In October, world leaders will gather in Quito for the Habitat III summit to launch the New Urban Agenda. This is on top of the start this year of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is odd that to date these two vitally important global urban initiatives led by the United Nations have been kept separate. It would be far more logical and extremely valuable, however, to link them by using SDG 11, the urban goal, as a monitoring and evaluation framework for the New Urban Agenda. A specific comparative urban experiment conducted last year could serve as a model for achieving just such a link.
The work to develop and secure wide support for an urban-focused SDG in 2014 and 2015 in the run-up to the launch of the SDGs revealed that on-the-ground testing would be essential if the targets and indicators to be adopted were simple enough to use in a diverse range of urban areas worldwide. Complexity and excessive resource and opportunity costs would defeat the goal of developing useful indicators of progress. They would also stand in the way of encouraging local and national authorities to invest in enhanced urban sustainability.