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The Future of SDG 11

The UN estimates that by 2030, meeting the targets set for Sustainable Development Goal 11 (SDG 11) will require major changes in urban policy and investments in local governments. Essentially, SDG 11 focuses on “making cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.” Nevertheless, several efforts from the past have been hindered by disruptions such as the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to numerous setbacks. Reports from the UN-Habitat state that the majority of the progress indicators remain far from achieving the set targets.


According to the United Nations, more than half of the world’s population currently live in cities, and estimations indicate that by 2050, seven out of ten individuals will likely be residing in urban areas. Cities play an incredibly important role, not only in serving as a necessity to human health but also as drivers of economic growth, contributing over 80% of the global GDP. However, there are both benefits and potential drawbacks that come with arbitrary expansion of cities and communities. Although larger cities can provide more ecocomic potential, the UN reveals that they also account for roughly 75% of global CO2 emissions, mainly linked to transportation and buildings. In massive and highly populated cities, this can become a severe issue. According to the United State Environmental Protection Agency, the typical passenger vehicle emits around 4.6 metric tons of CO2 per year. Furthermore, waste management and the urban environment have emerged as additional major concerns. The UN-Habitat report projects that in 2020, 2.3 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste were generated, with 84% being collected and 61% managed in controlled facilities. Urban areas are also significant contributors to climate change, responsible for approximately 70% of CO2 emissions. Similarly, CO2 levels have reportedly increased in 2021, even if they are not currently 149% higher than pre-industrial levels. As it stands, the UN-Habitat points out that many areas have made little progress and are far from achieving the set goals for 2030. In order to accelerate the successful implementation of SDG 11, careful steps need to be taken seriously and urgently.


SDG accelerators are voluntary initiatives undertaken by governments and other state actors to hasten the SDG implementation. The UN-Habitat has proposed four SDG Accelerators.

SDG Accelerator 1: Resetting Urban Policy and Governance Directions and Actions.

  • Fostering collaboration and experimentation is key in the face of unprecedented challenges.

  • Spatial planning generates a multiplier effect on SDGs.

  • Multilevel and multi-stakeholder governance are accelerators for SDG 11.

SDG Accelerator 2: Urban Anchor in SDG Financing.

  • The reform of the global financial system is critical to address urban inequality.

  • A strong urban and local component, rooted in multilevel governance, is needed in SDG stimulus implementation.

  • Unlocking stranded urban resources presents an opportunity to finance the SDGs.

  • Funding maintenance is vital to prevent sliding back in accomplishing SDG targets.

  • Consolidating urban investment portfolios around key outcome areas can remarkably scale impact.

SDG Accelerator 3: Empowering People through Education and Inclusive Design.

  • Positive synergies exist between education, participation, and inclusivity.

  • Civic education programs are necessary to empower residents and foster participation in local political, planning, and management processes.

  • Broad engagement in local planning and policymaking helps ensure that city infrastructure meets the needs of all residents.

  • Inclusive infrastructure plays a crucial role in guaranteeing that residents feel safe and confident in their right to the city and participation in political processes.

SDG Accelerator 4: Leapfrogging through Data and Technology

  • Urban data disaggregation is pivotal to leaving no one and no place behind.

  • Implementation data is essential to complement monitoring data.

  • Technological diversification offers opportunities for urban sustainability.

  • Urban foresight is indispensable for future resilient pathways.

SDG 11 concerns the future of everyone, as the quality of urbanization is central to determining people’s quality of life. By November 2022, the world’s population reached the 8 billion mark, with 55% of people living in cities. This trend is predicted to continue, highlighting the growing demand for sustainable urban planning and living. Following this projection, the 2023 United Nations High-level Political Forum (HLPF) has given prominence to the implementation of SDG 11, where “sustainable societies and communities” must be equally accessible. Despite many challenges faced in recent years such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN has reaffirmed during this panel that SDG 11 remains a priority that is being thoroughly and actively pursued to bring about GREAT living conditions for all.

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