SDG 11 in Action: How Cities and Urban Communities Advance Urban Sustainability

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Cities are crucial for addressing the sustainability challenges of the 21st century. They are home to more than half of the world's population and account for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cities are also where different crises manifest and converge: poverty, inequality, pollution, congestion, and vulnerability to disasters as well as infrastructure deterioration due to climate change pressures. Despite these pathologies, cities are also the spaces where transformative solutions and innovations are emerging, co-created and tested. As places of conflict and opportunity, urban areas are under pressure to achieve sustainability as it is essential for the well-being of people and the planet.

The Sustainable Development Goal No. 11 (SDG 11) sets the target for making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable by 2030. It encompasses various targets and indicators related to housing, transportation, public spaces, urban planning and governance, urban-rural linkages, heritage, disasters, climate change, air quality, waste management, and access to basic services. However, implementing SDG 11 in cities is far from easy; it is challenging and requires coordination and collaboration among multiple stakeholders, sectors, and levels of governance. As a target, it requires action that is daring and integrative and requires coordination within cities and their communities.

As we are halfway toward the target date of SDGs (that is set to be in 2030), it is timely to take stock of the efforts aimed at implementing SDG 11 in cities and reflect on the pace of progress and change made thus far. There is a need for stronger commitments and actual actions for achieving the SDGs, and we should, therefore, look critically at what has been done thus far as well as what blocks or stalls progress in achieving the targets. Our special issue is set to bring contributions to respond to the aforementioned overarching objectives and further investigate the following questions:

  • What has been or can be done to measure progress toward SDG 11 across different parts of the world? What are the strengths and weaknesses of existing indicators and targets?
  • What are the achievements and challenges so far in achieving SDG11 in cities and regions? What are the best practices and lessons learned? What are the actors progressing transformations in achieving SGD11, and how do they operate, transform, advocate, and realize actions contributing to SDG11?
  • What are the interlinkages between SDG 11 and other SDGs? What are the promises and pitfalls of using smart solutions and technologies to achieve the targets of SDG 11?
  • What are the gaps and opportunities for improvement? What are the disparities between the Global North and Global South cities?
  • What are the implications and recommendations for post-SDG goal-setting toward creating sustainable and resilient cities?

We invite contributions that address these questions and other issues related to SDG 11 and its implementation in cities. We welcome papers from different disciplines and perspectives, such as urban studies, geography, sociology, economics, engineering, environmental science, sustainability science, sustainability transitions studies, and public policy. We also encourage papers that adopt a comparative or cross-regional approach, or that focus on specific case studies or themes within SDG 11. The papers should be original and based on empirical research or theoretical analysis.

We look forward to receiving your submissions and contributions to this new themed Collection of npj Urban Sustainability that aims to provide policy-relevant information for evidence-based decision-making toward making cities and communities more sustainable and resilient.

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  • Ayyoob Sharifi, PhD

    Professor, IDEC Institute and the Graduate School of Innovation and Practice for Smart Society, Hiroshima University, Japan

  • Niki Frantzeskaki, PhD

    Professor, Section Spatial Planning, Geosciences Faculty, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

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