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Our programme cycle is coming to an end - whereto from here?
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Home » April 2011

Urban LandMark alert:
Our programme cycle is coming to an end - whereto from here?

During the first five years of Urban LandMark's existence, our aim was to establish credibility and impact in South Africa, as well as improve our understanding of the African experience with urban land markets -

  • Our work on urban land rights and secure tenure focussed on the issue of how rights over land are progressively realised. We have succeeded in raising awareness around informal markets and introducing innovative tenure processes in the upgrading of informal settlements. Our work has resulted in greater recognition and enhancement of informal land markets.

  • To establish more functional markets, we have focussed on broadening the understanding of how urban land markets operate in both the residential and commercial sector. Improving knowledge around market participation and designing appropriate interventions, in particular in terms of removing barriers to entry, we have made significant strides in improving poorer people's access to land and opportunity.

  • Focusing on how government can improve its management of land through better planning and land use management has led to greater awareness of and sensitivity to urban land governance as an indispensable tool in assisting poorer communities to participate more fully in urban economies, ensuring efficient urban development and the building of better cities.

  • In collaboration with partners such as UN-HABITAT and the World Bank Institute, our multi-country activities have resulted in the development of accessible material on the functioning of urban land markets in Africa. These activities also included engaging local experts on land market dynamics in the countries where we worked, to better understand, and contribute to improving, the experiences of poorer people accessing, holding and trading urban land in these locations.

  • Our professional development initiatives aimed at improving the knowledge of practising professionals and officials, as well as students training in the sector, on urban land issues.

Although our current UKaid funding cycle, from the Department for International Development (DFID), came to an end in March 2011, we are embarking on a programme consolidation period running through to December 2011.

During this time, Urban LandMark will investigate the potential to expand and deepen our activities in selected key high-impact initiatives, as well as into new areas. We are particularly excited about the possibility of building on our capacity and track record to integrate climate change imperatives into our existing agenda.

In the context of climate change and rapid rates of urbanisation, we have seen new challenges emerge to place greater burdens on the state and the urban poor. The growth of informal settlements in the context of poverty and urbanisation is where we see the greatest vulnerability occurring.

We therefore want to broaden our objectives to encompass improving the coping mechanisms of the urban poor, improving the built environment, and building the state's ability to plan for and create safer, more resilient, cities and towns. At the same time, we want to investigate the potential to build more sustainable urban areas and achieve low carbon development in the rapidly growing cities and towns of southern Africa - but specifically ensuring that such development does not unwittingly lead to the further exclusion of poorer communities.

To introduce this programme of work, we have recently completed a concept paper to inform and direct our future work on reducing the vulnerability of urban slum dwellers in southern African to the impact of climate change and disasters.

For the next nine months, we will continue to work to change policies and practice in southern Africa to improve poorer people's access to safe, well-located urban land within a context of urbanisation and growing cities. We believe our focus on making property markets, and land planning and management systems, work better for poor people gives real meaning to the concept of people having a 'right to land'.

We will also continue to provide a credible platform for intellectual debate in the urban market sector through our active programme of knowledge sharing, and expose new areas of challenge to in-depth questioning and debate.

Our mandate as a change agent has seen us using research and practical experience very effectively to inform policy, to foster a common understanding of prevailing and emerging obstacles in urban land markets and to find effective solutions. Our top priorities remain to continue to promote dialogue between key stakeholders, including government, the private sector and civil society, and to actively engage with our partners to effect positive change in urban land markets in southern Africa.