Sustainable Development Goals

The Nordic Countries and SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

This data tracker looks at how the Nordic countries are progressing towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 11, using the latest official data from the UN and the OECD.

Adopted in 2015 by all United Nations (UN) members, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a global agenda for making the world a better place by 2030. They are described by the UN as a ‘shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet‘, and goals are to be achieved by all countries, in global partnership, by 2030.

This data tracker uses the latest official data to look at how the Nordic countries are progressing towards achieving the 17 SDGs, with this page looking closer at Sustainable Development Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Each target is presented by first looking at global trends, before zooming in on the Nordic countries and assessing their performance. The assessment is based on work by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in analysing the progress made toward the SDGs in all OECD countries.

Target 11.1

By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums


11.1.1Proportion of urban population living in slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing

Global trends

In 2020 almost a quarter of the world’s urban population, more than 1 billion people, lived in slums or informal settlements. Since 2000 the share has declined from 31%, yet progress has slowed over the past few years.

In Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia almost half of the urban population lives in slums. According to the UN, these two regions together with Eastern and South-Eastern Asia account for more than 85% of 1 billion people living in urban slums worldwide.

Note that the regional groupings used in the visualisation above (and all other visualisations on this page with regional data) follow the UN regional classification for the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Nordics

Urban slums are virtually non-exsitent in Europe. As a measure of inadequate housing, the OECD uses an alternative indicator of housing overcrowding in OECD countries.

The overcrowding rate is defined as the share of the population living in an overcrowded household. According to the EU-definition, a household is considered overcrowding if "less than one room is available in each household: for each couple in the household; for each single person aged 18 or more; for each pair of people of the same gender between 12 and 17; for each single person between 12 and 17 not included in the previous category; and for each pair of children under age 12."

With the 2030-target operationalised at a overcrowding rate of 3%, OECD data shows that only Ireland, Japan and Canada are currently below this threshold. The Nordics range from 7% (Norway) to 14%(Sweden), with none of them on a trend towards the 2030-target.

Target 11.2

By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons


11.2.1Proportion of population that has convenient access to public transport, by sex, age and persons with disabilities

Global trends

There is currently no internationally agreed methodology for measuring convenient access to public transport. For informative purposes, one indicator is available at a global and regional level available from the UN SDG Global Database, with "convenient access" defined as public transport being within 500 meters of walking distance to low-capacity transport systems (buses/trams)and 1 km to high-capacity systems (trains/ferries).

Data from 2020 shows that around half the world's population have convenient access according to this definition.

Given the lack of an internationally agreed methodolgy, the OECD does not provide any assessment of progress towards this target for OECD countries, including the Nordics.

Target 11.3

By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries


11.3.1Ratio of land consumption rate to population growth rate
11.3.2Proportion of cities with a direct participation structure of civil society in urban planning and management that operate regularly and democratically

Global trends

No data is available at the global or regional level.

The Nordics

There is no country-level data available for the two indicators covering target 11.3. The OECD, therefore, uses an alternative indicator of land use as a gauge of sustainable human settlement.

Specifically, the indicator relates to the average annual change in built area per capita. A lower than zero average annual change entails a decoupling of land consumption from population growth.

The most recent data shows that the top performers in the OECD achieved an average annual change of -0.46%, which the OECD thus sets the target level for 2030 for OECD countries. Although there is a lack of recent data (the latest available for the Nordic countries is 2014), they all have reduced their average annual growth rates between 2000-2014 compared to 1990-2000.

Target 11.4

Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage


11.4.1Total per capita expenditure on the preservation, protection and conservation of all cultural and natural heritage, by source of funding (public, private), type of heritage (cultural, natural) and level of government (national, regional, and local/municipal)

No data is available at the global or regional level, and there is not enough data for the Nordic countries to produce an assessment of progress.

Target 11.5

By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations


11.5.1Number of deaths, missing persons and directly affected persons attributed to disasters per 100,000 population
11.5.2Direct economic loss attributed to disasters in relation to global domestic product (GDP)
11.5.3(a) Damage to critical infrastructure and (b) number of disruptions to basic services, attributed to disasters

The data currently available from the SDG Global Indicator Database is insufficient to provide an assessment of global, regional or Nordic country trends.

Target 11.6

By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management


11.6.1Proportion of municipal solid waste collected and managed in controlled facilities out of total municipal waste generated, by cities
11.6.2Annual mean levels of fine particulate matter (e.g. PM2.5 and PM10) in cities (population weighted)

Global trends

Waste collection and management (indicator 11.6.1) play a crucial role in reducing the environmental impact of cities. The latest data from 2021, shows that on average 82% of municipal solid waste was collected, with 55% being managed in controlled facilities.

Regional data shows that collection rates vary significantly between regions. Many lower- and middle-income regions have a large gap between collection coverage rates and the share of waste managed in controlled facilities. Thus, not all of the collected waste is managed in controlled facilities.

The second indicator on air quality (11.6.2) is measured by looking at the mean annual concentration of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in cities. Gauged by this indicator, air quality has improved both worldwide and in most regions over the past decade, as the mean annual concentration has declined.

However, according to the UN, 99% of the world's urban population lives in areas that exceed the updated WHO guidelines on air quality (the annual average concentrations of PM 2.5 should not exceed 5 micrograms per cubic meter.)

The Nordics

For the first indicator on waste management (11.6.1), the OECD uses data on the share of municipal waste generated that is recovered through recycling and composting. The 2030 target is set at 53%, which was the level of top OECD performers in 2015.

As of 2020, Denmark is the only Nordic country that has reached the target level, with recent trends in the other countries indicating a mixed picture. Norway has improved in the past few years, but is at the same level as it achieved in 2003.

With regards to the second indicator of air quality (11.6.2), OECD data shows that while all the Nordics have improved air quality compared to 2000, progress seems to have slowed in the past years.

No OECD progress assessment is shown as new data has been released after the OECD published its report.

Target 11.7

By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities


11.7.1Average share of the built-up area of cities that is open space for public use for all, by sex, age and persons with disabilities
11.7.2Proportion of persons victim of physical or sexual harassment, by sex, age, disability status and place of occurrence, in the previous 12 months

Global trends

Data from 2020 shows that around 45% of the world population living in urban areas had convenient access to open public spaces.Convenient access is defined as having an open public space within a 400-meter walking distance. Regionally, the share ranges from almost 8 in 10 people with access in Australia and New Zealand, to close to 3 in 10 people in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia.

The Nordics

No data is available for the Nordic countries.

Target 11.a

Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning


11.a.1Number of countries that have national urban policies or regional development plans that (a) respond to population dynamics; (b) ensure balanced territorial development; and (c) increase local fiscal space

Global trends

The latest data from 2020 shows that over 150 countries worldwide have in place national urban policies or regional development plans meeting the criteria of the target.

The Nordics

All the Nordics have in place national urban policies or regional development plans, and have thus already achieved this target.

Target 11.b

By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels


11.b.1Number of countries that adopt and implement national disaster risk reduction strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030
11.b.2Proportion of local governments that adopt and implement local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with national disaster risk reduction strategies

Global trends

As of 2021, 123 countries had implemented national disaster risk reduction strategies under the Sendai Framework. 97 of these countries had done so at both the national and local levels.

The Nordics

Finland and Norway are the only Nordic countries to have implemented national disaster reduction strategies in line with the Sendai Framework. Norway has a score of 0.98 for its level of implementation (0.0 lowest - 1.0 highest) with Finland at 0.75. In Finland, 100% of all local governments have implemented local strategies in line with the national strategy, with 98% of all local governments in Norway doing so.

The OECD provides no assessment of progress for the Nordic countries on this target.

Target 11.c

Support least developed countries, including through financial and technical assistance, in building sustainable and resilient buildings utilizing local materials

No indicator is currently available (under development).

About the data

The data presented on global, regional, and national trends are from the UN SDG Global Database and the OECD unless otherwise stated.

The assessment of the Nordic countries is based on the findings from a recent OECD report, published in April 2022. The OECD uses a three-tier classification for each target:

  • Target is achieved or on track to being achieved
  • Progress has been made, but is insufficient to meet the target
  • No progress or moving away from the SDG target

In its assessment, the OECD looks at a country's current performance towards a target, and calculates a trend towards 2030 based on recent progress. As such, a country that is close to a target, but trending away from it, will be classified as having "No progress or moving away from the SDG target". Conversely, a country that is currently further away from the target, but trending towards it (and has a high likelihood of reaching it before 2030), will be classified as "Target is achieved or on track to being achieved".


  • First release August 2022
  • Data and text update December 2022

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