Sustainable Cities & Communities

UN DEVELOPMENT SUSTAINABLE GOAL: By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums.

Before the pandemic, cities had rising numbers of slum dwellers, worsening air pollution, minimal open public spaces and limited convenient access to public transport. The direct and indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are making it even more unlikely that this Goal will be achieved, with more people forced to live in slums, where quality of life is deteriorating and vulnerability increasing.

The number of slum dwellers has continued to grow over the years, exceeding 1 billion in 2018. Slum dwellers are most prevalent in the three regions of Eastern and South-Eastern Asia (370 million), sub-Saharan Africa (238 million) and Central and Southern Asia (226 million).

According to data from 2019 for 610 cities in 95 countries and territories, about half of the urban population has convenient access to public transport, defined as living within a walking distance of 500 metres to low-capacity transport systems, such as buses or trams, and 1,000 metres to high-capacity systems, such as trains and ferries. As a result of the COVID-19 response measures imposed in countries and territories throughout 2020, access to public transport in cities worldwide was significantly disrupted, from partial closures and reduced capacities to total closure of networks.

Data collected for a sample of 911 cities from 114 countries and territories in 2020 indicate that between 1990 and 2019, spatial urbanization occurred at a much faster rate than population growth, and smaller cities were being urbanized more quickly than their larger counterparts. On average, all regions except sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia recorded a consistent increase in built-up area per capita, with the highest values in Australia and New Zealand.

Data on a sample of 911 cities from 114 countries and territories indicate that the share of urban area allocated to streets and open public spaces averaged only about 16 per cent globally in 2020, well below the allocation recommended by United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) of 30 per cent for streets and an additional 10 to 15 per cent for open public spaces.

As of March 2021, 156 countries and territories have developed national urban policies, almost half of which are already at the implementation stage. Of these countries and territories, 38 per cent are in the early stages of plan development, while 13 per cent are monitoring and evaluating the performance of their plans.


UN Sustainable Development Goals

Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals – E/2021/58

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