Advocacy Toolkits

Democratic Urban Governance Toolkit

Cities are engines of political dynamics, economic activity and social interactions, promising opportunities for a better life. However, rapid urbanisation together with political, economic and institutional barriers to inclusion, are relegating millions of poor citizens to the periphery of settlements and the fringes of society, rendering them with little access to basic services, adequate housing or secure employment. Furthermore, poorly managed urban growth and governance have adverse consequences.

Improving urban governance requires, on the one hand, increased levels of transparent participatory political processes, good urban management, responsibility and accountability among the spheres of government. On the other, democratic urban governance involves an informed constituency, an active civil society, strong manifestations of citizenship and local leadership, and empowered urban communities to challenge and engage government. Participation of citizens, whether in the form of elections, community-based organisations or participatory budgeting, therefore emerges as a critical element of governance. This highlights the need for institutions, processes and enforcement mechanisms that are able to bring inclusiveness in decision-making and urban governance, supporting the basic social and political conditions enabling communities to raise their voice and to ensure that their demands are heard and mainstreamed in legal frameworks and policy decisions. Institutional engagement from organised civil society is considered an essential prerequisite for pro-poor transformation and effective social integration.

The past decade, South Africa has witnessed the retreat of the State in favour of privatisation and neo-liberalism, with a corresponding increase in the activities of civil society, social movements and area-based organisations, demanding their rights and entitlements from the State. This increase in social advocacy presents important opportunities for civil society in attaining the rights promised by the Constitution, fostering good governance and accountability and strengthening public participation post-apartheid. Despite this, high levels of inequality and marginalisation of poor citizens continue to exist. DAG recognises the importance of improved urban governance, as well as the importance of navigating tensions of competing urban agendas and the complex nature of interactions between citizens and the State.

The organisation therefore supports and facilitates social capital formation in communities so that poor households are able to participate in, and influence urban policy and practice, and seeks to enhance the capacity of community leaders working at the local level in pursuit of change for the benefit of their communities and strengthens leadership to build citizenship and strengthen South Africa’s democracy. Through working with community based organisations, DAG aims to facilitate the active participation of citizens in the development and implementation of public policy. Importantly, with the vision to reconfigure South Africa’s socially, racially and functionally segregated settlements, DAG engages the State to support housing policy and practice that ensure State-assisted housing is built on well-located, serviced land. More specifically, DAG seeks to strengthen democratic urban governance by supporting active citizenry and advocating for a pro-poor land management agenda toward sustainable, integrated and equitable settlements.

In order to adequately and appropriately support its partners and engage with government, DAG aims to have a competent, skilled workforce and capable organisation. The democratic urban governance toolkit will support, inform and shed light on DAG’s attempts to develop capacity of civil society activists and leaders to ensure their full participation in platforms and events which would enable them to influence decision-making, as well as to build capacity of government officials and politicians, in order to create transparency, openness and accountability in the State’s land use and land management practice.

Some guiding questions derived from DAG’s approach to inform the outputs of the democratic urban governance toolkit, especially the position paper, include the following:

  • What is DAG’s definition of democratic urban governance (process, value, approach, etc.)?
  • What is important for DAG staff to understand / learn in terms of upskilling regarding democratic urban governance policy and practice?
  • What does staff need on the topic of democratic urban governance to be able to lobby, advocate and influence effectively?
  • What are some of the advocacy strategies that have been utilized in post-apartheid South Africa? What are some of the lessons about these strategies to effect the greatest change?
  • What are good practice and policy examples (DAG’s historical projects and case studies)?
  • What are some of the ways in which communities can be involved in democratic urban governance processes (e.g. participatory budgeting, participation in Standing Committee on Public Accounts meetings, etc.)
  • What does not work currently regarding policy and practice on democratic urban governance and the way government engages with civil society?
  • What are the blockages/obstacles to socio-political mobilization for the new urban order to be implemented? What are the reasons for blockages (e.g. institutional frameworks, political agendas / will, policy gaps, community dynamics, community leadership capacity and resource constraints, etc.)?
  • What are some of the solutions suggested by DAG (e.g. leadership training, horizontal learning platforms, public hearings, etc.)?
  • What are some of DAG’s capacity development experiences to enable democratic urban governance?
  • What are some of the policy, programme and legislative instruments to support democratic urban governance processes?
  • What are the benefits of democratic urban governance?
  • What is DAG’s contribution to democratic urban governance?

What is the role of NGOs in democratic urban governance (different interpretations – e.g. DAG’s advaocay round tablel)?


DAG has a vision to create a new urban order in South African cities, which would reverse current apartheid planning, and the organisation believes that to address the structural causes of urban poverty and inequality, cities and urban land, should be planned and managed equitably. Most importantly, the State must promote the social value of urban land over the private consumption of land and its financial value. This includes active engagement and partnerships between marginalised communities, CBOs, NGOs, government and the private sector.

To achieve this, the State would have to raise additional revenue through the application of fiscal tools and employ regulatory tools to plan cities equitably – so that the poor can gain access to the vast resources, amenities, services and opportunities the city affords them. This would also require transparency and accountability in State land management and housing policy and practice and an informed and engaged civil society to influence decisions in the interests of the poor and hold government to account.

DAG’s goal is to see efficient urban land management policies and tools in practice, which facilitate access to adequate housing and well-located, serviced land for South Africa’s poor and marginalised citizens. The democratic urban governance toolkit should be informed by and prepared against DAG’s goal and the Strategic Objectives set out below:

Create an effective and accountable State capable of developing and implementing land management policies and practices which facilitate inclusion of poor and marginalised urban citizens.

The urban land market constrains affordable housing development in South Africa. Land prices in urban areas have increased phenomenal rates, making well-located land unaffordable for the State to develop affordable housing and public rental property. This calls for decisive State action to regulate the land market and political will to reverse inequality in land distribution. In light of this, DAG advocates for the implementation of ‘value capture’: a means for the State to recoup the increment in land value accruing to private land owners through public investment in infrastructure. Thus, increasing available municipal for pro-poor development and deterring anti-social land speculation. DAG also advocates to ensure equitable redistribution of this revenue.

Create a vibrant, informed and active civil society which is able to articulate, demand and lobby the State to meet the needs of the urban poor.

Many poor urban dwellers are victimised by the policies of the State and markets because they lack capacity to advocate for their constitutional rights and make their interests known to decision-makers through the correct platforms and processes.

For instance, in informal settlements in well-located areas like Joe Slovo (N2 Gateway) mass removals and relocation of residents have been allowed to happen unchecked. This is in contrast to communities such as Freedom Park in Tafelsig where DAG has supported leaders of civil society groups to successfully advocate for secure access to well-located land, services and housing.

DAG builds capacity of local civil society groups, community based organisations and social movements through ongoing engagement and through capacity building programmes. DAG facilitates strategic opportunities for poor communities and their leaders to participate in urban development and governance and influence how scarce urban land is used and managed.


The democratic urban governance toolkit will consist of the following sets of information, which will be saved on J:\Strategic Land Management Research\Advocacy Toolkits:

  1. A referenced position paper of no more than ten pages, in MS Word format (Arial, 12 font, single spacing) on democratic urban governance that succinctly presents DAG’s advocacy agenda of integrated and efficient urban land management policies, practices and approaches which facilitate access to housing and well-located, serviced land for South Africa’s poor and marginalized citizens vis-à-vis the role of government, marginalized communities, civil society organsations, and NGOs. The position paper should be informed by DAG’s paper Contemplating The Role of Development Action Group in Shaping and Constructing a New Urban Order in South Africa.
  2. A list, and where relevant, a summary of policies, legislation, government programmes and projects related to democratic urban governance.
  3. Compilation of newspaper articles, academic papers, case studies, and other research documents pertaining to democratic urban governance.
  4. A list of frequently asked questions and responses on democratic urban governance.
  5. Useful quotes, photographs and video material relevant to democratic urban governance.
  6. Names and contact details of relevant decision-makers (mostly to be done by DAG staff).
  7. If applicable, names and contact details of community leaders / organisations relevant to the Toolkit topic.
Availability of Information

Sources to be consulted for information on the above deliverables on the democratic urban governance toolkit include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • DAG J:drive-folders
  • DAG R:drive-folders
  • The DAG website
  • DAG resource centre and DAG publications, including:
  • International literature on democratic urban governance, including Brazil’s City Statutes, and the Right to the City concept.
  • Presentations and photographs on the J and R drives
  • Interviews with DAG staff members and/or community partners, where applicable
  • Interviews with academics, government officials, consultants, community leaders, where applicable
  • The internet
  • Other sources not mentioned above.

Please note that all sources consulted in the formulation of the toolkit must be referenced in a list that will form part of the toolkit.


Regular meetings will be held between the consultant and DAG project leader as agreed by the project leader and the consultant. The completion date of the democratic urban governance toolkit is 3 September 2010.

Some guidelines for author
  • Abbreviations and acronyms: These should be used sparingly and should be explained at the first occurrence. Abbreviations, acronyms and other conventions (capitals, italics, symbols) should be used consistently throughout the paper, and typed without full points. Thus: GNP; IDP.
  • Measurement, numbers, dates: Metric units are preferred except where historical accuracy demands otherwise. Generally numbers up to and including ten should be expressed in words. Four-figure numbers should have a comma, thus 4,000. Decades should be written ‘the 1950s’. Dates in the text should be written out in full, thus: 24 September 2009.
  • In the text, references should be (Jones, 1985). The title and description of the article or book should be listed in a bibliography at the end, not in the main text or footnotes.
  • References: The list of references should be in alphabetical order of author’s name and in chronological order for each author.

An example of how references are displayed follows:


King, S., and Delatte, N. J. (2004). “Collapse of 2000 Commonwealth Avenue: Punching shear case study.” J. Perf. Constr. Facil., 18(1), 54-61.

Books and reports:

Feld, J., and Carper, K. (1997) Construction failure, 2nd Ed., Wiley, New York.

Chapter in a book:

McDaniel, T.K., Valdivia, R.H. (2005) “New tools for virulence gene discovery,” in Cossart, P, Boquet, P., Normark, S., Rappuoli, R., editors. Cellular microbiology. 2nd ed., ASM Press, Washington, DC, p 473-488.

Conference proceedings and symposia:

Fwa, T. F., Liu, S. B., Teng, K. J. (2004) “Airport pavement condition rating and maintenance-needs assessment using fuzzy logic.” Proc., Airport Pavements: Challenges and New Technologies, ASCE, Reston, VA., 29-38.

Unpublished material:

Unpublished material is not included in the references. It may be cited in the text in the following forms: (John Smith, personal communication, May 16, 1999) or (Jones et al., unpublished manuscript, 2002). As an exception to the rule, articles that are accepted for publication may be included in the references as follows: Gibson, W. (2003). “Cyberspace: The postmodern frontier.” J. Comp. in Fiction, in press.

Web Pages and On-line Material:

Burka, L. P. (2002) “A hypertext history of multiuser dimensions.” MUD history, <> (Dec. 5, 2003).


Liggett, J. A., and Caughey, D. A. (1998) “Fluid statics.” Fluid mechanics (CD-Rom), ASCE, Reston, VA.

  • Footnotes: should be numbered sequentially throughout in Arabic numerals and placed at the foot of each page. They must be embedded in the text (i.e. any footnote additions or deletions will automatically change all the footnote references throughout the paper to accommodate the changes). Footnotes should generally be confined to citations of sources and brief points.
  • Quotations: of more than four lines should be indented in the text and typed without quotation marks. Use single quotation marks in the text for shorter quotes, with punctuation outside the final quote mark. For quotations within quotations use double quotation marks.
  • Miscellaneous:

(i) In all cases where s and z are alternatives, use s, as in ‘organisation’.
(ii) Rands and other currencies thus: R5.00, USD$80,000. For cents write out in full: e.g. 30 cents
(iii) UK spelling to be followed, as in ‘colour’ and ‘labour’.


Participation is time-consuming and challenging and results cannot be guaranteed but when people participate in the governance of their cities there are benefits for the city and the citizens.  Democratic urban governance:

  • enhances political inclusion by offering all citizens the opportunity to participate in and influence decision-making. In doing this all people have access to opportunities and the benefits of city life.
  • increases security of all citizens.
  • can help reduce the susceptibility of delivery programmes to political manipulation. Successful democratic urban governance enables the citizenry and the State to elaborate strategies that define delivery of services and to initiate programmes which have better chances of being sustained despite political change or institutional reforms.
  • fosters transparent decision making and public accountability which will foster a watch-dog culture amongst role-players with all sectors of society actively holding each other to account. This is turn will foster trust and ultimately improve the quality and quantity of partnerships to tackle urban challenges.[1]
  • includes all stakeholders in decision-making processes, especially marginalised groups[2] which results in improved quality of life as participation is experienced as a consequence and a cause of improvements to material [3] Also where residents perceive cities as places of real opportunity and where resources are sufficient, participatory processes become more effective.[4]
  • can improve resource mobilisation and service delivery to citizens.[5]

[1] Auclair & Jackohango (2009)

[2] Ibid.

[3] UN-Habitat (2008) p. 162

[4] Ibid.

[5] Auclair & Jackohango (2009)


It’s often believed that devolution of responsibilities to the local level is needed for democratic urban governance to succeed but some studies have shown that all responsibilities need not be devolved[1] and that centralised supervision and coordination can also make a positive contribution to the quality of the process and its outcomes[2].

It is true that the local authority must be empowered with sufficient resources and autonomy to meet their responsibilities to the citizenry for democratic urban governance to produce good results. The citizenry in turn must have the ability to articulate their issues, manage conflict, understand government processes, accountability platforms and budgeting cycles etc.[3]

The balance of powers between actors is critical[4] in creating an environment for participatory governance. Role-players need to have the capacity, bargaining power and commitment to engage in dialogue as equals[5] and the process needs to be designed in such a way as to balance power[6].

To enable democratic urban governance, government also needs to accept that it will involve other role-players in the active management of the city and will share power and dilute control although it has been elected and has the responsibility to deliver.[7] This requires political leadership and political confidence.

Officials also need the capability to drive collective management and decision-making processes. Planners can enable democratic urban governance by developing the flexibility to adapt their techniques to different contexts.

Capacity of all role-players e.g. planners, communities etc. must therefore be enhanced because they will need to master a variety of skills to succeed in their collaboration.

Democratic urban governance requires the active participation of the citizenry.

Apart from having the skills/capability to participate, they also need the conditions to be right so that they can participate. Citizens need a measure of security to participate actively on an ongoing basis (e.g. they require secure tenure and secure livelihoods). This is absent for most people in South Africa making them vulnerable and making their ongoing active participation in urban development processes difficult to sustain. Furthermore while people are vulnerable they can easily fall victim to manipulation by other interest groups in the development process.[8]

[1] Hague, Wakely, Crespin & Jasko (2006)

[2] Fung & Wright (2001)

[3] Auclair & Jackohango (2009)

[4] Fung & Wright (2001)

[5] Mitlin & Sattherthwaite (2004)

[6] Fung & Wright (2001)

[7] Auclair & Jackohango (2009)

[8] UNHabitat (2008) p. 162


The processes must be designed in such a way that they deliver tangible results and in relatively short periods so that active participation can be sustained. Without results citizens will become disinterested.

Democratic urban governance can only be pursued and impact can only be achieved if a critical mass of citizens (and other role-players) buys-in and participates. To achieve this, citizens need to be able to link their local experience with the broader city-wide experience and need to be sufficiently motivated to act at the city level where benefits to the household are not felt immediately.[1] The process itself should address common public problems[2].

Participatory governance is complex and dynamic;[3] the partnerships will need to be nurtured, supported and managed by the role-players themselves.

[1] Mitlin & Sattherthwaite 2004; Purcell, M (2006)

[2] Fung & Wright (2001)

[3] Auclair & Jackohango (2009)


On the contrary, democratic urban governance makes it possible for communities to adjust their expectations to what can realistically be achieved. Due to the increased transparency and accountability citizens develop a better understanding of the potential and limitations of the process.


No, democratic urban governance is about contestation between interest groups for the deployment of resources. The participants have different interests will be in conflict from time to time. Although they may seek to reach consensus, at times they must agree to disagree and will need to develop the capacity to work with each other on this basis.


The use of a city’s resources is always contested as cities must serve the needs of various groups, many with conflicting interests. Sometimes, for example in the City of Cape Town, these interests are not mediated and the city serves selected interest groups only. This approach does not avoid conflict it escalates it as tensions run high and anger builds up amongst those who are marginalised by the city’s policies.

In democratic urban governance role-players try to manage the conflicting interests through active participation. The conflicts of interest are still there but they are exposed and discussed and there is a greater chance of adopting policies that serve the greater good than the narrow interests of one or two groups. There are still tensions and disagreement but these are anticipated and expected as part of the process.

Since tension and disagreement is unavoidable role-players will need to develop strong communication and conflict management skills.


There are numerous constraints to democratic urban governance in South Africa:

  • Sometimes a department or official is willing to adopt more participatory methods but lacks the know-how to do so successfully. Democratic urban governance is sophisticated and needs advanced skills and attributes which officials or the authorities enforcing policy and regulations tend to lack.
  • People are weary of fruitless participation. Participation is time consuming and often does not address their immediate needs. This calls or a high level of commitment to the process and its eventual outcomes which is hard to foster in the poorer South African communities where people face a daily struggle o put food on the table.
  • In South Africa, the majority of the population was not allowed to be active in civic life prior to 1994. After 1994 people did not understand their civic responsibilities and rights or see the benefit of taking this up when the ANC took control of the government. We therefore lack a history and culture of the participation in governance and people rely instead on their elected representatives to ‘do the right thing.’ Where communities grow impatient and bold enough to challenge the State and claim their rights they tend to be apologetic and struggle to use the institutional means available to them.

Politicians also lack the political will to set up shared decision-making platforms and lead such processes in communities.


Auclair, C & Jackohango, A (2009) Good Urban Governance: Towards an effective Private Sector Engagement. Background Paper- Draft 0, UN-Habitat

Fung, A, & Wright, EO (2001) ‘Deepening Democracy: Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance’, Politics and Society, SAGE Publications, vol.29, no.1, pp. 5-41.

Hague, C, Wakely, P, & Crespin, J, Jasko, C (2006) Making Planning Work: a Guide to Approaches and Skills, Intermediate Technology Publications, United Kingdom.

Mitlin, D & Satterthwaite D (2004) ‘The Role of Local and Extra-local Organisations,’ Urban Voices, no.46, The Urban Governance Initiative (TUGI).

Purcell, M (2006) ‘Urban Democracy and the Local Trap, Urban Studies, SAGE Publications, United Kingdom, vol.43, no.11, pp. 1921-1941.

United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) (2008) State of the World’s Cities 2010 / 2011: Bridging the Urban Divide, Earthscan Publications, London.

Thank you for your upload