still have deep roots in the urban system in the country which is resulting in a more and more fragmented urban landscape and a growing gap between rural and urban areas which is leading to massive migration pressures.

The outflow of people from rural to urban areas has many implications for both areas in terms of unbalanced development, loss of skills, proliferation of informal settlements, over population and increasing of unemployment and crime. A main challenge is to tackle the problems generated by the unbalanced development and the rural-urban migration aiming towards more balanced development and social equality across the whole country.

Urban numbers
The urban population annual growth rate is 2.02%
The percentage of the total population that is urban is 65.85%

Leaving no one and no place behind

Hover over or click the icons to learn about UN-Habitat's work on social inclusion here.

The prioritisation of human rights addresses the structural causes of inequalities and discrimination in an integrated manner. Urbanisation can only be sustainable if it is human rights based, and living conditions can only be improved for all if everyone’s human rights are comprehensively promoted and protected. UN-Habitat applies the Human-Rights Based Approach to address inequalities and discrimination, reaching the furthest behind first by placing power relationships in human settlements at the heart of its analysis and action.

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Men and women, boys and girls experience cities in very different ways, and face various challenges and needs that cities have to address. UN-Habitat promotes the stronger commitment of national and local governments as well as other relevant stakeholders to work towards the realization of a world in which men and women are recognized as equal partners in development and enjoy equal human rights so that economically productive, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable cities and other human settlements can be achieved more rapidly, completely and sustainably.

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Youth, children and older persons, especially those in situations of particular risk of marginalization, such as girl child and female-headed households, are often excluded from access to housing, urban basic services, public spaces and infrastructure, and the overall benefits of urbanization. Young women and men have been a key focus of UN-Habitat’s work. The agency has successfully advocated for the role of youth as leaders in sustainable urban development, recognizing the guiding principle of the SDGs of “leaving no one behind,” and the New Urban Agenda vision of cities for all. 

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Sustainable urban development can only be achieved if persons with disabilities are included meaningfully in decision-making and are able to access their rights. UN-Habitat partners with representative groups and individual rights holders, as well as national and local governments, relevant UN bodies and civil society to maximize impact and to meaningfully ensure that the rights including accessibility and universal design of persons with disabilities are promoted, respected and protected. 

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City Johannesburg Metropolitan Council

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