Local Government Reform under the New Urban Agenda

About Urban Law Day

The first ever Urban Law Day in the Global South was recently held in South Africa, an initiative of UN-Habitat and Wits University. Wits School of Law’s Chalsty Centre played host to the event which had the theme “Law, the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Cities”. “Urban law” is a broad term referring to laws impacting on urbanisation, urban governance and the urban form. It typically encompasses local government law, planning law, housing law and municipal finance law, and also touches on, for instance, public health law, tax law and environmental law.

The aim for the day was to reflect on the readiness of various aspects of domestic legal and constitutional systems in sub-Saharan Africa for the effective implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (‘SDG’) 11, which calls for safe, sustainable, resilient and inclusive cities and the associated commitments in the New Urban Agenda (‘NUA’).

New Urban Agenda in Local Government Reform

Mr. Archimedes Muzenda from the African Urban Institute hinted that some of the NUA’s underlying assumptions were out of step with the reality of developing world cities. Relating how Zimbabwean local authorities have been too occupied with ‘crisis management’-style governance to effectively pursue the NUA’s objectives, Mr. Muzenda showed that the realities of informality, economic strain and politically divided authority detracted not only from cities’ ability to pursue the NUA, but also lead to a chasm between ‘official’ legal structures and their functioning ‘on the ground’

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