15 Jul 2014
The call to unite on an Urban Sustainable Development Goal

“UNITE: to convince public, private and social stakeholders that investing in creative, resilient, sustainable cities and communities is essential to our future.”

There is a call  across the international community to have a specific urban goal in the new Sustainable Development Goals. We ask you to join this movement for creative, resilient, sustainable cities and communities.

One of the main outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference was the agreement by member States to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Millennium Development Goals will expire in 2015, sparking a broad international discussion about what should replace them. A high-level United Nations working group was created to sort through hundreds of ideas for goals. The UN Open Work Group has released their finale outcome document in regard to the Post-2015 goals. The proposal contains 17 proposed goals and 169 targets.

A global coalition of urban activists joined in the debate to promote inclusion of a specific urban goal which will focus on a global urban future. They saw their efforts rewarded on July 19 by the inclusion of a specific urban goal in the proposed goals — to “Make cities and human settlement inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” (Goal number 11).  The goal is backed up by specific targets, such as eliminating slum-like conditions, reducing urban sprawl and ensuring universal access to safe and sustainable urban transit.

The 17 proposed SDGs are due for additional debate and refinement starting later this year. Final UN General Assembly ratification won’t occur until September 2015. If the urban goal is ratified it will be the a strong expression by the United Nations on the critical role of cities in the global future. Professor Eugenie Birch is one of the lead thinkers making the call:

“It is imperative to get more people and organizations interested in sustainable urbanization”

Professor Birch holds many positions in relation to urban sustainability: Chair of UN Habitat’s World Urban Campaign, co-director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research at the University of Pennsylvania and Lawrence C. Nussdorf Chair of Urban Research and Education and Cities Programme Global Advisor. In her communication relating to an urban sustainable development goal, she highlights the importance of addressing sustainable urbanization by questioning “How can disease, malnutrition, illiteracy and free trade be addressed if the places in which these ills exist are broken?”

Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the MDGs said;

“Cities will be in the front lines of the battle for sustainable development. Not only do they face direct threats; they also have the best opportunities to identify and deliver solutions.”

Read more on the SDGs and the Urban SDG, see:



Post-2015 Consensus

On the record: What supporters of an “urban SDG” are saying

Cities and Sustainable Development