On June 8-10, 2015, the SDSN co-hosted a meeting with Mistra Urban Futures in Gothenburg, Sweden, with numerous members of the UrbanSDG Campaign in attendance. The objective of the meeting was twofold: i) to gauge the feasibility and challenges of operationalizing the SDGs at the local scale, beginning with monitoring challenges of the proposed indicator framework for Goal 11, and ii) to take stock of how best to mobilize the urban community and the UrbanSDG campaign’s political capital behind the cause of sustainable urban development at the global scale as we move towards Habitat III.

Steered by David Simon, director of Mistra Urban Futures, and Aromar Revi, director of the Indian Institute of Human Settlements and co-chair of the SDSN Thematic Group on Sustainable Cities, the meeting brought together various global processes and their significance to the urban agenda, including updates on the upcoming Financing for Development (FfD) conference, the Intergovernmental SDG negotiations, the indicator discussions at the inaugural meeting of the Inter-Agency Expert Group on the Sustainable Development Goals (IAEG-SDGs), and the preparations going into the 2016 Habitat III conference. Action items on the agenda included the presentation of the results of a five-city feasibility study of the proposed SDG11 indicators spearheaded by Mistra Urban Futures, a session on key considerations for financing urban development, and the presentation of a proposed handbook for guiding national and local governments in operationalizing the SDGs at the local level, to be developed by the SDSN with support from the UrbanSDG Campaign.

The sessions followed an open discursive format to ideate on the next steps of the urban community in support of SDG implementation, and featured presentations by Guido Schmidt-Traub (SDSN), Maruxa Cardama (Communitas), Andrew Rudd (UN-Habitat), Jessica Espey (SDSN), Helen Arfvidsson (Mistra Urban Futures) and the Mistra Urban Futures project teams, Aniket Shah (SDSN), Susan Parnell (African Centre for Cities), Eugenie Birch (University of Pennsylvania), Holger Kuhle (SDSN), Danielle Petretta (SDSN), and Chaitanya Kanuri (SDSN), amongst others.

The three-day meeting saw the alignment of two new institutional members with the UrbanSDG Campaign – Mistra Urban Futures and World Resources Institute (WRI) – who are expected to be important partners in future activities of the Campaign. The meeting attempted to in set out a course of action for the urban community over the next few months, at a critical juncture in the run-up to the FfD conference in July, and the UN General Assembly in September. With respect to the global processes, the language on urban development of the FfD Addis Ababa Accord and the SDG outcome document was refined, which if enshrined is expected to have significant ramifications for stronger recognition of the urban agenda in the years to come. This will be followed up through targeted advocacy documents aimed at national and local governments, laying out the mutual importance of the SDG agenda and local implementation of the SDGs.

At the local level, results from the city indicators study provided a cornerstone to discussions on localizing the SDGs, in addition to providing rich feedback on Goal 11 indicators that can be channelled into the IAEG-SDG processes. Taking forward the established relationships with local officials in the pilot cities, a proposal was put forth to test other cross-cutting indicators as a second stage of the study, as well as to get local input on a draft of the handbook for getting started with the SDGs in cities and municipalities.