Sustainable Cities

Focus 13: Sustainable Cities


Building sustainable cities as well as decent and affordable human settlements for all, including for indigenous peoples, and the realization of the right to adequate housing remain important undertakings. Sustainable cities and settlements will be central in addressing socio-economic and environmental challenges and in building resilient societies. Some areas that could be considered include:

  1. eradicating and preventing slum conditions, including by provision of adequate and affordable housing, infrastructure and basic services;

  2. providing access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport, improving road safety and urban air quality;

  3. improving waste and wastewater management;

  4. strengthening resilience to climate change and natural disasters;

  5. access to safe public spaces and services;

  6. enhancing capacities for urban planning;

  7. strengthening positive economic and social links between cities and peri-urban and rural areas;

  8. enhancing social cohesion and personal security;

  9. promoting accessible cities for people with disabilities;

  10. protecting and safeguarding the world's cultural and natural heritage, including ancient archaeological sites, intangible and underwater heritage, museum collections, oral traditions and other forms of heritage;

  11. appropriate means of implementation*.


  • The world is rapidly urbanizing, and so cities are where “the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost”. Addressing the needs of the urban poor in informal settlements and slums is crucial for poverty eradication.

  • Cities belong to larger regions with multiple ties to peri-urban and rural areas, and the SDGs should aim at balanced territorial development.

  • The inclusion of an urbanization-related goal in SDGs framework was supported by many. Others considered that it could be captured at the target level or under a goal on sustainable infrastructure development, in order to ensure that a focus on urbanization would not detract from addressing the needs of rural populations.

  • It was emphasized that urbanization should be seen as a process involving urban-rural flows of people, goods and services. Strong urban-rural linkages are essential for rural development as well as the provision of essential goods to sustain urban life.

  • The cross-cutting nature of sustainable cities and human settlements was stressed, necessitating an integrated approach addressing linkages with other sustainable development issues.

  • Key factors contributing to sustainable cities and urban development are forward-looking, effective and inclusive urban design and land-use planning processes, including effective protection of public spaces; affordable housing and spatial planning to promote social inclusion; infrastructure development as means to serve planned urbanization and rural-urban integration; sound finances to support provision of affordable and accessible public services and to provide social protection; policies that promote economic dynamism, small-business formation and formal sector job creation, to name a few.

  • Social inclusion was emphasized as an integral part of sustainable urbanization. Thus goals and targets should strive to overcome the social, economic and physical restrictions of the vulnerable marginalized groups and ensure their access to safe, affordable and sustainable forms of basic services.

  • It was underlined that transportation is crucial for sustainable development addressing the mobility of people and goods. The importance of its inclusion in SDGs was well recognized, with many calling for it to be included at the level of targets under other goals. The importance of road safety was highlighted.

  • Many called for the SDGs to ensure access to safe, affordable and environmentally friendly forms of transportation for all. This entails avoiding unnecessary transport with smarter land use planning and improved access to ICT; shifting to public transportation systems, rail and waterway freight modes and safe convenient non-motorized transport where appropriate; improving environmental performance of existing forms of transport through innovation, the application of ICT, and improved engineering and design.

The above was taken from the United Nations Sustainability web site:

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