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Sustainable cities and human settlements
Human settlements

Cities are hubs for ideas, commerce, culture, science, productivity, social, human and economic development. Urban planning, transport systems, water, sanitation, waste management, disaster risk reduction, access to information, education and capacity-building are all relevant issues to sustainable urban development.

In 2008, for the first time in history, the global urban population outnumbered the rural population. This milestone marked the advent of a new ‘urban millennium’ and, by 2050, it is expected that two-thirds of the world population will be living in urban areas. With more than half of humankind living in cities and the number of urban residents growing by nearly 73 million every year it is estimated that urban areas account for 70 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product and has therefore generated economic growth and prosperity for many.

Given the importance of this topic to global development efforts, recent movements pushing to address sustainable development from an urban perspective have taken place throughout the world. Results from this movement can be seen in the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on cities and urban development in the 2030 Agenda, Sustainable Development Goal 11, “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. There is also recognition of the cross-cutting nature of urban issues, which have an impact on a number of other Sustainable Development Goals, including SDGs 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 15, and 17, among others. UN-Habitat’s complementary New Urban Agenda, adopted as the outcome document from the Habitat III Conference in 2016, seeks to offer national and local guidelines on the growth and development of cities through 2036.

Prior to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, Millennium Development Goal 7, target 11, made a call for efforts to achieve, “a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers” by 2020.

Sustainable human settlements development was also discussed at the second and third sessions of the Commission on Sustainable Development. "Promoting sustainable human settlements development" is the subject of Chapter 7 of Agenda 21, which calls for 1) providing adequate shelter for all; 2) improving human settlements management; 3) promoting sustainable land-use planning and management; 4) promoting the integrated provision of environmental infrastructure: water, sanitation, drainage and solid waste management; 5) promoting sustainable energy and transport systems in human settlements; 6) promoting human settlements planning and management in disaster-prone areas; 7) promoting sustainable construction industry activities; and 8) promoting human resource development and capacity-building for human settlements development. ng for human settlements development.