Naivasha, 14 February 2017 - UN-Habitat’s first technical meeting on human settlements indicators for SDGs opened today with more than 50 participants from the Kenya national government, national statistics agency, the private sector, academic institutions, non-profit organizations and other UN agencies.

It is projected that by 2030, 6 in 10 people will be urban dwellers. If well implemented, urbanization can help the world overcome some of its major global challenges including poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, climate change, fragility and conflict. In September 2015, the international community recognized urbanization and city growth as a transformative force for development through the endorsement of a stand-alone goal in cities, Sustainable Goal 11(SDG 11).

Robert Ndugwa, Head of the Global Urban Observatory and the SDG focal person in UN-Habitat opened the meeting by highlighting some requirements of SDG 11. These include the identification of the right partners; ensuring a joint effort with partners to integrate them in the implementation process, maximizing and unifying the impact and making clear effective follow ups.

He also addressed the objectives of the meeting which include; highlighting indicator level challenges and working towards common solutions with the partners in regards to the methodology, definitions, partnership agreements, capacity development among others. Forming working groups on specific indicators that require a joint systems support to National Statistical Organizations and monitoring was also emphasized.

Urbanization in the wider development context

Partnership is a key element as seen in other previous agreements such as the Sendai Framework Agreement, Quito Declaration of the New Urban Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change. This partnership calls for collection of more diversified data in the dynamic global arena where civil society has the ability to express itself compared to 20 years ago. Part of UN-Habitat’s lead role in SDG 11 is to bridge the connection between national governments and other partners in order to facilitate implementation of the monitoring work.

Raf Tuts, Director of Programmes Division in UN-Habitat said, “One of the key elements of this meeting will be the link between the national statistical office and the local government. We have to create this link through National Sample of Cities etc.” He added “This is a very important workshop; it is the first of its kinds that we bring together experts from all the targets, not just in one topic but all the topics.”

The New Urban Agenda, signed by member states in 2016, does not provide its own set of indicators. The SDG 11 indicators will be used as the primary source of measuring the New Urban Agenda which is seen as a supporting instrument for the other goals.

Eduardo Moreno, Head of the Research and Capacity Branch at UN-Habitat presented an analysis of the SDG 11 indicators. He said “SDG11 is important for all who are working on urban issues. We believe that because of density, compactness, and possibilities of economies of scale, cities have the possibilities of achieving many of the SDGs, not only urban, but broader SDGs.”

With a total of 15 indicators, only a third of the indicators have clear data and agreements, which will force national statistical offices to partner with other stakeholders in order to monitor them. UN-Habitat has identified the need to respond to the remaining indicators in order for a well-coordinated  discussion, agreement in methods and participation.

Implementing the New Urban Agenda

Ben Arimah, Head of the Research Unit at UN-Habitat, lead contributor of the 2016 World Cities Report, said, “We believe that implementation of the New Urban Agenda contributes to the implementation and localization of the SDGs. We don’t see the New Urban Agenda as a stand-alone document but we see it as a means for the implementation.”

Jyoti Hosagrahar, Director of the Division of Creativity and Culture at UNESCO highlighted how the agency has engaged with UN-Habitat in the culture sector. “We have worked [together]on a continued basis…the recent effort of course was the culture and heritage outcome document of Habitat 3.” She added: “We have had a lot in common in emphasizing citizen participation, social inclusion, transparency accountability and human rights.” She concluded that there is now a mass urban growth and with that we see culture as a creative force that can help make better quality cities and social participation.