Pilot Project Report USDG

Testing the UN’s Urban Sustainable Development Goal

As part of the UN post-2015 development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be replacing the Millennium Development Goals from 2016 to 2030. The 8 Millennium Development Goals, with a focus to tackle poverty in developing countries, will be replaced by 17 proposed goals with a global reach. The final set of goals, with their respective targets and indicators, will be decided by the UN General Assembly at the end of September 2015. 

A Campaign for an Urban Sustainable Development Goal, in which Mistra Urban Futures is a partner, has over the past few years worked towards securing a standalone urban goal. Organisations such as the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), UN-Habitat, Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) and Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) have together with widespread support from mayors across the globe addressed the crucial importance and strategic influence of cities in regards to sustainable development. 

Goal 11: A standalone Urban SDG

At the UN Open Working Group session in June 2014, in which the 17 draft SDGs were confirmed, a standalone urban goal was included as Goal 11: “To Make Cities and Human Settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.

In August 2014, Mistra Urban Futures co-funded an international workshop in London that redefined the draft content of the anticipated Urban SDG. Following from this, and feeding into the process of refining the proposed set of targets and indicators for Goal 11, the Centre is now piloting a study to test the relevance and feasibility of measuring these targets and indicators in five cities across three continents. The study is being conducted in the Centre’s local platforms in Cape Town, Kisumu, Greater Manchester and Gothenburg, as well as together with the Indian Institute for Human Settlement in Bangalore.

Data availability and data gaps

For the SDGs to be an effective policy tool for ensuring and monitoring sustainable development, reliable and robust data are crucial at a comparable scale. The UN Open Working Group is calling for a data revolution in which statistical systems must be strengthened at local, national and international levels and new means of collecting data of high quality and coverage are promoted. 

This pilot study aims to engage with this proposed data revolution by exploring the existing deficiencies in data availability and reporting for each target and indicator in Goal 11. The study will highlight patterns in data measurability and constraints across the five case studies as well as address the data gaps and experimental work necessary in order to establish a comparative and disaggregated nature of the proposed targets and indicators.

The findings will feed into a conference in Gothenburg with partners from the Campaign for an Urban Sustainable Development Goal in early June, as well as will be submitted in the form of a final report to the funders and the SDSN. The work will in addition feed into the Habitat III preparatory process of developing a new urban agenda for the summit in Quito, 2016. 

Read more

Project: Implementing the New Urban Agenda and The Sustainable Development Goals: Comparative Urban Perspectives

News item: Testing the UN’s Urban Sustainable Development Goal

News item: Influencing the Sustainable Development Goals

Campaign for an Urban Sustainable Development Goal


Arfvidsson, H., Simon, D., Oloko, M., & Moodley, N. (2017). Engaging with and measuring informality in the proposed Urban Sustainable Development Goal. African Geographical Review, 36(1), 100–114. doi:10.1080/19376812.2015.1130636
Type: Scientific article (peer-reviewed)
Patel, Z., Greyling, S., Simon, D., Arfvidsson, H., Moodley, N., Primo, N. & Wright, C. (2017). Local responses to global sustainability agendas: learning from experimenting with the urban sustainable development goal in Cape Town, Sustainability Science, 12: 785.
Type: Scientific article (peer-reviewed)
Simon, D., Arfvidsson, H., Anand, G., Bazaz, A., Fenna, G., Foster, K., … Wright, C. (2016). Developing and testing the Urban Sustainable Development Goal’s targets and indicators – a five-city study. Environment and Urbanization, 28(1), 49–63. doi:10.1177/0956247815619865
Type: Scientific article (peer-reviewed)