Testing the UN’s Urban Sustainable Development Goal

Mistra Urban Futures is now launching a new project testing the draft target and indicators for the UN’s proposed urban Sustainable Development Goal. The Centre’s platforms in Cape Town, Kisumu, Greater Manchester and Gothenburg as well as Bangalore in India are involved in the project, acting as testbeds. 

The goal being tested is goal 11: Make Cities and Human Settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, one out of 17 proposed goals. The final set of goals and their respective targets and indicators, will be decided by the UN General Assembly’s meeting at the end of September 2015. 

The project is part of the Campaign for an urban Sustainable Development Goal, in which the Centre is a partner, together with organisations such as the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), UN-Habitat, Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) and Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS). So far the campaign has played a major role of the inclusion of an urban goal, as the urban goal was recognized by the UN Open Working Group in June 2014. 

Professor David Simon, Director Mistra Urban Futures, is the initiator of the project.

David, why is it important to have a Sustainable Development Goal that focuses on the urban issues? 

"Urban areas now contain over half the global human population and that proportion will continue to increase. Towns and cities are immensely complex and have both problems and challenges very different from those facing rural areas and countries as a whole. Having a specific urban focus as one of the 17 Goals will be symbolically very important in drawing attention to some of the most complex development challenges but where there are real opportunities to improve the human condition."


Why is it important to test the target and indicators, David? 

"A prerequisite for an urban goal to be effective is that its set of targets and supporting indicators must be based on data already available or easily collectible in diverse cities worldwide. Some comparative testing is under way in large cities, but not in intermediate cities which the platforms represent. The diversity of conditions and institutional capacities found in Gothenburg, Greater Manchester, Cape Town, Kisumu and Bangalore should provide valuable feedback as the urban Sustainable Development Goal’s detailed contents are finalised." 

David, What do you hope will be the outcome of the project?

"A clear set of answers regarding how easy and cost-effective it will be for diverse intermediate cities in different parts of the world to produce annually the data embodied in the various targets and indicators. For the participating cities, the project could also represent a valuable learning exercise. I have literally just come out of a meeting with our Kisumu project team, which is led by the newly appointed City Manager, Doris Chandi Ombara and she is very excited at the opportunity to think in fresh ways about the nature of the city’s urban data collection, its utility in relation to current and evolving priorities, and how appropriate these priorities are in relation to the scale of need and deficit."

The project will be finalized during the first half of 2015 and is funded via additional funds from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, Mistra and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida.    

About the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is a new suite of international goals being formulated to replace the UN’s Millennium Development Goals from January 2016. The UN General Assembly will decide on the final goals at the end of September 2015.    

One of the main outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference in 2012 was the agreement by member States to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was decided to establish an "inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process open to all stakeholders, with a view to developing global sustainable development goals to be agreed by the General Assembly". 

Read more

Campaign Urban Sustainable Development Goal, #urbansdg 
Sustainable Development Goals 


Professor David Simon, Director Mistra Urban Futures,