How Do Cities Localize the SDGs?

Learn more about the work of the pilot cities in SDSN's USA Sustainable Cities Initiative.

Cities worldwide are realizing the power and importance of their role in global SDG achievement. Home to the growing majority of the world’s population and entwined in a complex web of acute sustainable development challenges, it is undeniable that cities will be crucial agents in realizing 2030 targets. Thus, they are looking for best practices and practical examples of how communities are enacting the global agenda in their local initiatives.

SDSN’s USA Sustainable Cities Initiative has fostered partnerships with three cities, which are yielding new case material on building SDG-aligned city strategies, designing data and monitoring systems, and engaging with communities and stakeholders.

  • Baltimore recently released an SDG strategy for the city, which outlines their work in these three areas. The report received the endorsement of newly-elected Mayor Catherine Pugh. On March 9, 2017 Citiscope published the story “How Baltimore is Using the Sustainable Development Goals to Make a More Just City”, describing Baltimore’s efforts to build an SDG-aligned strategy that is both meaningful to local residents and useful for local government.
  • In San José, a SDG recommendations report was also released, outlining recommendations for aligning target-setting and data efforts for three key city initiatives with the SDGs: the My Brother’s Keeper strategy, Civic Innovation Strategy, and the forthcoming Environmental Sustainability Plan.
  • In New York, SDSN is working with former Director of the NYC Mayor’s Office Sustainable Development, Nilda Mesa, to document the innovative methods used to design the OneNYC city strategy, which speaks to the global sustainable development agenda. This case study will be featured as one of several case studies of “smart city” innovations in New York, which will be compiled into the forthcoming volume: Smart(er) NYC (Columbia University Press).

Next up for these cities? SDG monitoring to support evidence-based decision-making. Baltimore and San José are both in the process of developing open data systems to help residents and policymakers track SDG indicators. As those prototypes are created, more information will be shared here.