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Measurement of city prosperity

Methodology and metadata
Un-Habitat

14 juin 2021

Cities have emerged as the focus for change and the venue where policies are realized. They have been able to forge new linkages among actors and offer innovative solutions, with the potential to be part of national agendas, and to influence regional and global development. 1 Cities have been catalysts of productivity, technology and infrastructure development, including institutional arrangements that contribute to the enhancement of equity, social inclusion and quality of life.
The outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, entitled “The future we want”, recognizes that if well planned and developed, cities can promote economically, socially and environmentally sustainable societies.2
However, poor planning, the absence of effective governance and legal frameworks, fragile institutions, low capacity of local authorities, and the lack of a sound monitoring mechanism, diminishes the possibility to promote long-term sustainable urban development. Evidently, there is an urgent need to put in place a global monitoring mechanism, which is adaptable to national and local levels. This would provide a general framework that allows cities, countries, and the international community to measure progress and identify possible constraints, thus pre-empting unintended development.3
The Report of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network that supports the Sustainable Development Goals indicates that “data and metrics are essential for development goals to be met4”. They enable cities to make correct decisions on the best policies to adopt, and assist in tracking changes, whilst systematically documenting their performance at the outcome level. This is fundamental towards achieving higher levels of urban prosperity and sustainable urban development for all.
“Data needs improving” – stresses the report A World that Counts, prepared as part of the Data Revolution efforts of the UN system5. Despite considerable progresses in recent years, whole groups of people are not being counted and important aspects of people’s lives and city conditions are still not measured6. For people, this can lead to the denial of basic rights, and for the city, the likelihood that they are not taking full advantage of the transformative potential which urbanization offers.
Too often, existing city data is not adequately detailed, documented and harmonized, or worse, it simply is not available for a whole host of critical issues relating to urban growth and development. This obviously greatly impacts the quality of decision-making. However, cities can and must do better than this.

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