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Who Makes Cities Sustainable?

Mapping of Key Actors for Sustainable Development Goal 11

von Simon Valentin (Autor)

Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar) 2018 12 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Klima- und Umweltpolitik


Mapping of Key Actors for Sustainable Development Goal 11

1 Introduction

Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is all about safe, resilient and sustainable cities. In this essay, I will identify and map the key actors that have a crucial influence in achieving movement on the Goal. Therefore, I will start in section two with a short introduction to the goal itself and the specific characteristics that determine which actors are relevant for it. In the third section, I will build up a framework based on different literature to identify and map the most important actors for Goal 11. In the following fourth section, I will use these results to take a closer look at four key actors and their possible contributions, before I will end with a conclusion.

2 SDG 11 and its characteristics

Urbanization is one of the most important developments of human civilization in the 21st century. In the middle of the 20th century, 30 % of people lived in the urban centers of the world. Today, more than half of the world's population lives in cities, with an increase of up to 70 % expected by 2050 (see figure 1) (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division, 2018).

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Figure 1: Worldwide urban and rural population in billions (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division, 2018)

Cities are the main drivers of local and national economies and hubs of prosperity. More than 80 % of global economic activity is concentrated in cities. The speed and scale of urbanization, however, also pose enormous challenges. Widening income disparities, increasing ambient air pollution and aging infrastructure are only some of the signs that today's cities are struggling to keep pace with the growing number of urban dwellers and their dreams for a prosperous future. Furthermore, urbanization poses major climate and environmental challenges. Cities have an enormous ecological footprint. Although they occupy only 3 % of the world's surface, they consume 75 % of global resources and are responsible for 75 % of global emissions, while the resulting climate change will further aggravate the situation of poor urban dwellers. (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division, 2018).

SDG 11 says: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. It aims to reduce the per capita environmental impact of cities, particularly in terms of air quality and waste management, and human and economic losses and damages caused by disasters should be reduced significantly. Urban development should be more inclusive and sustainable in general, through participatory, integrated settlement planning. Moreover, access to safe and affordable housing and basic infrastructure and transport systems should be ensured and the goal also aims to ensure universal access to safe and inclusive green spaces and public spaces, especially for women and children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. (United Nations Development Group, 2017).

Their high density also makes cities an ideal starting point for sustainable development towards the Agenda 2030 goals and in the fight against climate change. Besides the societal avant-garde role of cities, there is a huge efficiency potential there. They can save resources on a large scale and exemplify sustainability, for example through space-saving and compact urban structures, low-emission transport systems, energy-efficient buildings, and regulated waste disposal. The potential of cities for the development of a country is enormous and is often still used far too little.

3 Mapping of actors

Although there is a strong United Nations (UN) advocacy for the SDGs (United Nations Development Group, 2017) and a lot of top-level approaches regarding Goal 11 such as the New Urban Agenda of the World Bank (2018) with financing and education programs, even the UN institutions underline that progress towards the SDGs in general and achieving movement on the Goal 11 in particular is only possible with the involvement of a multitude of actors on all levels. It is therefore important for any progress at the outset to analyze which actors are explicitly relevant for this goal. In the following, I will identify, categorize and map the most important actors.

Therefore, I will rely broadly on the framework of stakeholder analysis that was developed for the management context but is widely used for development, and especially participatory urban development projects, today (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), 2001; Yang, 2014).1 The first step for this endeavor is to collect as many of the involved actors and stakeholders as possible. All actors that significantly shape and change life in cities are relevant for Goal 11. To find these actors, I exploited the European Commission funded GUIDEMAPS Handbook (Kelly et al., 2004) for stakeholder engagement in sustainable local and regional policy making as well as development actor analyses by Yang (2014), Wolfsfeld (2015), and Aligica (2006) and by looking at the United Nation’s publications on Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS) of Agenda 2030 (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, n.d.). I divided the actors into four big groups (Government & Authorities, Businesses & Operators, Communities, and Others) and sorted them according to their appearance- and action-level on a top-to-bottom scale, following the concept of top-down and boom-up action.2 An overview of the identified actors is presented in table 1.

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Table 1: Overview of identified actors

After identifying the actors, the constellations between these actors must be analyzed. Following the literature on stakeholder identification and participatory development, this analysis will be based on two dimensions: their interest (whether they see themselves as winners or losers of the transformation) and their power and influence regarding development towards Goal 11 of Agenda 2030 (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), 2001; Yang, 2014). Deviating from the common influence-interest matrix, I divided the interest-axis into two axes to account for and be able to distinguish supportive and opposing interest. The placement of the actors on the axes is done with the help of the stakeholder analysis by Yang (2014) and by the Participatory Toolkit by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) (2001). The evaluation results in a graph depicted in figure 2, mapping the location of each actor dependent on the interest and influence regarding the targets of SDG 11. The importance, or keyness, of the actors can be seen by their position on the graph. The closer an actor is placed to the top-right corner the more is progress towards Goal 11 dependent on this actor.

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Figure 2: Keyness of actors for SDG 11

This analysis of actors cannot only help to identify the key actors but also provide a picture of conflicts of interests or potential coalitions and can help to better identify possible stakeholder clusters with similar or different levels of interest and capacities.

4 Analyses of key actors

After mapping the key actors for Goal 11, I will study the role and possible contributions of four of the actors in more detail. Because the problems that Goal 11 aim to solve are systemic issues with multiple interacting causes, efforts and contributions from all different sectors of actors that I depicted in table 1 (Government & Authorities, Businesses & Operators, Communities, Others) are inevitable for making progress. Therefore, I will describe one actor from each category and I will select the actors according to their keyness, as proximity to the top right corner, from figure 2 and thereby combine the two tools. The following sections will, thus, describe the role of local government, financing institutions, community and neighborhood organizations, and research institutions and universities.


1 See Bienenstock (2017) for a framework of a social network analysis (SNA) as a different way of analyzing key actors in heterogeneous contexts.

2 See Sabatier (1986) for a definition and distinction of top-down and bottom-up approaches.


ISBN (eBook)
Institution / Hochschule
University of Toronto – Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy
Sustainable Development Goals SDG Sustainable Cities


  • Simon Valentin (Autor)

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Titel: Who Makes Cities Sustainable?