Topic 3 Sustainable Development Goal 11: Make Cities Inclusive, Safe, Resilient and Sustainable

The SDG 11 aims to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

According to the United Nations Statistics Division, over 90 per cent of COVID-19 cases are occurring in urban areas, with the 1 billion residents of the world’s densely populated slums being hit the hardest.

Even before the coronavirus, rapid urbanization meant that 4 billion people – over half of the global population – in the world’s cities faced worsening air pollution, inadequate infrastructure and services, and unplanned urban sprawl. Successful examples of containing COVID-19 demonstrate the remarkable resilience and adaptability of urban communities in adjusting to new norms.

Cities will emerge from the pandemic, but whether they are prepared for the next crisis will depend on how much they can advance data-driven inclusive and sustainable urban development.

The SDG 11 aims to:

  • Adequate, safe and affordable housing acquisition.
  • Accessible and sustainable transport systems for all.
  • Inclusive and sustainable urbanization.
  • Safeguarding the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
  • Reduction of the number of people affected by disasters.
  • Elimination of the environmental impact of cities.
  • Provision of universal access to safe public spaces.

The most pressing challenges facing cities today:

  • Inequality and the levels of urban energy consumption and pollution. Cities occupy just 3 % of the Earth’s land, but account for 60-80 % of energy consumption and 75 % of carbon emissions.
  • Cities are also more vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters due to the high concentration of people and location so building urban resilience is crucial to avoid human, social and economic losses.
  • Economic inequality has been increasing in cities, where resource shortages and access to services disproportionately impact the most marginalized groups and communities, often also exposing them to greater environmental risk.
  • Inequality can lead to unrest and insecurity, pollution deteriorates everyone’s health and affects workers’ productivity and therefore the economy, and natural disasters have the potential to disrupt everyone’s lifestyles.

The aim of the cities of the future should be to create a variety of undisturbed terrestrial and aquatic habitats in the urban environment, connected by corridors for animal migration and seed distribution.

Green roofs, ordinary parks, private gardens and green facades could provide additional space for animals and plants.

Investing in parks and green spaces in urban areas will help to ameliorate the urban heat island effect and improve air quality in urban spaces.

Policies and programmes that better support underserved populations, improve systems for participatory urban planning and decision-making are critical.