May 08th 2024

SDG: Goal 11 Sustainable cities and communities

In an increasingly urbanized world, the quality of life in cities is at the heart of the global agenda. With one in two of the world’s population currently living in urban areas and an unchecked influx, it is crucial to pursue a sustainable urban development policy. This requires a balance between affordable housing, sustainable infrastructure and integrated solutions for mobility, recreation and environmental protection.

The urgency of this issue is only heightened in light of forecasts that over 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Cities are already huge consumers of energy, contribute significantly to global GDP and are responsible for a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions. Against this backdrop, a comprehensive strategy is required that takes into account not only the needs of the current population, but also the requirements of future generations.

The challenges facing cities and municipalities are diverse and complex. In addition to climate change and resource scarcity, they are also confronted with pandemics, demographic change and growing volumes of traffic and waste. An effective response requires a holistic approach that includes innovative solutions, collaboration at local and global levels and strong community engagement.

The future of cities depends on how well we can tackle these challenges. It is up to us to work together to create liveable and sustainable cities for all.

What is to be achieved

To ensure a liveable and equitable future in our cities, certain fundamental principles are crucial. Everyone should have access to adequate housing and basic services. This means that no one should live on the streets or be deprived of basic needs such as food and healthcare.

Another important aspect is access to safe, affordable and sustainable transportation systems. Mobility is a fundamental prerequisite for participation in social life and for economic opportunities. Inclusive and sustainable urban planning is therefore essential to ensure that transportation systems are accessible to all while protecting the environment.

The protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage is also of great importance. This heritage is an important part of our identity and offers not only aesthetic, but also environmental and cultural benefits. We must therefore ensure that it is preserved for future generations.

In order to minimize the impact of disasters, we need to reduce the number of people affected and increase community capacity in disaster management. This requires close cooperation between governments, municipalities and civil society to establish early warning systems and develop emergency plans.

To reduce the environmental impact of cities, we need to focus particularly on areas such as air quality and waste treatment. This requires investment in clean energy sources, improved waste management systems and measures to reduce emissions.

Finally, it is important to ensure universal access to safe green and public spaces. These are important not only for the physical and mental health of city residents, but also for social interactions and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles.

By focusing on these principles and integrating them into our urban planning and development strategies, we can create a more equitable, sustainable and liveable future for all people in our cities.

What is the situation in Germany?

The housing shortage in major German cities has become a pressing problem that affects the quality of life of many people. According to estimates by the BAG Wohnungslosenhilfe, around 417,000 people in Germany were without a home in 2020 alone, including many recognized refugees. This situation is exacerbated in particular for low-income earners, who often have to spend a considerable proportion of their income on rental costs.

Rising rents mean that people on low incomes are being pushed out of city centers and are therefore cut off from important infrastructure and social services. It is therefore of central importance to create sufficient affordable housing, while at the same time protecting the quality of the urban environment and urban nature.

Part of sustainable urban development is also the expansion of public transportation and the promotion of cycling and walking. This is not only important for city dwellers, but also for rural regions in order to reduce the demographic pressure on cities and make these regions attractive for business and innovation.

Germany has set itself the goal of making cities more sustainable and inclusive, while also taking the environment and climate into account. This includes measures such as promoting affordable housing, improving mobility and creating CO₂-neutral and energy-efficient cities. The federal government, federal states, local authorities and citizens are working together to develop ideas and plans to achieve these goals.

In recent years, air quality in German cities has improved significantly thanks to cleaner vehicles and increased use of public transport. This trend can be further improved if more people use public transport or cycle short distances.

And internationally?

The trend towards urbanization is unmistakable: Today, every second person in the world already lives in a city, and by 2050 this proportion could rise to as much as three quarters of the world’s population. Cities are not only centers of economic activity and innovation, but also make a significant contribution to global value creation, generating around 80 % of global gross domestic product. However, this economic dynamism comes with a significant environmental impact, as cities are responsible for up to 75% of human CO2 emissions.

Of particular concern is the fact that city dwellers are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as around 90% of the world’s major cities are located in coastal areas. The need for action is therefore enormous. In many countries of the global South, more than half of the urban population still live in slums, and in some African countries, such as Chad, this proportion is even higher than 80%.

Despite these challenges, there are also positive developments. Some countries have made visible progress in recent years. In Burkina Faso, for example, the proportion of the urban population living in slums has fallen from 82.2% in 2000 to 26.6% in 2020.

This shows that it is possible to improve living conditions in urban areas and reduce the negative effects of urbanization. Through targeted measures and investments, cities can become sustainable and liveable places for all residents.

The good news is that Germany is making a global commitment

Forward-looking, global urban development is essential for achieving the global sustainability goals of the 2030 Agenda. It is an important field of action not only for German development policy, but also for German climate financing. Germany is currently involved in urban projects in more than 50 countries that aim to improve the living conditions of the urban population, especially disadvantaged groups. The aim is to enable these people to participate in sustainable, social, political and economic development in the long term.

To protect the climate and the environment at the same time, Germany supports measures such as energy-efficient housing construction, the expansion of public transportation and the promotion of e-mobility. These measures help to reduce CO2 emissions and reduce environmental pollution in urban areas. By providing targeted support for these projects, Germany is helping to improve the quality of life in urban areas worldwide and making a contribution to global sustainability.

The national urban development policy

A country’s national urban development policy is of crucial importance for the design and development of its urban areas. It encompasses a wide range of measures, strategies and programs aimed at improving the quality of life, competitiveness and sustainability of cities.

The main objectives of national urban development policy generally include the creation of affordable housing, the promotion of social integration and participation, the strengthening of economic power and the safeguarding of environmental quality. Various instruments are used to achieve these goals, including legal frameworks, financial support programs, urban planning instruments and cooperation mechanisms between various governmental and non-governmental actors.

An important aspect of national urban development policy is the consideration of regional differences and needs. As the challenges and potentials of cities can vary considerably depending on their geographical location, size and economic structure, it is important to develop tailor-made solutions for each city and region.

Furthermore, citizen participation plays a crucial role in national urban development policy. By actively involving local communities, needs can be better identified, solutions accepted and measures successfully implemented.

Overall, national urban development policy is an essential part of a country’s overall policy and contributes significantly to the creation of liveable and sustainable cities. By addressing the diverse challenges and opportunities of urban areas, it makes an important contribution to the social, economic and ecological development of the country.


Goal 11 calls for the promotion of affordable housing, sustainable urban planning and the expansion of infrastructure for sustainable mobility. It also emphasizes the importance of strengthening the resilience of cities to natural disasters and climate change. In addition, it places a special focus on improving the living conditions of disadvantaged population groups to ensure that no one is excluded from the opportunities and benefits of urban life.

Achieving Goal 11 requires an integrated and coordinated approach at international, national and local levels. Governments, cities, communities, businesses and civil society must work together to implement the necessary measures and improve the quality of life in urban areas worldwide.

Overall, Goal 11 is an important milestone on the road to sustainable development, helping to ensure that cities and human settlements become places where people can live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives, while conserving natural resources and preserving them for future generations.

The overview of the 17 goals can be read here

Overview of the 17 goals


You can find information from the United Nations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) here:

Information from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development can be found here:

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