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Why the world needs an urban Sustainable Development Goal

This note outlines the case for a stand-alone urban SDG. It explains why alternative approaches that treat urbanization as a “cross-cutting” issue and spread urban issues across separate goals for infrastructure, social services, and environmental sustainability would fail to mobilize cities or address the essential role that urbanization must play in sustainable development.

In June 2013, three major reports on the post-2015 development agenda were issued, by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and the Global Compact.  All three reports agree that the post-2015 development agenda needs to focus on sustainable development and finish the job of ending extreme poverty in all its forms. Each report underscores the importance of cities and urban development, but they differ markedly in how they propose to address urban issues in the design of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Only the SDSN proposes a stand-alone urban goal, while the other reports suggest that urban challenges be addressed as part of sectoral goals and targets. The UN Secretary General’s report to the General Assembly, issued in July 2013, also highlights the importance of sustainable cities and the positive role of SDSN members and partners in paving the way forward towards a post-2015 agenda. 

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Frederic Saliez
29 October 2013

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