Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities


Since 2007, over 50% of the world’s population are urban residents, but not all cities are sustainable, safe, or adequate for living. In 2018, over one billion people lived in “slum-like” conditions. These include areas with large amounts of air pollution, no waste collection services, and inadequate infrastructures, like unsafe roads. In 2019, 90% of urban residents lived with polluted air. Cities create 70% of global carbon emissions and account for 60% of resource use, even though they only take up three percent of the earth’s land. In 2019, two billion people did not have access to waste collection services, which results in unhealthy exposure to waste and adds pollutants to the air. These statistics illustrate the importance of affordable and safe living conditions, economic growth opportunities, and sustainable urban living methods, which Sustainable Development Goal 11 works to achieve. 

The Goal 

SDG 11 aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

Targets and Indicators 

SDG 11 has seven targets, or specific sub-goals, measured through various indicators. The first goal is to ensure adequate, safe, and affordable housing and basic services, as well as upgrade slums. The second goal is to provide safe, affordable, and accessible public transit. This goal includes a focus on marginalized populations, specifically women, children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities. One of the indicators for this goal measures the proportion of the population that has convenient access to transport. Other goals focus on decreasing deaths from natural disasters, reducing air pollution from waste, and universal access to public green spaces. 

What’s Already Being Done

As of May 2020, a majority of city governments decided to revisit urban planning with the possibility of a pandemic in mind. The spread of COVID-19 is more prevalent in cities around the world. Aside from the pandemic, urgent action is required to achieve SDG 11 because of the rapid growth of urban populations. Various organizations are working towards that goal. In Jordan, the United Nations Development Programme, or UNDP, established a recycling plant run by women. Of these women, twenty employees process recycling while forty perform outreach to promote businesses recycling and using their plant. This project is an example of increasing sustainability in cities, offering employment, and reducing waste. 

Applying It: How Everyone Can Help

How can you help improve the quality of life in cities? Increase accessibility in your city by creating a sense of community. Check out the community center, get to know your neighbors, volunteer to babysit, and offer to assist the elderly. It is also important to be mindful of reducing waste. You can use a cardboard box or purchase a bin to start recycling at home. Also, work to reduce your food waste and consider composting any leftover food scraps, and be sure to spread awareness of these issues. To improve public transportation efficiency in your community, reach out to your government officials to emphasize the importance of transportation for making your city more sustainable and inclusive.

Though small, these steps can help the world meet SDG 11!

Think Further

  1. Compare and contrast the challenges of a city in a developed country vs. one in a developing country.
  2. What public transit does your city or town offer? Is it within walking distance from your home and/or school?
  3. What are the benefits of public and accessible green spaces?


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Learn More

  1.  “Goal 11: Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.” United Nations, United Nations,
  2. “Cities – United Nations Sustainable Development.” United Nations, United Nations,
  3. “Recycling Waste and Creating Opportunities for Women.” United Nations, United Nations,
  4. “Videos: Goal 11” United Nations, United Nations,