Making Cities Inclusive, Safe and Resilient – SDG 11

Review of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation: SDG 11 – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, 11 July at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF).

Concept Note:

Cities and human settlements are where many of our accomplishments and obstacles to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda are manifested. They are home to concrete challenges as well as enormous opportunities for fostering innovation and knowledge-sharing to overcome these challenges. The session explored the topic of building inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements through the implementation of SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and its interlinkages with the remaining 16 SDGs.

Sustainable urbanisation has a widespread impact for the majority of the global population currently living in urban areas, but also has important implications for those living in rural areas. It has clear impacts on a wide range of issues within the 2030 Agenda, such as sustainable consumption and production, affordable and clean energy, sustainable transportation, clean water and sanitation, and life on land.

This session explored the interconnected ecosystem of our cities and human settlements, and the multi-dimensional issues that must be addressed in order to achieve inclusive, safe, resilience, and sustainable cities and human settlements. It also examined the critical role that local and regional governments play in addressing these collective challenges, and ensuring that the 2030 Agenda reaches the diverse populations living in cities and those most often left behind.

Soroptimist International (SI) Special Advisor to Advocacy, Linda Witong writes a report of the Official Meeting.

“First the problem – A presentation was given by Ms. Leilani Farha, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing since 2014, where she informed the audience that we were at a critical moment and endeavoured to make just two points. 1. Housing is the most significant issue facing cities today and will continue to be so. 2. That SDG 11 and Target 11.1 will not be met unless each State develops and implements human rights-based housing strategies.

Housing conditions are in chaos, homelessness is on the rise, in affluent countries also, and forced evictions continue unabated. Many people have no other option but to resort to living in informal settlements without secure tenure or basic services.  Climate change-related disasters and responses are merely aggravating the problem by further displacing poor communities, and housing in many cities is simply unaffordable even for those earning a decent wage.

Ms Farha spoke of 1.6 billion people being inadequately housed worldwide and nearly 900 million people living in informal settlements and encampments in the global North and South. Speaking of her experiences visiting countries around the world she painted a picture of marginalised groups being evicted from their homes, people living on sidewalks, children forced to play on garbage dumps, and persons with disabilities spending their days in darkened rooms cut off from the rest of society.

A solution – Ms. Farha’s recommendation is that there needs to be a fundamental shift – for States to recognise housing as a human right, believing that a rights-based approach would clarify whom is accountable to whom. Some States have recognized the current conditions as unsustainable and tantamount to violations of multiple human rights, and have responded appropriately. For example, the Minister of the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry ((MoHUA), Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri said that the Ministry is expected to deliver 10 million homes under Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi’s Housing Scheme (Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awaas Yojana – PMAY, is a social welfare flagship programme, created by the Indian Government, to provide housing for the rural poor), by December 2018.

The Ministry already sanctions around 300,000 to 500,000 homes every month and the project’s target is to build 20 million affordable houses by 31 March 2022, and they are well on their way to meeting this goal. The houses come with a number of digital features that are a part of Smart City initiative.

The Smart City features include safe transportation, lower environmental impact and waste-to-energy and waste-to-compost; it also offers complete non-discriminatory access for women, children and senior citizens to services that go beyond building houses. The Ministry also observed that, because of the use of technology by the Smart City Surat in Gujrat, crime rates have dropped by over 20%. However, the most interesting development was that Mr. Puri, informed the audience that these new houses will be in the ladies names!

Ms. Farha spoke of a recent report she presented to the Human Rights Council which provided a checklist for States as to the core principles that should inform a human rights-based strategy and underlined the need for strategies to prioritise those most in need with the aim of eliminating homelessness. Quoting the 2030 Agenda she asked what else could ‘ensuring access to adequate, affordable, secure housing mean’? She explained that there must be independent mechanisms in place to monitor progress and hold governments to account. There must be access to justice, and defined within strategies, the obligations of private actors and regulation of the housing and real estate markets.

Closing, Ms. Farha predicted a difficult journey towards meeting the requirements of Goal 11 and Target 11.1, but said, there was no choice”.


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