Chair in Urban Law and Sustainability Governance

In 2022, the Stellenbosch University Faculty of Law in partnership with the Law Faculty Trust Fund committed to establish a new Chair to focus on distinct aspects of the intersection between law, urban development, and sustainability governance.

In July 2023, Professor Anél du Plessis joined the Faculty of Law to establish the Chair in Urban Law and Sustainability Governance.

The Chair was founded with the purpose of promoting the development of urban law and governance in South Africa and on the African continent with a particular focus on environmental sustainability and climate change. The Chair aims to achieve this goal through research, undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, postgraduate supervision, as well as community interaction and science engagement.

Prof du Plessis is an NRF-rated researcher with an established record of academic publishing and postgraduate supervision in the hybrid area of environmental, local government, climate change, constitutional, human rights, and spatial planning law. She also takes a keen interest in the role of cities as sub-national actors in the development and execution of international law and development policy.

The Chair aims to make use of doctrinal legal and novel research methodologies to:

  • Define and describe the nexus between the emerging field of ‘urban law’ and sustainability governance (as embedded in international, regional, and domestic environmental law regimes);
  • Contribute to the development of multilevel climate change law and governance as relevant for sub-national authorities, cities (as geographies), and the transformation of urban life;
  • Critically question the robustness and suitability of international law and domestic constitutional law frameworks to address the legally relevant challenges posed by the so-called ‘urban age’;
  • Challenge the usefulness of legal concepts and doctrines such as the Rule of Law, the separation of powers (trias politica), and universal human rights for the future development of urban law and sustainability governance; and
  • To identify and develop a set of legal principles for transformative urban development decisions susceptible to the African city context.

Key activities of the Chair include:

  • Producing high quality research outputs with scholarly and practical impact
  • Building legal research capacity through supervising and mentoring postgraduate (LLM and LLD) students as well as postdoctoral fellows in the field of cities, urban law, climate change, and environmental law
  • Execution of research projects in collaboration with external partners in the public and private spheres as well as with academic associates in South Africa and abroad
  • Designing and teaching a new postgraduate module on Urban Law
  • Teaching the LLB elective on Environmental Law
  • Teaching the LLM module on Sustainable Development Law
  • Building capacity among public officials, policymakers, and other key stakeholders by designing and offering a new short-course on Urban Development and South African Law
  • Engaging in community service activities such as hosting colloquia, workshops, and conferences, and publishing opinions in the popular media
  • Building new inter-institutional and inter-disciplinary networks for knowledge generation and dissemination on issues of multi-level law, governance, the global ecological crisis, urbanisation and Sustainable Development Goal 11 with a focus on challenges characteristic of the Global South
  • Promoting the work of the recently established African Chapter of the Association of Urban Legal Scholars (AULS)