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Implementation of Durban’s Resilience Strategy
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Implementation of Durban’s Resilience Strategy


Durban’s resilience journey began in 2013 when the city was selected to be amongst the first 33 cities to join the international ‘100 Resilient Cities’ (100RC) Programme. 100RC (pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation) is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges facing urban communities in the 21st century. 100RC supports the adoption and incorporation of a view of resilience  that includes not just the shocks (such as earthquakes, fires, floods etc.) but also the stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a day to day or cyclical basis.

Phase 1: 2013-2015 - Resilience Issues and Focus Areas

The first phase of 100RC in Durban was initiated with a scoping exercise aimed at better understanding the perspectives of local stakeholders regarding the meaning and relevance of ‘resilience’. This included the development of a community perspectives snapshot, interviews with experts, and a resilience ‘agenda setting workshop’ involving a range of stakeholders. What emerged from these diverse sources was a local  understanding of ‘resilience’ focused on  the need to respond to current and future change in a way that helps address existing, endemic and pervasive social, environmental and economic challenges. Informed by this local understanding of resilience (which continues to evolve as the resilience process in Durban develops), the eighteen resilience issues identified by local stakeholders were  clustered, culminating  in the production of a ‘Preliminary Resilience Assessment’ (PRA) which identified six ‘Resilience Focus Areas’ (each comprising a number of resilience issues). These were: Bold and Participatory Governance; Knowledge-centred City; Catalytic and Transformative Economy; Innovative Place-making; Sustainable and Ecological City and Equitable and Inclusive Society. Durban’s PRA and its six Resilience Focus Areas represented the culmination of an 18-month process of stakeholder engagement, risk assessment and research.

1In the Durban context, ‘resilience’ refers to the capacity of the city to respond to current and future change, regardless of whether this is social, political, economic or environmental, by initiating and strengthening areas of work that enhance the ability to respond to change, as well as  transforming systems that exacerbate risk of all kinds.

Phase 2:  2016-2017 – Systems Analysis and Resilience Building Options

Given the breadth and interconnectedness of the Resilience Focus Areas identified during Phase 1, Dalberg  was appointed at the beginning of Phase 2 to undertake  a ‘systems analysis’ (January to April 2016) in order to  identify catalytic and systemic intervention points that would address the barriers to resilience underpinning the Resilience Focus Areas identified in Phase 1. It was proposed that these so-called ‘levers for change’ could have catalytic and systemic impacts across multiple focus areas if addressed appropriately. The six ‘levers for change’ identified through the Systems Analysis were: Lever 1: Strengthen local communities and build social cohesion; Lever 2: Improve the effectiveness of education and skills development; Lever 3: Promote economic growth in line with 21st century trends and opportunities; Lever 4: Manage environmental assets more effectively; Lever 5: Create a more inclusive and integrated spatial plan; and Lever 6: Improve municipal effectiveness. Although the outcomes from the systems analysis were useful in confirming and reinforcing the original findings of the PRA, the ‘levers for change’ did not sufficiently refine or prioritise the resilience challenges facing Durban and as a result actionable areas for intervention could not be easily identified using the ‘levers for change’ alone. Additional focused engagements were therefore undertaken with a variety of stakeholder groups from April to June 2016 in order to identify specific areas or issues where the ‘levers’ could be addressed simultaneously in order to reduce risk and enhance resilience in the city. Through these engagements, two resilience building options (RBOs) were identified by a range of different stakeholder groups: RBO 1 ‘Collaborative Informal Settlement Action’ and RBO 2 ‘Integrated and innovative planning at the interface between municipal and traditional governance systems’. Addressing the ‘levers for change’ through a specific focus on these two RBOs was seen by stakeholders to be potentially catalytic in achieving greater resilience and transformation in Durban, not only in the immediate spaces and communities affected by informal settlements and issues of traditional and municipal governance, but for all Durban residents, given the wide-ranging impacts of the two RBOs on broader city resilience. Importantly, these two RBOs were seen to be strategic entry points into the complex resilience landscape in Durban that could facilitate a focused testing of what is required in these two specific contexts to address the six resilience levers for change in a systemic way. 

2Dalberg is a development consulting company and was allocated by 100RC to Durban as the city’s ‘Global Strategy Partner’.

The two RBOs represent issues that are urgent priorities for people in Durban, where addressing the levers for change could have broader and more catalytic impact across the city. A series of focused conversations were then held with local government officials, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community-based organisations (CBOs) and research institutions to understand: the key actors linked to the RBOs; the major challenges and issues associated with each of the RBOs; and potential areas for intervention in each RBO that should be included in the Resilience Strategy. These conversations determined the outcomes and interventions identified for each RBO and form the foundation of Durban’s first Resilience Strategy. Given the focus of the RBOs, Durban’s Resilience Strategy captures a complex mix of issues associated with social vulnerability, informality, ecological degradation, politics and governance that will have to be addressed as part of the city’s resilience building efforts, and points to the need for a new form of African urbanism characterised by: new partnerships; transformative change; and an ability to build on and enhance the existing strengths in Africa’s human and natural systems. The process of developing a Resilience Strategy in Durban has also highlighted the spectrum of resilience action that is required in cities and emphasises the need for every city to be able to determine the course of its own resilience journey in order to increase the likelihood that the outcomes are accepted and actioned by local stakeholders.

Durban’s first Resilience Strategy

Durban’s first Resilience Strategy is a product of a four year consultative process with a broad and diverse group of Durban’s stakeholders. Durban’s Resilience Strategy was formally adopted by the eThekwini Municipality Council in August 2017.  



Overview of Durban’s Resilience Strategy

Durban’s Resilience Strategy is divided into four components. The two resilience building options (RBOs) identified in Durban’s Resilience Strategy form the foundation of the Strategy: ‘Collaborative informal settlement action’ and ‘Integrated and innovative planning at the interface between municipal and traditional governance systems’. The third component focuses on ‘Exploring potential “bridging links”’ which acknowledges that, although the two resilience building options provide an important entry point for building resilience in Durban, additional resilience challenges will also need to be addressed over time. The fourth component focuses on ‘Institutionalising Resilience in eThekwini Municipality’ and speaks to the establishment of a ‘Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit’ in the Office of Strategic Management. The Resilience Strategy speaks to the complex and fundamental development challenges facing our city and provides an authentic and appropriate starting point for local and transformative resilience action in Durban. For the Durban Resilience Strategy, please click here.

Implementation of Durban's Resilience Strategy: Update

Implementation plan for Resilience Building Option 1: Collaborative Informal Settlement Action

The Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit (in the Office of Strategic Management), eThekwini Municipality will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of Durban's Resilience Strategy. Implementation will be phased, with current efforts focussed on developing an implementation plan for RBO 1: Collaborative Informal Settlement Action by clarifying any gaps and proposing priority next steps for implementation in order to achieve the Resilience Strategy outcomes. Discussions have also been initiated regarding how best to approach the implementation of RBO 2: Integrated and innovative planning at the interface between municipal and traditional governance system'. 

For all the key documents related to the Durban’s Resilience Strategy and Durban’s Resilience journey, please click here.

Key Contacts

For more information on Durban’s Resilience Strategy, please contact:


Dr Debra Roberts, Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit, 031 311 7527,,

Jo Douwes, Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department, 031 311 7697, and

Manisha Maganlal, Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department, 031 311 7382,

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