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UN-Habitat for the Sustainable Development Goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. All countries and stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, are starting to implement this plan. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets, which are integrated and indivisible, demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda, which balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.


Stand Alone Goal On Cities – Goal 11 “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development gives a prominent role to urbanization and cities with the inclusion of a stand-alone goal for cities and human settlements. This comes as recognition that cities are a string that connects all other goals together; their density and economies of agglomeration link economy, energy, environment, science, technology and social and economic outputs.

These interactions are important to formulate integrated policies that enhance the transformative role of urbanization and contribute to achieve sustainable development. UN-Habitat has been designated as custodian agency in 8 indicators and as a supporting agency in another 5 for Goal 11 indicators. The Agency was also designated as custodian agency for indicator 1.4.2 on security of tenure along with the World Bank for Goal 1.

housing transport Participation heritage Protection
air quality public space rural urban climate material

Around one third of SDGs indicators have an urban component 

From the Global Monitoring Framework adopted by the Statistical Commission (231 indicators), it is estimated that around one third of them can be measured at the local level, having a direct connection to urban policies, and a clear impact on cities and human settlements. The effective implementation of the 2030 Development Agenda and the monitoring and reporting of the related indicators require better articulation of Goal 11 with other SDGs indicators that have an urban component.

UN-Habitat’s role in the SDG process

UN-Habitat is providing support to local and national governments to reflect the new global agenda in city and country development plans and policies, making the UN-Habitat’s policy expertise on sustainable urban development available to governments at all stages of implementation, monitoring and reporting.

1. Monitoring the SDGs - The City Prosperity Initiative

CPIUN-Habitat is endorsing the CPI as a global monitoring platform for indicators and targets of Goal 11 and other SDGs indicators with an urban component. The CPI framework is built based on a sound statistical approach that integrates various indicators to the different dimensions of shared prosperity and sustainability. The CPI has already been proven in more than 300 cities across the world and as a monitoring framework it has the characteristics to be the local and global architecture platform for the monitoring of SDG Goal 11 and the upcomingNew urban Agenda

2. Implementing the SDGs
  • Monitoring FrameworkDefinitions and Metadata

In close collaboration with various UN agencies – UNESCO, WHO, UNISDR, UN Women, UNEP and UNDP – UN-Habitat prepared a Global Monitoring Tool for Goal 11 that provides definitions and metadata for all approved indicators for Goal 11. This tool will assist countries and cities in the definition of national targets, including specific benchmarks and standards, and in their reporting and monitoring efforts. 

  • Expert Group Meetings

UN-Habitat and partners are organizing a number of EGMs to refine indicators classified as Tier 2 and 3

 to discuss and agree on the approach, methodology and ways of computation of these indicators to move them to Tier 1. A first EGM was organized at Columbia University for the indicators on land consumption and planning (11.3.1 and 11.3.2). A second EGM will be organized with World Bank on public transport (11.2.1) and additional EGMs are planned for slums and housing (11.1.1).

The IAEG SDGs proposed a classification of the SDGs indicators into three tiers based on their level of methodological development and data availability.

  • National Sample of Cities

In order to report on various indicators that are locally produced, such as public transport, land consumption, civil society participation, solid waste, air quality and public space, UN-Habitat offers national governments the possibility to assist them in the creation of a National Sample of Cities.  The design of this sample will enable them to aggregate values at country level to ensure consistency in the analysis, comparability in results, proper evaluation of progress, uniformity in reporting, and better connection to national policies, using the same set of cities over time.

  • Technical Support to National and Local Governments

UN-Habitat will assist national governments in the definition of national targets, connecting to global targets, including the creation of specific benchmarks and standards at country level. It will also assist in the strengthening and alignment of institutions and policies to respond to urban dimension of the SDGs and in the definition and reinforcement of ‘means of implementation’, supporting the creation of country implementation plans. UN-Habitat will also provide technical advisory services on implementation strategies and the localization of indicators at city/urban level.

3. Capacity Building and Institutional Development

UN-Habitat is designing capacity building programs in support to the implementation, monitoring and reporting of various SDGs indicators. Specific tools and guidelines will be created and training knowledge exchange workshops, peer-to-peer learning and tailor-made workshops will be organized in close collaboration with the regional commissions (ECA, ECLAC, ESCWA and ESCAP) and associations of cities. UN-Habitat has contributed to several handbooks that are designed to support national and local governments to implement the SDGs.

  • UN Development Account Project

Accountability is crucial for monitoring the progress on SDGs. The project focuses on how different city stakeholders can improve accountability within the field of sustainability. The project creates physical and virtual spaces of collaboration between key city stakeholders. The expected outcomes of the project are enhanced capacity of city stakeholders, closer collaboration between city stakeholders, and initiation of city accountability initiatives and monitoring systems. The project supports the development of accountability initiatives at city level.

The pilot project of the accountability systems for measuring, monitoring and reporting on sustainable city policies will be implemented in Latin America.

4. Partnership

UN-Habitat is working with various partners – universities, research centers, NGOs –, to refine approaches and techniques for the data collection, analysis and compilation of information for the urban SDGs indicators, particularly those with a spatial component. In close collaboration with UN Regional Commissions, particularly ECLAC, ESCAP and ECA, UN-Habitat will shortly organize regional meetings to assess monitoring and reporting needs, including training and capacity development in data collection and monitoring at local, national and regional level. In close collaboration with various UN agencies – UNESCO, WHO, UNISDR, UN Women, UNEP and UNDP – UN-Habitat prepared a Global Monitoring Tool for Goal 11 that provides definitions and metadata for all proposed indicators of Goal 11.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda was held from 25 to 27 September 2015, in New York, during the United Nations summit. The new Goals and targets came into effect on 1 January 2016, and are guiding the decisions over the next fifteen years. All countries are working to implement the Agenda at the regional and global levels, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development, including national policies and priorities.

Governments also acknowledge the importance of the regional and sub-regional dimensions, regional economic integration and interconnectivity in sustainable development. Regional and sub-regional frameworks can facilitate the effective translation of sustainable development policies into concrete action at the national level. The General Assembly Resolution proposed the development of a global indicator framework for the approved Goals and Targets, and commissioned the Inter-Agency Expert Group meeting (IAEG) to undertake this endeavors.

Statistical Commission resolution on Global Indicators Framework

In the 47th Session of the UN Statistical Commission (SC), held in the UN premises in New York from 8 to 11 March 2016, Member States “agreed as a practical starting point with the proposed global indicators framework for the Goals and Targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The SC requested the Inter-Agency and Expert Group (IAEG) responsible for the development of indicators to refine them, recognizing that the development of a robust and high-quality indicator framework is a technical process that will need to continue over time. The IAEG would continue to make use of the UN agencies expertise, including UN-Habitat that was nominated as custodian of various indicators, to prepare a final proposal to be submitted at the SC in its 48th session (2017). 

The ‘Data Revolution’ at urban level

“Data needs improving” particularly at city level.  Despite considerable progress in recent years, whole groups of people are not being counted and important aspects of people’s lives and city conditions, such as inequality, resilience and vulnerability, are still not measured. For people, this can lead to the denial of basic rights, and for the city, the likelihood that inhabitants are not taking full advantage of the transformative potential which urbanization offers. Too often, existing city data is not adequately detailed, documented and harmonized, or worse, it simply is not available for a whole host of critical issues relating to urban growth and development.

Data needs to be disaggregated along key dimensions, including age, sex, disabilities status, social groups, income levels, migratory status, and locations, among others. This obviously greatly impacts the quality of decision-making. As part of the Data Revolution it is possible to include people, locations and city conditions to ensure that no one – and no place – is left behind. 

Localizing the SDGs

In order to support local and regional governments as well as other local stakeholders to design, implement and monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UN-Habitat, UNDP and the Global Taskforce facilitate the localizing the SDGs initiative. It provides awareness-raising at the global, national and local levels, the development of policy advice, strategies and tools for the “SDGs implementers”, and encourage cities to share experience and expertise.

All of the SDGs have targets directly related to the responsibilities of local and regional governments, particularly their role in delivering basic services. They are the closest sphere of governments to the people and have a crucial coordination role. They are in the ideal position to encourage and facilitate partnerships between public bodies, private sector and civil society in the communities.
The initiative promotes multi-stakeholder approaches at local level through partnerships and direct involvement of the beneficiaries in co-creating policies and solutions. It seeks an effective landing of the SDGs into practices at the local level and the recognition of local leadership to drive the change.

  • What does “localizing the SDGs” mean?

While the SDGs are global, their achievement depends on our ability to make them a reality in our cities and regions. The unprecedented participatory process of negotiation of the new SDGs and the Millennium Development Goals experience indicated that the new priorities to eradicate poverty and provide opportunities for all will not be realized if not reaching the local level.
“Localizing” is the process of taking into account local and territorial contexts in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. It means putting territories and their people’s priorities, needs and resources at the centre of sustainable development.
Local and regional governments can support the achievement of the SDGs through bottom up action and the SDGs can provide a framework for local development policy. The SDG 11, on sustainable cities and human settlements, is the lynchpin of the localizing process. The localization process is a way to allow the local and regional governments to play their full role in the achievement of the SDGs on the ground and can make the transformative potential of urbanization a reality.

  • The Dialogue on Localizing the Post-2015 development agenda

In 2014, UN-Habitat was mandated by the United Nations Development Group along with UNDP and the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments to carry out the Dialogues on implementation: Localizing the Post-2015 Development Agenda. This process looked at the means of implementation of the global agenda from the local level perspective, in which local and national dialogues were organized in 13 countries across all regions, along with a number of regional and global dialogues. It showcased how the new Global Agenda could not be locally implemented without the strong leadership of local and regional governments.
The recommendations were incorporated by the UN Secretary General´s report to the General Assembly in 2015. The key messages were:

  • Local and Regional Governments are critical for promoting inclusive sustainable development and for the implementation of the Agenda 2030;
  • Effective local governance can ensure the inclusion of local stakeholders, thereby creating broad based ownership, commitment and accountability;
  • An integrated multi-level and multi-stakeholder approach is needed;
  • Strong national commitment to provide adequate legal frameworks; institutional and financial capacity to local governments is required
  • The Roadmap 

UN-Habitat and its partners support awareness-raising for local governments and partners to better understand the SDGs and to increase ownership.

  • SDGs: what local and regional governments need to know?

The Sustainable Development Goals: What Local governments need to know: this guide identifies targets and explains how these aspects of the SDGs are relevant for the local level.

  • SDGs: what local and regional governments and their associations can do?

The Roadmap for localizing the SDGs: implementation and monitoring at subnational levelprovides guidelines and practices to support awareness-raising; sub-national advocacy in national SDG processes, implementation and monitoring. It aims to support actions and policies of local and regional governments and other local stakeholders andcovers a range of strategies that can be adapted to the specific contexts and needs of different cities and regions.

  • The Toolbox 

A Toolbox for localizing the SDGs proposes an articulated set of tools to support local and regional governments and other local governance stakeholders in advancing the 2030 development Agenda, while in close coordination with the national efforts. It proposes concrete instruments, tools, and practices that

  • Raise awareness and advocate for the active role of local actors in the localization of the SDGs
  • Support them in the design, implementation and monitoringof development policies within their territories, towards the achievement of the SDGs.  

The elaboration of the Toolbox is an open process and a collective effort involving as many stakeholders as possible. We encourage all partners to contribute according to their resources, expertise and availability by sharing documents, case studies, events and local stories.
This video presents the content and functionalities of this web space.

  • Partners

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