Brussels, 30 June 2020- UN-Habitat organized a virtual  Expert Group Meeting to discuss Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDG) indicators on air quality in cities and access to public spaces, with a specific focus on Europe.

The meeting took place with the European Commission, under the EU-funded project “URBAN 2030 - Monitoring and reporting of the urban and territorial dimensions of SDGs”. It brought together experts from UN-Habitat, World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission, European Environment Agency (EEA), tech firms and citizen science groups.

The workshop aimed to improve methodologies and data coverage for Europe, and to provide inputs for the upcoming revision of the SDG indicators at the UN Statistical Commission.

“The European Commission is proud to co-host this workshop with UN-Habitat”, said Lewis Dijkstra from the Commission.  “On measuring air quality, we are convinced that there is a need to get closer to the reality of people, in particular in times of the COVID-19 crisis. We also need to get closer in scale to better monitor air quality, which has improved in recent months but is deteriorating again now as economic activity and mobility increase.”

Experts from WHO, EEA and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission presented recent developments and latest research on the air quality indicator. “Interpolating air quality measurements with population density is an important step to assess the impact of air pollution on city residents,” said Evrim Öztürk from EEA.

Representatives from citizen science initiatives from Brussels and the crowdsourcing platform explained how they could help.

“Brussels has 1.2 million inhabitants, an area of 160km2 but only 11 official monitoring stations,” explained Pierre Dornier from the citizen movement Les chercheurs d’air.

“Crowdsourcing for measuring air quality is a great way to engage citizens and to raise awareness on air quality”, added Lukas Mocek from

Measuring access to public space, and how to improve public space so that all population groups have access were discussed on the second day when experts from UN-Habitat and the European Commission presented the state of the art of the public space indicator for the SDG monitoring.

While there is a validated approach to measure access to green public spaces using satellite imagery, participants discussed the challenges in defining other public spaces.  “Assessing the quantity of public spaces is important when looking at inequalities. As cities grow, they tend to forget providing public spaces,” said Joy Mutai from UN-Habitat.

The World Bank explained their research on how to identify public space through remote sensing. “We discovered that even dense megacities have a huge potential for public spaces,” said Jon Kher Kaw from the World Bank.

“The needs of women and children are not sufficiently considered when designing public space.” said Maria Vassilakou, the former vice mayor of Vienna. “We need to observe the actual use of a space, interview users and experts before redesigning a place or an entire area. This method of social spatial analysis has increased user satisfaction in Vienna.” She explained that it was also important to account for absent groups, such as wheelchair users or girls.