SDG 11 - sustainable cities and communities

Sustainable development goal eleven (SDG 11) is about sustainable cities and communities, which includes making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

The facts

Did you know that:

  • Half of humanity – 3.5 billion people – lives in cities today and by 2030, it is estimated that six out of 10 people will be city dwellers.
  • The world’s cities occupy just 3% of the planet’s land but account for 60-80% of all energy consumption and 75% of the planet’s carbon emissions.
  • Close to 95% of urban expansion in the coming decades will take place in the developing world.
  • Rapid urbanisation is exerting pressure on fresh water supplies, sewage, the living environment and public health.
  • Our rapidly growing urban world is experiencing congestion, a lack of basic services, a shortage of adequate housing, and declining infrastructure.
  • Thirty percent of the world’s urban population lives in slums, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, over half of all city dwellers are slum dwellers.

The focus of SDG 11

Today, cities are well recognised as centres of innovation, investment, and play a priority role in driving industrialisation and economic growth in both developed and developing countries alike. Urbanisation plays a critical role in facilitating and ensuring that rural/urban connections that support a balanced territorial development are in place. Cities are therefore well positioned to take the lead in addressing many of the persistent global challenges including pollution, climate change, resilience and environmental degradation, road safety, urban mobility, traffic management, poverty, inequality, unemployment, crimes and security, etc. Cities are also key to finding solutions for new and emerging challenges, which the world is facing, from stemming the rise of plastic waste in our oceans to the introduction of new technologies as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (UN Habitat, 2019).

SDG 11 targets relate to eliminating slum-like conditions, providing accessible and affordable transport systems, reducing urban sprawl, increasing participation in urban governance, enhancing cultural and heritage preservation, addressing urban resilience and climate change challenges, better management of urban environments (pollution and waste management), providing access to safe and secure public spaces for all, and improving urban management through better urban policies and regulations (SDG Knowledge Platform, 2019).

Technology and SDG 11

A key trend in sustainable cities is the massive rise in technology, specifically the Internet of Things (IoT), expecting to connect everything in a city – from the electricity grid to the sewer pipes to roads, buildings and vehicles.

Smart cities

Governments and researchers since the 1990s have been using the term ‘Smart Cities’ because it could help certain cities to distinguish and promote themselves as innovative. A smart city is an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently.

Examples of Smart City initiatives include the city of Barcelona, where a new bus network based on data analysis of the most common traffic flows in Barcelona and the integration of multiple smart city technologies allows buses to run on routes with the most green lights.  In Stockholm, the Green IT program seeks to reduce environmental impact through IT functions such as energy efficient buildings (minimising heating costs), traffic monitoring (minimising the time spent on the road) and development of e-services (minimising paper usage). An alternative use of smart city technology can be found in Santa Cruz, California, where local authorities analyse historical crime data in order to predict police requirements and maximise police presence where it is required (World Economic Forum, 2018).

It is important to remember that the challenge of sustainable cities is not simply about developing new technological solutions to long-standing problems. Rather, success in this sphere will be achieved only by balancing the demands of social and economic development with careful environmental management and innovative urban governance.

Systems approach

Thinking about the other 16 SDGs, it is clear that SDG 11 has the potential for inter-linkages and taking a real systems approach. For example, natural disasters and other climate impacts are endogenous to development – they are not a separate issue to be considered independently (i.e. SDG 11 and 13).  Effective, inclusive development in cities will need to consider the needs of people with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups (i.e. SDG 11 and 10). Indeed, it is important to take a systems approach to the implementation of SDG 11, and the other SDGS, which suggests that sustainability can only be achieved by first recognising and then balancing the trade-offs among the various goals across environmental, economic and social systems.

Smart education

Smart cities and technological interconnectedness also impact education, recognising the need for education programs producing graduates with modern knowledge, practical skills and collaborative attitudes. LBS is at the forefront of this so-called “smart education”. LBS is a Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) Champion, which means our students are taught to become responsible leaders who are informed and capable of balancing the demands of business with economic, social and environmental sustainability, undertaking innovative projects that respond to future systemic challenges (read more about our PRME commitments here). In addition, LBS developed new degrees such as the Bachelor of Business Analytics and the Bachelor of Digital Business to provide students with the skills necessary to work and live in a smart (city) environment.

SDG Video

The video on SDG 11 is produced by LBS and shows Dr Swati Nagpal and Paul Strickland. Swati firstly discusses the importance of cities – they make us more productive and creative and are the key social and organising units of our time – and talks about the SDG 11 targets, the stakeholders involved, and the concept of smart cities. Paul focuses on the Kingdom of Bhutan and their experience and dealing with rapid growing urbanisation, the country’s pioneering role in the development of the Gross National Happiness Indicator – measuring the collective happiness and wellbeing of the population – and the country’s 2020 vision around waste management, greening the construction industry, and conservation.

Please enjoy the presentation.

If you would like access to the full video to use in your teaching, please contact Dr Swati Nagpal.

This blog is part of the SDG Series, a series that focuses on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, in the lead up to the CR3+ Conference in October 2019.

More blogs in the SDG Series:

- An introduction to the Sustainable Development Goals
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 1
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 2
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 3
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 4
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 5
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 6
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 7
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 8
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 9
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 10