Urban Sustainability in the Global South

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The issue of urban sustainability has been extensively dealt with in different disciplines due to its immense importance and the pressure brought about by the Sustainable Development Goals. Recent literature in urban ecology highlighted, however, a bias of research in the Global North (about 70% of papers on urban sustainability) despite the fact that most of the current and future urban growth is predicted to be in the Global South (GS). The usefulness of the concept GS is often highly disputed but should be framed in terms of inequities and capacities (including financial, institutional, technical) for sustainable urban growth  and not geographically. Acknowledging the unique characteristics of GS urban areas in terms of their biophysical and socio-economical contexts should drive the understanding that GS approaches and innovations in terms of sustainable development are equally important than those from the GN. Urban sustainability research in the GS should not be seen as trying to “catch up” with the GN but as providing specific solutions applicable to the contexts, challenges and conditions of the GS and those facing urban areas globally.

This collection of papers will focus on the existing body of knowledge addressing the challenges and success stories from the GS addressing urban sustainability. Both empirical and theoretical contributions are welcome. Theoretical contributions should, however, examine empirically and/or policy relevant issues, and provide some real-world data as a starting point.

Papers could address one or more of the following aspects which are regarded as key research needs in GS urban ecology research, but could extend beyond these aspects:

  • Exploring basic principles of urban ecology and urban social-ecological systems in the GS
  • Environmental and social inequality.
  • Informality as an inseparable part of urbanization in the GS.
  • Acknowledging the importance of rural links to urban areas and vice versa.
  • Adding to the limited literature on small and medium-sized cities and towns in the GS.
  • Understanding how nature-based solutions (urban green infrastructure, biodiversity, ecosystem services) should be implemented in such contexts.
  • Understanding and accommodating different worldviews of urban nature including sacred and spiritual connections.
  • Exploring how human health is culturally defined and therefore influences urban nature in different ways.
  • Exploring the interrelationship of various SDGs to urban sustainability in the GS.
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Forest, river and city border, forest and city separated by zigzag line, looking down aerial view from above.


  • Harini Nagendra, PhD

    Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability, Azim Premji University, India

  • Sarel Cilliers, PhD

    School of Biological Sciences, North-West University, South Africa

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