SDG11 – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

by Sara Ganassali, PhD Candidate. Department ABC, Politecnico di Milano, Italy

Francfort, ville de demain.

Our cities are growing and about 54% of world’s population live in urban settlements, and it has been estimated that 5 billion people will live in cities until 2030. We are attending to a rapid global urbanization that causes big challenges, in which are included:

    • the increase of pollution substances in air, water and soil;
    • the growth of slum dwellers, in the poorest world’s countries, and the born of unplanned urban sprawl in the big metropolitan area
    • the increase of inadequate basic services and infrastructure management, linked to the uncontrolled growth of urban settlements

Moreover, all these factors are making cities more vulnerable to disasters and people more vulnerable in risk situations.
11-Sustainable-cities-and-communitiesThe United Nations (UN) develop global indicators with shared general agreements and targets, which have to be reached until the 2030. The Nations have committed themselves to provide new plans to reached the targets considering to ensury: access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing, transport systems, natural and cultural heritage (combining public and private funding), with a reduction of death linked to pollution, inefficient medical assistance and natural disasters.

Better urban planning and management are needed to make the urban spaces more, inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. We can analyses the four adjectives used in the SDG’s title to define the ideal human settlements and try to understand what they mean.

When a city is inclusive? It is inclusive when the urban dwellers have equal rights, especially the disadvantaged groups. The inclusive city shall ensure a collective well-being and adequate standard of living to its inhabitants, achieving a direct democratic participation of society in urban planning. The equal management of city brings to a new collective urban property, characterized by shared goods and accessible spaces for all, by sex, age, disabilities and cultural context. Maybe, we still need cultural, social and political processes able to create the basis of these urban rights and guarantee the promotion of equal urban policies.

When a city is safe? It is safe when the urban spaces are accessible for all, thanks to an efficient transport system and the existence of multifunctional activities. The lack of security can be caused by poverty, an inhospitable urban context, inaccessible public spaces, different cultural groups perceived by other citizens as potentially dangerous, etc. More efforts in urban planning and management can solve those problems, providing inclusive green and public spaces and promoting inclusive education and training.

When a city is resilient? Cities and urban dwellers are resilient when they are heterogeneous organized systems able to survive and evolve under conditions of stress and danger. Local governments shall adopt the risk reduction strategies, in order to integrate and implementing the holistic disaster management at all levels. Furthermore, the resilience concept shall be included in buildings, whose design requires more technical and sustainable principles, such as houses with flexible constructive solutions, which can change adapting to different conditions in the long- or short-term.

When a city is sustainable? It is sustainable when the urban planning reached environmental targets planned to reduce the environmental impacts caused by man activities and lifestyle. The urban settlements actively contributes to emissions production at worldwide level and the UN Member States need to take into account the different levels of national development, in order to stimulate new and inclusive green areas with biodiversity, public and sustainable transports, resource efficiency policies, resource-efficient buildings, renewable energy consumption, waste management and water preservation.


The cities represent the hub of human progress in science, economy, technology and health and their protection shall be our priority. But remember: the targets described above do not affect only specific stakeholders, because we are the main city’s actors. We need to know which kind of problems afflict our city and our country and we have the duty to ask more sustainable development challenges.


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