Institute for Sustainability


A toolkit to measure progress against Sustainable Development Goal (11): Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Key Words: cities; sustainability; resilience; urban data


Lead Supervisor: Prof Richard Dawson

Project Studentship Code: IFS005

Programme Code: 8040F

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The concentration of people, buildings, wealth, culture, and knowledge mean that cities are pivotal to delivering the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goals provide a framework for coordinating development efforts globally through 2030. Most, if not all, of the 17 SDGs interlink with cities, but SDG11 specifically aims to build cities that are “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.

But how will city and national governments, and other stakeholders, know if they are making progress against this goal? A recent systematic review of models that address SDGs revealed there is not one model that is highly relevant to SDG 11- Sustainable cities and consumption (Allen et al., 2016).

This PhD will therefore develop a toolkit to provide analytical support for assessing progress against SDG11. The research will first review data availability for a global cities SDG analysis, and undertaking a systems-mapping of SDG11, its 10 targets and 15 indicators. This will provide a much needed qualitative description of linkages between drivers, processes and other interlinking SDGs, thereby providing a framework that sets out causal relationships and can be used for qualitative analysis and to underpin quantitative analysis.

City data varies around the world. To take advantage of the opportunities provided by ‘the best available’ data, whilst also providing a platform for ‘comparable and transferable’ analysis, the research will develop a tiered approach. A High Level SDG11 Analysis will draw predominantly from readily available datasets and provide a highly impactful mechanism for benchmarking and inter-comparison of cities - building on our continent wide assessment of climate risks (Guerreiro et al. 2016).

A Detailed Level SDG11 Analysis will exploit the cutting edge of urban data availability and research tools, using Newcastle’s Urban Observatory ( The analysis will build on Newcastle Urban Integrated Assessment Framework (Walsh et al. 2011) and spatial analytic modelling to explore tradeoffs in future scenarios of urban sustainable development (Caparros-Midwood et al. 2017). A particular focus of this work will be on the representation of resource use and physical constraints within cities which has been identified as a particular weakness to date (Wackernagel et al., 2017).

The Urban Observatory provides a unique capability and case study that meets the aspirations of the UN’s Data Revolution ( that calls for better capture and usage of local data to support sustainable development. Collaboration with researchers and stakeholders in Africa will provide wider context and an opportunity to develop a routemap for enabling detailed level analysis in other cities around the world.

Allen et al. (2016) National pathways to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A comparative review of scenario modelling tools. Environmental Science and Policy, 66:199-207.

Caparros-Midwood D, Barr S, Dawson RJ (2017) Spatial Optimization of Future Urban Development with regards to Climate Risk and Sustainability Objectives, Risk Analysis, 37(11) 2164–2181.

Guerreiro SB, Glenis V, Dawson RJ, Kilsby C (2017) Pluvial flooding in European cities - A continental approach to urban flood modelling, Water, 9(4):296.

Walsh C.L., Dawson, R.J. et al. (2011), Assessment of climate change mitigation and adaptation in cities, Urban Design and Planning, 164(DP2): 75-84.

Wackernagel et al. (2017) Making the sustainable development goals consistent with sustainability. Frontiers in Energy Research, 5.