The newsletter of the International Group on Law and Urban Space |


Welcome to this latest edition of the IRGLUS newsletter. The year has already passed the halfway mark and much work is, as always, being done. 

This is a particularly interesting time for those of us interested in the nexus between law and urban space. The role of legislation in urban development has been one of the key pillars behind the New Urban Agenda currently under negotiation by member states as part of the Habitat III process. The role of the right to the city has been far more contentious, with many member states unconvinced or unwilling to recognise how it may perambulate the non-binding commitments member states are intending to make.

A number of IRGLUS members have been involved with the Habitat III process in various ways, advising member states how and why law in its general and very practical sense can and should inform not only urban development, but also inhabitants' relationship with the city, its processes, its spaces, and its governance.

On the research side, this newsletter contains a preliminary list of academic publications that have thus far resulted from IRGLUS workshops or conference sessions held in the last two years, as well as a report by Stephen Berrisford on a meeting held earlier in the year towards the completion of an Urban Legal Guide for Sub-Saharan Africa. This newsletter also contains news of three recent events held in London, Hong Kong, and New York which have revolved around the issue of urban law.

We look forward, as always, to hearing from you on any research projects and/or events pertaining to law and urban space that you would like us to share in future editions of this newsletter. We also remain continuously on the look out for short, topical vignetters that we can include in future editions.

All the best for the remaining half of the year.

Thomas Coggin and Marius Pieterse
Global Co-ordinators

Urban Legal Guide for Sub-Saharan Africa: Making progress

Over the course of two days in January 2016, the reference group guiding the writing of the Urban Legal Guide for Sub-Saharan Africa gathered at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town to discuss the second draft version of the Urban Legal Guide for Sub-Saharan African Countries which is being written by Stephen Berrisford.  Earlier drafts of the Guide were co-authored by Stephen and the late Patrick McAuslan.  The Guide is funded by Urban LandMark (using DfID funds), Cities Alliance and UN-Habitat.  The project was initiated by the African Centre for Cities (‘ACC’).


The Guide evolved from support given by the Rockefeller Association in 2009-2010 to the ACC to ‘build a platform for urban legal reform in Africa’.  In 2012 the ACC convened a Bellagio workshop entitled Building a Platform for Urban Planning Law Reform in Sub-Saharan Africa.  One of the outputs of that meeting was a commitment to, amongst other things, develop a guide to urban legal reform in the region. In 2012 a concept note for the Guide was presented to the reference group in Nairobi by the authors. The first draft of the Guide was then drafted in 2014.
Outline of the work

The purpose of the Guide is to assist those involved with the urban legal reform process (including government officials, political leaders and legislators) to achieve better outcomes from urban law reform, as well as to empower citizens and civil society to engage and participate in the urban legal reform process more effectively. The Guide draws from seventy years of combined professional and personal experience of its two authors, who have worked at different times and in different capacities in different parts of the region, on different aspects of urban legal reform.  The Guide comes at a pressing time; pressures from rapid urbanisation in the region are compounded by existing legal frameworks that are unsuited to the current urban and legal context.  The premise on which the authors began writing the Guide is that, without an appropriate and inclusive law-making process, it is highly unlikely that an appropriate and inclusive, or effective, law will emerge.

The Guide emphasises the important role of urban law as a vital tool for implementing sustainable and equitable urban environments. Urban law can do this by embedding mechanisms which foster transparency, are grounded in the realities of existing institutional capacity and that encourage and enhance emerging processes, such as small scale property developers.  The Guide discusses the context of urban law in sub-Saharan South Africa and the different triggers that tend to drive urban law reform.  It provides guidance on managing the detailed aspects of formulating policy and translating it into legislation, and unpacks considerations around implementation.  This is done in a tone that is accessible and conversational but also authoritative, in that the Guide draws extensively on illustrative examples that reflects the authors’ experience in the region.


The recent meeting provided invaluable input through in-depth commentary on the style and content of the second draft version of the Guide. The reference group generally agreed that the document had made good progress since its previous version and was nearing completion. The author indicated that he was aiming to complete the Guide by July 2016.  The meeting concluded by outlining a strategy for the way forward in terms of completing and disseminating the Guide, and in terms of how it could be leveraged to assist in foregrounding urban law reform on the global urban agenda.  The Guide will be produced in both English and French.In Memorium
IRGLUS publications

One of IRGLUS main goals upon reforming in 2013 was to hold an increasing number of research events, with the aim to not only share our work with colleagues, but also to produce published research. We are therefore particularly happy to announce that some of the academic papers that were presented at IRGLUS events in 2014 and 2015 are making their way into print. From our Oñati workshop on Law, Urban Space, and Social Justice (held in June 2014) the following publications have thus far resulted:

  • Thomas Coggin "Redressing spatial apartheid: The law of nuisance and the transformative role of social utility and the right to the city" (2016) 133 South African Law Journal 434-451.
  • Geraldo Costa & Marcos Gustavo Pires De Melo "Planning Theory and Practice: Reflections on the Right to the City" in (2016) 6 Dialogues in Urban and Regional Planning (forthcoming, Routledge).
  • Carlos Hoyos & Juan Felipe Pinilla "El reajuste de terrenos. Una alternativa más equitativa e incluyente para la gestión del suelo en proyectos de renovación urbana (Land readjustment: A more inclusive and equitable alternative for land management in urban renewal projects)" in Secretaria Distrital Planeacion Bogota (ed) De la Renovación a la Revitalización: Desafios para Bogotá. (From Urban Renewal to Urban Revitalization: Challenges for Bogota) (2015).
  • Marie Huchzermeyer "Informal Settlements at the Intersection between Urban Planning and Rights: Advances through Judicialisation in the South African Case" in A Deboulet (ed) Rethinking Precarious Neighbourhoods (2016, Les éditions de l'AFD, forthcoming)
  • Colin Marx "Extending the analysis of urban land conflict: An example from Johannesburg" (2015) Urban Studies, published online.
  • Marius Pieterse "Perverts, outlaws, and dissidents: (Homo)sexual citizenship and urban space in Johannesburg" (2015) 26 Urban Forum 97-112.

Furthermore, the IRGLUS session on Law and the Right to the City at the International Conference of Sociology of Law on the Move in Canoas, Brazil in 2015 has thus far yielded:

Details of further publications from these events, as well as plans for future events, will be shared in forthcoming editions of the newsletter. In the mean time, if you are thinking of organising a workshop or conference pertaining to any feature of the intersection between law and urban space, in which other members, or IRGLUS as a group can participate, be sure to let us know.

Third Annual International & Comparative Urban Law Conference
In July this year, UN Habitat, the Fordham Urban Law Center, and the Centre for Chinese Law at the University of Hong Kong hosted the third Annual International and Comparative Urban Law Conference. UN Habitat's Gianluca Crispi delivered this closing address to the conference, in which he noted the need for a simplified approach to spatial planning which is 'based on the establishment of a basic system of regulations and rules that provide a solid and predictable long-term framework for urban development that can be built upon, and that is adequate to real needs, existing capacities and available resources.' Read more here.

Photos of the event can be found here.
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Urban Law Days
Over the past three months, two different 'urban law days' have been organised in part by UN Habitat to bring 'urban law' as a discipline to the fore. 

In April this year, an urban law day was organised jointly by UN Habitat and the Fordham Urban Law Center at the United Nations. This event came off the back of the Habitat III Informal Consultative Dialogues, which took place that week. Speakers include Nestor Davidson, Sheila R. Foster, and Olivier Sylvain (see the programme here); some of their thoughts can be found via this Storify piece.

In July this year, an urban law day was organised jointly by UN Habitat and the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) in London. This is part of a broader research partnership between the two institutions, which includes the organisation of an urban law day every year, the generation of knowledge in urban law through PhD studentships, and the provision of technical assistance and capacity building through studies, seminars, workshops, publications, and networking. The third urban law day held on 15 July addressed challenges in developing countries related to good urban legislation and practical solutions for improving them. For more information, click here to see a document outlining the day's proceedings.
Citiscope interviews Lourdes O. Yparraguirre, co-lead behind the political negotiations of Habitat III

In this interview, Yparraguirre notes how in the negotiations it is important to focus on 'points of convergence and build upon them. Finding language that will have the broad support of member states is still a work in progress. What is clear is that nobody wants to weaken UN Habitat. Our focus is to find language that would recognize the important role of UN Habitat and to provide it with the wherewithal to fulfil its mandate.'

Read more of this interview conducted by Citiscope's Greg Scruggs.
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