sustainable cities

A closer look at SDG 11


What will it take to achieve SDG 11?

UN-Habitat’s mandate to promote socially and environmentally sustainable cities is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet, in the absence of quantifiable information on the costs to implement SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and realize the New Urban Agenda, it is difficult for leaders to assess resource needs and identify short falls accurately. Previous attempts, such as the McKinsey Global Institute’s Bridging Global Infrastructure Gaps and the Global Infrastructure Hub’s Global Infrastructure Outlook (GIO), to estimate the costs to achieve the SDGs offer important lessons, but none have comprehensively captured the costs to achieve SDG 11.

To fill the gap, UN-Habitat and AidData, a research lab based at William & Mary (a university in the United States), devised a two-phase effort to develop a systematic and replicable approach to capture both the “hard” and “soft” costs to support sustainable cities in the lead up to 2030.

In partnership with:

Phase 1

The method behind quantifying the cost of sustainable urbanization

In phase I, this project developed a pilot methodology to inform these resourcing decisions through producing baseline estimates of the local infrastructure gap in a subset of urban areas at different levels of development and population size. We created this methodology through a series of technical consultations with experts in the field of urban development.

The costing methodology: (1) takes into account both physical and institutional infrastructure needs (e.g., city planning and management capacity); (2) assesses the anticipated costs of realizing SDG 11targets related to five thematic areas within the purview of SDG 11; and (3) ensures future replication, scaling and the ability to contextualize the calculations for more accurate results by country.

Case Study Countries

Examining and applying our methodology to six different countries

For Phase I, we chose to apply our methodology to six countries: India, Malaysia, Bolivia, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, and Sweden. By selecting these countries for the pilot, we wished to gather lessons across regions as well as levels of development and income.

In phase II, AidData and UN-Habitat hope to refine and scale this methodology based on lessons learned from the pilot exercise with the aim of producing estimates and tools that: (1) we can update on a regular basis in the lead up to 2030; and (2) are equally relevant to stakeholders working at local, national, and international levels. We also plan to add other dimensions of sustainable urban development such as Energy, Heritage and Conservation, Water, Education, Health and other governance aspects such as Policing in phase II of this work.

Check out our case study countries down below:

Project Team

Mihir Prakash

Senior Research Analyst

Mengfan Cheng

Program Manager

Alex Wooley

Director of Partnerships and Communications