EGM on Monitoring SDG Goal 11 Indicators , New York May 19-20 2016

May 19th and 20th  - UN-Habitat and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) held an Expert Group Meeting on Monitoring SDG Goal 11 Indicators in Columbia University, New York.

 The main objective of the meeting was to discuss and pinpoint outstanding challenges relating to the monitoring of the SDGs at local levels, and to refine the proposed methodology for a number of the key Goal 11 indicators, particularly Indicator 11.3.1 (Ratio of land consumption rate to population growth rate name). Expert participants were invited to share methodological best practice and to participate in a deep dive on this and other indicators.

Discussions opened around presentations by Dr. Eduardo Lopez Moreno, Head of Research and Capacity at UN-Habitat, who provided an update on the SDGs process and the roadmap for Goal 11 indicators, and Aromar Revi of the SDSN outlining “the need for accurate and timely data for SDGs”. Reza Pourvaziry, President of International City Leaders (ICL), provided a sense of context and process in his address via video link, highlighting the necessity of establishing a monitoring framework to achieve Goal 11. He stated that “considering the importance of the subject of Goal 11 and the fact that the cities provide the foundation on which the SDGs will be built up, it is necessary to set up a global observatory based on the proposed platform for goal 11. The observatory can act as an International Monitoring Centre for Urban SDGs (IMCUS), and cities can join voluntarily to reduce global concerns”. In addition he proposed that mayors would convene for an annual review of monitoring activities on Goal 11.

 Technical presentations by Solly Angel of NYU and Martino Pesaresi of the European Commission, on existing methodological proposals for computation of indicator 11.3.,1 lead the group into detailed discussions on best practices for monitoring this indicator. Patricia McCarney, President and CEO of WCCD outlined her experience of computation of indicators, and the challenges that can be met when defining “urban” boundaries, collating data in a uniform manner and highlighted the inconsistencies in administrations and the problems these may pose.

The two day discussions were concluded with a consensus on how to move forward with monitoring the indicators, and it was acknowledged that further discussions were needed on the training of municipalities to use the data available to them in a way that would successfully create the output needed to monitor SDGs. In addition, as suggested by ICL, ICLEI and UNPF, there is need to  engage closely with Mayors in SDG implementation, as these are the biggest influencers to achieve the ultimate aim of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The knowledge and expertise captured through this EGM is expected to contribute to the challenges relating to the monitoring of the SDGs at local levels.

Text of the Video statement by Reza Pourvaziry, ICL President, during the meeting:

   Reza Pourvaziry, President, International City Leaders, delivering video speech during the meeting

   Reza Pourvaziry, President, International City Leaders, delivering video speech during the meeting

Sustainable Development Goals is a worldwide consensus of taking shared action among nations, central & local governments, and cities. That said, it is expected that by 2030, the world community commits all it has got to achieve those goals, and there are plenty of opportunities and of course limitations & challenges down the road.

Inclusion of cities and sustainable communities as the goal 11 of SDGs and the key issue of establishing a monitoring framework to achieve the goal is the subject of my discussion today.

Expert Group Meetings are accredited with producing more credible outcome than the other solutions applied by developmental organizations, and we hope it will be repeated during such meetings.

1-      Actions at the level of cities and societies require the focus and consideration of local authorities and city leadership. The urban development organizations and municipalities can particularly play a major role to this effect. Definitely to accomplish this, the central governments need to get involved, but if there is a need to assign a certain organization to demonstrate the existing status and monitor the achievements step by step, that would be the association of municipalities. The fact that the central governments would consider transferring some responsibilities to cities, is a very challenging and political issue. Nonetheless, in order to achieve SDGs at the scale of cities, some level of authority should be delegated to them and they would be held accountable accordingly.

2-      Cities have their own mechanism to collect data and the same should be used in the areas categorized under goal 11. It is recommended that the status of the relevant indicators for a variety of cities across all continents are assessed, and projected in a specific matrix through comprehensive research. To realize this, I propose the steps that will follow.

3-       An expert workgroup comprising the mayors from the target cities would be established to implement the program within a specific period of time with the support of SDSN and UN-Habitat. Subsequently and based on the output, a unified platform to monitor the cities will be designed and presented.

4-      Considering the importance of the subject of goal 11 and the fact that the cities provide the foundation on which the SDGs will be built up, it is necessary to set up a global observatory based on the proposed platform mentioned previously for goal 11. The observatory can act as an International Monitoring Center for Urban SDGs (IMCUS) and be managed under the authority of the UN secretary general and be located in either UN-Habitat or SDSN. The cities can join IMCUS voluntarily to reduce the global concerns resulted from urban disasters, climate change and environmental problems, and a council comprised of member mayors would select the board of directors and the UN would adopt resolutions to rally support of the nations. Since the cities have their own watchdog in place to handle their demands based on their own standards, the same monitoring agencies can be connected to a global network using the same software to update the world urban status on the fly. Of course it is true that this should be considered a very politically sensitive subject and some cities might resist to provide a global agency with their classified data as mandated by their rules and regulations. This is understandable. But at the end of the day, nations should move toward taking collective action on common global threats particularly on natural resources such as water, air, and energy.

5-      Based on the task assignments defined by UN for the targets involving goal 11 and other targets involving the urban issues, it is necessary that IMCUS International board will plan and implement its activities directly in collaboration with UN agencies based on a certain mechanism.

6-      It is proposed that the mayors will convene for annual review of the monitoring activities on goal 11 to discuss challenges, problems, capacities, and potentials to achieve goal 11 and other goals with an urban approach. Definitely, the various executive responsibilities of this common campaign should be divided between specialized urban development organizations which collaborate with municipalities and mayors as all parties should be involved.

7-      It is necessary that an expert technical and data analysis team will be able to scrutinize the details, and apply state-of-the-art information technology and expertise to collect, monitor, update, and benchmark data.

8-      It is expected that the best practices involving the achievement of SDGs from various countries are collected and exchanged in an integrated framework to be utilized interactively by mayors.

9-      We need to create an inclusive social observatory network through social media to be followed by all people around the world and create an interactive dialog between them and city leaders. This program will work well through active public participation with the support of social authorities.

10-   In order to cope with the economic problems including job insecurity, income disparity, unaffordable housing/transportation/education, and lack of social assistance we need to engage other stakeholders in the cities.

11-   All target parties should enter a multi-dimensional matrix and work together in harmony.

12-   In order to realize the objectives of the initiative, a fund needs to be established to finance the necessary resources.

Main Approach:  The resources, knowledge, and the systems at a global level should be deployed to prevent repetition, waste of time and funding.

In the end, I would like to thank you for listening. ICL hereby announces its readiness to collaborate on this very important subject. I hope we can follow up on this crucial matter on a daily and hourly basis so we can stop more damage to our biosphere. I believe that knowledge and technology can deal with many of our daily problems which seem quite complicated and difficult to solve provided we truly believe and have faith on the valuable goal of sustainable development.


Eduardo Moreno: UN-H, Regina Orvananos: UN-H, Jessica Espey: UNSDSN, Cynthia Rosenzweig: UNSDSN, Reza Pourvaziry: ICL, Marina Sheehan: ICL, Martino Pesaresi: Joint Research Centre European Commission, James Goldstein: Tellus Institute, Eugenie L. Birch: Penn Institute, Manuel Madrid: Gvsig, Michael Cohen: New School, Lena Simet: New School, David Simon: Mistra, Anjali Mahendra: WRI, Sara Hertog: DESA, Daniel Schensul: United Nations Population Fund, Zoltan Bartalis:    ESA Earth Observation Department, Helen Ng: World Council on City Data, Katerine Zapata: Erazo Colombia, Solomon Greene: Urban Institute, Claudio Martínez: Topete INEGI, Ellen Hamilton: WB, Chandan Deuskar: WB, Patrick Lamsonhall: NYU, Solly Angel: NYU, Filiep Decorte:    UN-NY Office, Francois Pelletier: UN DESA, Charles Brigham: ESRI, Hui Ling Lim: Centre for Livable cities, Joseph Wladkowski: ICLEI, Andrew Rudd:    UN-NY Office, Patricia McCarney: World Council on City Data