Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
We have seen a tremendous increase in awareness of the importance of building sustainable cities and communities. One can only hope it’s not too little too late. The number of people living in urban areas is increasing rapidly, and so are the shear sizes of cities. This increase is urban development has tremendous impacts on the environment locally, regionally, and globally. On the flip side, 2 billion people still do not have access to waste collection services, many do not have consistent access to safe and reliable public transportation, and 9 in 10 people living in urban areas do not breathe air that meets the UN’s safety standards. Luckily, 150 countries have written national urban policies are policy strategies to address the urbanization challenges of today, and almost half of these countries are already implementing them.
“Making cities sustainable means creating career and business opportunities, safe and affordable housing, and building resilient societies and economies. It involves investment in public transport, creating green public spaces, and improving urban planning and management in participatory and inclusive ways.” - UNDP
5 Facts and Figures
4.2 billion people (that’s 55% of the world’s population) lived in cities in 2018, and is predicted to rise 6.5 billion by 2025.
Cities generate 80% of the global GDP and play a huge role in the economy.
Cities occupy 3% of the Earth’s land, but account for roughly 70% of global energy consumption and 70% of carbon emissions.
90% of urban expansion will be in the developing world in the coming decades.
Significant progress has been made in reducing the number of people that live in slums, but 828 million continue to live in these conditions.
All people will have access to adequate, safe, and affordable housing, basic services, and public transportation.
Improve efforts to protect and maintain cultural and natural heritage around the world.
Support the least developed countries in building sustainable buildings that are resilient and use local materials.
Improve universal access to green spaces.
Increase the number of cities and settlements that adopt policies and plans that are inclusive, resource efficient, and mitigate climate change.
5 Ways to Help
Support legislation that prioritizes sustainable urban development
Provide assistance to organizations that work to decrease the number of people living in slums in your community (it’s more than you think)
Shop at sustainable fashion brands
Stay up to date on urbanization and development happening in your community
Educate others on the importance of sustainable development
Source: Sustainable Development UN; UN Development Program
Successes in Sustainability
Despite the scale and complexity of community and urban development, there are relatively simple solutions to some problems. In Papua New Guinea, the rare tree kangaroo had grown so endangered due to deforestation and over consumption of resources that there were only 14 left. Landowners and conservation biologists teamed up to form the countries first nationally recognized nature reserve in 2009. Since then, the tree kangaroos are thriving, and the forest and ecosystem is healthy. Ensuring ‘the ghost of the forest’ doesn’t disappear (May 2019). UNDP.
Even in war torn areas like Libya, people are finding innovate ways to improve living conditions, challenge status quos, and make day to day life more enjoyable. Fatima Nasser and Aziza Adam did just that through an ingenious app called Yummy! With the app, people can have home cooked meals delivered right to their doors. In a country where only 1 in 4 women are employed, are marginalized and discriminated against, this app provides opportunities for women and girls to develop their entrepreneurial skills and follow their passions. Providing women and other marginalized populations these kinds of opportunities allows them to more financially stable and more their societies towards a more progressive, sustainable way of living. Connecting cook and customer in Libya (March 2019). UNDP.
Fashion in Sustainable Development
Clothing and fashion are a huge part of our daily life and have tremendous impacts on the natural world and societies. Because of that, the fashion industry can be a huge contributor towards sustainable development. Large companies like Patagonia, Athleta, and Warby Parker have taken the pledge to be sustainable in all aspects of production from sourcing to manufacturing to delivery. These companies have been leaders in the sustainable fashion movement, but you don’t have to be a big company to make a difference. Here at FFC, we support our partner company, Hoja Nueva, who works directly with villages in the Peruvian Amazon to conserve its natural heritage and culture while being profitable entrepreneurs developing their communities. They serve as an example to the fact that you don’t have to be a giant corporation to make a big difference.
Read more about SDG 11 here.
Photos by UNDP Malek Elmaghrebi,David Gillison,and Sumaya Agha