Urban Natural Assets for Africa: Resilience and Restoration for Life

Building on the previous UNA programme work funded by SwedBio since 2014, the overarching impact of the newest project under the UNA programme, Urban Natural Assets: Resilience and Restoration for Life (UNA Resilience), is to transform development trajectories for African cities towards those that improve sustainable development of, and interconnectedness with, their surrounding natural systems along three interlinked urban pillars (governance, planning and finance), through building urban resilience, sufficient agency and momentum for an unfolding process of transformative change.

This project is funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), through SwedBio at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Oval 377 Created with Sketch Beta. Project details

UNA Resilience overall objectives are to:

Understand the dynamic drivers of risk as well as the socio-economic landscape in African cities and how this relates to unlocking natures ability to provide a multitude of benefits for urban populations.

Improve the framework and mainstreaming conditions for nature-based measures that build resilience, through a sustained, deep transdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder, whole-of-society co-creation approach.

Mainstream and implement tailored approaches for urban nature-based resilience, including the sustainable utilisation and restoration of ecosystems in order to improve good governance, planning practices and access to finance.

Scale urban nature-based resilience approaches, demonstrating their ability to support reduced risks, vulnerabilities, and inequalities, and improve sustainable livelihoods over longer timeframes.

Align related activities and outputs with international policy and legal processes, such as those frameworks provided for by international environmental and human rights law, through outreach and advocacy campaigns and the promotion of strengthened multi-level governance systems.

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UNA Resilience explainer series:

This periodic series of publications, infographics, thought pieces and expert articles takes a deep dive into the core themes and pillars of the UNA Resilience project: Nature based solutions, Human rights, Governance, Planning and Finance. Click below to read more.

UNA Resilience exhibition: Preserve, Conserve and Tinker

Launched in October 2023 at the Cape Coast biodiversity Centre, and online, “Preserve, Conserve & Tinker: Rethinking Our Future Through a Youth Lens” challenges us to see our urban landscapes through new eyes and empowers us to take action. The exhibition creates a platform for visual storytelling, inviting visitors to reflect on the role of urban nature and our responsibility to nurture it. It serves as a powerful reminder that the choices we make today impact the world we pass on to the next generation.

Waterwall by Philip Quaque School; first school in West Africa

The value of human rights in cities:

Explore the illustrated poster below to learn more about the inextricable interconnections of human rights, and how they interact in African cities. Learn more and download the full poster here.

Oval 377 Created with Sketch Beta. Project cities

UNA Resilience has brought on 2 new cities in this phase of the project. The other 8 cities took part in previous UNA projects, and along with the new cities, will continue to receive support, training and capacity building in this latest phase.



Oval 377 Created with Sketch Beta. Advisory board

UNA Resilience will benefit greatly from the expertise of our advisory board members, from a variety of fields and positions.

Ms Irene Mwenda

Gender equality and human rights

Lawyer (Kenya)

Mr Jean-François Habeau

Financing and investment of urban development and cities

Executive Director, The Global Fund for Cities Development (France)

Dr Pippen Anderson

Urban ecology (exploring opportunities for the effective use of NBS and strengthening the connection of NBS and ecological restoration)

Associate Professor, University of Cape Town (South Africa)

Dr Shuaib Lwasa

Cities and climate change from the global south perspective, working on adaptation and mitigation possibilities for transformative urban development

Associate Professor, Makerere University (Uganda)

Dr Ally Namangaya

Regional development planning

Dean, Ardhi University (Tanzania)

Mr Rafael Moser

Climate finance, locally led adaptation, and multi-level governance

Programme Specialist at UNCDF/LoCAL Facility (Thailand)

Dr Thomas Elmqvist

Natural resource management (ecosystem services, land use change, urbanization, natural disturbances and components of resilience including the role of social institutions)

Professor, Stockholm Resilience Centre (Sweden)

Dr Daphine Agaba

Human rights, gender, natural resources, governance, political leadership and decoloniality

Thabo Mbeki African School of Public and International Affairs (TM-School) at the University of South Africa (Unisa) (Kenya)

Dr Joe Mulligan

Joint application of science and local knowledge to develop responsive and sustainable projects

Executive Director and Founding Principal, Kounkuey Design Initiative (Kenya)

Dr Timon McPhearson

Urban ecology, urban systems, climate change risk and its impact on livelihoods and well-being and mainstreaming tailored approaches for NBS resilient measures

Professor and Director of the Urban Systems Lab at The New School (USA)

Ms Megan Sager

Scaling up nature-based solutions through access to markets, innovative finance, impact investing, blended finance, public-private partnerships

Founder and Director, Consulting for Sustainable Solutions (South Africa)

Ms Marlene Laros

Policy, strategy, planning and institutional alignment for local level ecosystem-based adaptation and nature-based solutions

Biodiversity and Coastal Management, Western Cape Provincial Government (South Africa)

Dr Sibusiso Nxumalo

Climate adaptation finance and food security

Climate Finance Specialist Advisor, International Development Group LLC (South Africa)

Mr Claudio Chiarolla

Sustainable development, global law, human rights, biodiversity advocacy and implementation support

Programme Management Officer, Implementation Support Division (ISD), Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (Canada)

Gladys Mirugi-Mukundi 

Law and policy research, teaching and advocacy on governance and human rights in Africa, human rights, socio-economic rights, social justice and inclusive societies, women and access to housing, rule of law and corruption.

Researcher, Dullah Omar Institute (University of the Western Cape); Co-editor, ESR Review,

Oval 377 Created with Sketch Beta. Recent articles


Generating transformative capacity:

ICLEI Africa’s urban natural assets for Africa programme – by Jessica Kavonic and Harriet Bulkeley

Practising Participation

The human rights-based approach in action

Foregrounding a human rights based approach

A guide to prioritising people in urban African sustainable development projects

The pursuit of sustainable cities and communities

Is language creating a barrier to showcasing Africa’s best efforts?

Learning the way towards a sustainable African future in harmony with nature

Read more about our latest online course and ICLEI Africa’s new virtual learning platform 

Toward a new era of urban African resilience

Nature-based solutions could help cities stabilise warming to below 2°C. ICLEI Africa continues to empower local governments to harness existing urban natural assets with the launch of UNA: Resilience for Life.

Using nature to nurture livelihoods: Building resilience through Nature-Based Solutions for vulnerable communities in Entebbe, Uganda

Read more about the work the UNA programme did in Entebbe to build resilience, and how the project is expanding with the latest phase UNA: Resilience

Training the way to a more resilient future

Read what our Urban Natural Assets programme officials had to say about Planning with Nature for Improved Service Delivery – the first facilitated online course by ICLEI Africa

Rights for resilience

The Urban Natural Assets (UNA) programme’s latest project looks to a human rights-based approach to restore natural assets and build resilience

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