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

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are part of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, a global agenda for sustainability adopted in 2015 by the UN General Assembly, and which replaces the Millennium Development Goals. There are 17 global SDGs in total, on which all member states are required to report progress over the period 2016-30. Goal number 11 focuses on Sustainable Cities and Communities and aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Implementation of Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals began officially on 1 January 2016. 

The New Urban Agenda (NUA) was adopted at the Habitat III summit in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016. The NUA is the guiding document for the UN system’s urban engagements over the next 20 years. Official implementation commenced with the formal adoption of the New Urban Agenda by the UN General Assembly on 22 December 2016. 

Although, for political reasons, there is no formal link between the NUA and the SDGs, there is wide consensus that the SDGs, and especially, the urban goal and the urban elements of the other goals should constitute the de facto monitoring and evaluation framework for the New Urban Agenda.


Mistra Urban Futures undertook a unique comparative Pilot Project during the first half of 2015 to test potential targets and indicators for the Urban Sustainable Development Goal (# 11). The pilot tested the data availability, relevance and appropriateness of the draft targets and indicators for Goal 11. This was carried out in the four cities where our Local Interaction Platforms are based: Gothenburg, Greater Manchester (now Sheffield-Manchester), Cape Town and Kisumu, as well as Bangalore as a contribution to the Urban SDG Campaign, of which the Centre was a member.

A key conclusion of our pilot study was that if the Urban SDG, Goal 11, is to be a useful tool to encourage local and national authorities to make positive investments in the various components of urban sustainability transitions, then it is vital that it should prove widely relevant, acceptable and practicable. In this diverse set of cities, the pilot study found that not one draft indicator was regarded as both important or relevant and easy to report on in terms of data availability in all the cities; and no city found the entire set of draft indicators under SDG 11 straightforward and important or appropriate. 

Based on these results, we produced a set of recommendations, which were taken up directly by the UN statistical team in UNDESA (United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs) in charge of finalizing the targets and indicators. Some of these recommendations are reflected in the final version of Agenda 2030 adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015. 

Mistra Urban Futures also provided comments on successive drafts of the New Urban Agenda. Another contribution was through its role in the positioning of the scientific community, an example of which is a comment called ‘Scientists must have a say in the future of cities’published in a special feature in Nature to mark Habitat III. 
The Centre is therefore uniquely well placed to contribute to the monitoring, evaluation and conceptual assessment of the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda in light of the pilot experience. 


Following the success of the pilot project, Mistra Urban Futures has started a comparative project to monitor and analyse the implementation of Agenda 2030 and the New Urban Agenda in a number of cities across the world. The range of issues encompassed by the New Urban Agenda, SDG11 and the urban elements of other Goals makes this comparative Mistra Urban Future project comprehensive and provides a holistic perspective on urban sustainability. It also symbolizes Mistra Urban Futures’ approach of co-producing knowledge with different stakeholders and working between the local and global, in this case with the global initially informing the local, and our co-production with the respective municipalities in turn then feeding back to inform the global.


Cape Town (South Africa); Sheffield (UK); Gothenburg, Malmö and Stockholm (Sweden); and Kisumu (Kenya) – the cities where Mistra Urban Futures has research platforms or nodes – will take part in the project, along with two small cities in India and and one Latin American city in which new partnerships are being finalised. This will enable the project to embrace at least one urban area in each major continental region except North America.  

The project has two components, namely the in-depth research and analysis in each selected city and a comparative component. 


The aims of this project are:

To analyze how the cities are engaging with, interpreting and implementing the New Urban Agenda and the urban related Sustainable Development Goals in the cities where Mistra Urban Futures works.

To work with the cities to support the understanding and implementation of these global initiatives and to facilitate cross-city learning and interaction.

To provide feedback to the ongoing UN revisions of the targets and indicators of these urban initiatives.


Are you interested to know more about the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda?

•    Implementing the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals
•    Mistra Urban Futures’ SDG Pilot research article and study reports (2015) 
•    SDSN and Bertelsmann Stiftung Report on SDG Index and Dashboards (July 2016)
•    First UN report on SDG implementation in late 2016
•    New Urban Agenda


  • SDG City Briefs (updated July 2018)


  • David Simon

    Director Mistra Urban Futures and Project Leader for Pilot Project to Test Potential Targets and Indicators for the Urban Sustainable Development Goal 

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  • Sandra Valencia

    Sandra Valencia, Lead Researcher for the project Implementing the New Urban Agenda and The Sustainable Development Goals: Comparative Urban Perspectives.

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  • Nick Taylor Buck

    Dr Nick Taylor Buck, Research Fellow, Urban Institute, The University of Sheffield. Leading the research at the Sheffield-Manchester Platform for the project Implementing the New Urban Agenda and The Sustainable Development Goals: Comparative Urban Perspectives. 

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  • Sylvia Croese

    Sylvia Croese, Researcher at the African Centre for Cities, Leading the research at the Cape Town Platform for the project Implementing the New Urban Agenda and The Sustainable Development Goals: Comparative Urban Perspectives. 

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  • Michael Oloko

    Dr Michael Oloko, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, JOOUST, Local research team, Kisumu

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  • Ileana Versace

    Assistant Professor of History of Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urbanism at the University of Buenos Aires. She is also the General Coordinator of the Observatory on Latin America (OLA) of The New School in Buenos Aires. She is leading the research in Buenos Aires for this project.

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  • Tarun Sharma

    Director of Nagrika (Social enterprise in India). He is coordinating the research in Shimla for this project.

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  • Joakim Nordqvist

    Klimatstrateg på Malmö stad och lektor vid Malmö Universitet. 

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