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Make all cities socially inclusive, economically productive, environmentally sustainable, secure, and resilient to climate change and other risks. Develop participatory, accountable, and effective city governance to support rapid and equitable urban transformation.

Targets and Indicators

7a. End extreme urban poverty, expand employment and productivity, and raise living standards, especially in slums.*

64. Percentage of urban population with incomes below national extreme poverty line (modified MDG Indicator)

65. [Indicator on the deployment of a sustainable development strategy for each urban agglomeration above [250,000] – to be developed

66. Percentage of urban population living in slums or informal settlements (MDG Indicator)

7b. Ensure universal access to a secure and affordable built environment and basic urban services including housing; water, sanitation and waste management; low-carbon energy and transport; and mobile and broadband communication.

57. Percentage of urban population using basic drinking water (modified MDG Indicator)

58. Percentage of urban population using basic sanitation (modified MDG Indicator)

67. Percentage of urban households with regular solid waste collection

59. [Percentage of women and men in urban areas with security of tenure, measured by (i) percentage with documented rights to housing, and (ii) percentage who do not fear arbitrary eviction] – indicator to be developed

68. Percentage of people within [0.5] km of public transit running at least every [20] minutes

61. Mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in urban areas

7c. Ensure safe air and water quality for all, and integrate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, efficient land and resource use, and climate and disaster resilience into investments and standards.*

69. Mean urban air pollution of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5)

70. Percentage of wastewater flows treated to national standards, by domestic and industrial source

71. Urban green space per capita

56. Losses from disasters in rural areas, by climate and non-climate-related events (in US$ and in lives lost)


Half the world’s seven billion people live in cities, and roughly three-quarters of economic activity is urban. Cities are also home to extreme deprivation and environmental degradation with one billion people living in slums. The dynamism of cities makes urban development and sustainable cities a major sustainable development challenge and opportunity. Between 2010 and 2050, the urban population will grow significantly, perhaps by 2.5 to 3.0 billion people, increasing the urban share to two-thirds of the world’s population, with accompanying increases in the shares of global GDP and investments.

Most countries are inadequately prepared for this massive increase in the urban population and the ensuing changes to the structure of their economies. Slums are expanding; infrastructure is inadequate and outmoded; environmental hazards and climate risks are rising significantly with particularly adverse impacts on the lives of the urban poor. Armed violence and insecurity are increasingly concentrated in cities. Moreover, cities are massive users of resources, e.g. water and energy for transportation, industry, heating and cooling of buildings, and appliances. New energy, water, wastewater, and transportation infrastructure for cities will last many decades, as will choices around land use and spatial structure. Urban infrastructure decisions will be vital in determining the future trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions.

In an increasingly urban world, cities are central to global economic development, employment creation, and ending extreme poverty. The success of the SDGs will be determined heavily in the world’s cities, resting on improvements in the quality of urban governance, sound investments, cities’ ability to innovate, and effective urban-rural linkages.

To reduce urban poverty in all its forms, end slum formation, promote security, and increase productivity, cities – with the support of national policies – will need to ensure universal access to basic urban infrastructure and services, including housing, water, sanitation, waste management, low-carbon energy, transport and mobility, as well as modern information and communication technologies. Urban areas will need to clean up their air, water, and soil to ensure healthy living conditions. Health can further be promoted through urban design that favors walking and cycling. Cities will need to invest in resilience to disasters, more frequent extreme weather events, and other threats of climate change. In particular, building standards must address the need for disaster risk management. Modern technologies, particularly ICT, can help improve city governance, energy and resource use efficiency, delivery of urban services, and can create new employment opportunities. ICT can underpin smart grids for urban power, water, and transport, as well as innovative education and public health systems.

To harness the potential of sustainable urbanization, urban governance will have to be improved in virtually every country. Metropolitan areas and local governments will be at the center of decision-making and therefore need to be empowered, but they must work with many other actors: national governments, businesses (including financial institutions), knowledge institutions, civil society, and the police. Together these actors must mobilize the needed financial, institutional, and human resources across a broad range of urban issues, such as jobs, housing, services, security, and infrastructure. There can be no doubt that the complexity of the urban governance challenge is enormous.




What is Transformative about goal 7 “Empower Inclusive, Productive, and Resilient Cities”?
The goal to “empower inclusive, productive, and resilient cities” is transformative because it promotes an integrated approach to the urgent challenges facing cities and the opportunities presented by global trends in urbanization. Most importantly, the goal empowers urban actors including local authorities, mayors, urban NGOs and community organizations to act together to solve the practical problems facing cities and to take advantage of the tremendous potential of sustainable urban development. The experience of the MDGs has shown that urban leaders will not mobilize around thematic or sectoral national goals. So if mayors and other urban stakeholders are to mobilize around the SDGs, such a dedicated urban goal strikes us as necessary.

The proposed goal captures three main areas that are vital to sustainable cities, namely: ending extreme urban poverty and improving the lives of slum dwellers; ensuring universal urban access to basic services; and properly managing the relationship between the city and its natural environment. We highlight poverty under this urban goal since the world’s measure of extreme poverty (incomes below $1.25 a day) is poorly adapted to cash-based urban economies. By focusing on these areas, the goal will promote integrated and innovative infrastructure design and service delivery, land use planning and efficient spatial concentration, as well as resilience to climate change and disaster in every city around the world.

Why is there no stand-alone goal on infrastructure?
Access to infrastructure is essential for ending extreme poverty in all its forms and promoting sustainable development. The proposed SDGs divide the challenges of providing access to infrastructure between urban (SDG 7) and rural (SDG 6) areas. This division is motivated by the fact that infrastructure technologies, delivery models, and responsible actors vary significantly between urban and rural areas.

How do the proposed goals deal with water supply and water resources management?
Providing access to safe water and sanitation, ensuring sound management of freshwater resources, and preventing water pollution are inter-related priority challenges of sustainable development that must be met for other goals and targets to be achieved. All three must become central components of the SDGs:

  • Water access: Delivery models, technologies, and responsible actors for access to water and sanitation differ between urban and rural areas, so we propose to assign these challenges to the urban and rural goals, respectively. This has the added advantage of combining water supply and sanitation, which are often closely linked.
  • Water resources management: Integrated water resources management and the allocation of water across different uses is a cross-cutting requirement for all goals. Freshwater needs for agriculture (accounting for some 70 percent of freshwater withdrawals), industry, households, and the healthy functioning of ecosystems (sometimes referred to as “green water”) stand out as major challenges. Moreover, water-related disasters, such as floods and droughts, account for a large share of damage from natural disasters. Water resources management and associated disaster risk management cannot be pursued in isolation from the management of agriculture, cities, and ecosystems, so water is part of several goals. The proposed SDG 9 emphasizes the need for integrated water resources management. A suitable indicator for Target 9c might include the ratio of freshwater withdrawals to renewable freshwater supply which should be lower than one.
  • Water pollution: Water pollution is a separate management challenge. Although not limited to urban areas, water pollution is a significant urban challenge and is therefore included under SDG 7.

The question of how to deal with water challenges in the proposed SDGs has been intensely discussed in the Leadership Council. Some have argued for a stand-alone water goal partly to draw attention to the importance of water management. Overall, though, we believe that our proposals provide a sound basis for managing the various water challenges within the framework of ten SDGs, particularly if suitable indicators track the sustainable use of water resources, access to water supply, and water quality.

Why do some goals focus on outcomes whereas others focus on outputs or means?
Where possible, the SDGs should focus on outcomes, such as ending extreme poverty. Yet, the distinction between outcomes, outputs, and inputs needs to be handled pragmatically, and the design of goals and targets should be – we believe – guided by approaches that are best suited to mobilize action and ensure accountability. For example, ensuring universal access to healthcare or high-quality early childhood development (ECD) are important commitments for every government. Goals and targets that focus on these outputs will ensure operational focus and accountability. In some instances it also makes sense to target inputs. For example, official development assistance (ODA) is critical for ensuring many SDGs and needs to be mobilized in every high-income country. Mobilizing resources for sustainable development is difficult, so subsuming ODA as an implicit input into every SDG would make it harder for government leaders, citizens, and civil society organizations to argue for increased ODA. It would also weaken accountability for rich countries. Similar considerations apply, for example, to the proposed target on integrated reporting by governments and businesses on their contributions to the SDGs.

Most goals apply to cities. Why do we need a separate urban goal?
Urban sustainable development is a central challenge and a major opportunity for most countries, as urban and slum populations are rising rapidly. The urban share of the world’s population is expected to rise from 52 percent in 2010 to around 67 percent in 2050, and the urban share of GDP and employment will rise commensurately. If managed well, urbanization can create employment and prosperity, and become a central driver for ending extreme poverty and for strengthening social inclusion. If managed poorly, cities will deepen social exclusion and fail to generate enough jobs. Urban sustainable development is complex, involving not only many sectors but also many political entities, including local neighborhoods, city governments, metropolitan areas, and national governments, which must empower cities and link them to rural areas. As a result, strategies for cities pose highly complex yet crucial challenges. An urban SDG is therefore important to mobilize and bring together the efforts of multiple actors and stakeholders (e.g. local authorities, national governments, businesses, knowledge institutions, and civil society) across a range of urban issues (e.g. urban jobs, housing, infrastructure, governance, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation and mitigation) and mobilize the financial, institutional, and human resources to make this possible.

What does reducing to “zero” or “universal access” mean?
Many targets call for “universal access” (e.g. to infrastructure) or “zero” deprivation (e.g. extreme poverty, hunger). For each such target, the technical communities and member states will need to define the precise quantitative standard for their commitment to “universal access” or “zero” deprivation. We hope that in most cases these standards will indeed be 100 percent or 0 percent, respectively, but there may be areas where it is technically impossible to achieve 100 percent access or 0 percent deprivation. In such cases countries should aim to get as close as possible to 100 percent or 0 percent, respectively.

Why are some targets not quantified and marked with an asterisk? Why do some targets have numbers in square brackets?
It is important that every target can be measured at the national or local level, but not every target can be defined globally in a meaningful way, for three distinct reasons:

i. The starting points may differ too much across countries for a single meaningful quantitative standard at the global level;
ii. Some targets need to be adapted and quantified locally or may be relevant only in subsets of countries (e.g. those that refer to specific ecosystems);
iii. For some targets no global consensus exists today, and these still need to be negotiated, as is the case with greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. In the meantime, countries should establish their own plans and targets.

In some cases proposed numerical targets are presented in square brackets since these numbers are preliminary and may need to be reviewed by the corresponding technical communities.