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The importance of towns in achieving the SDGs


Vision in town planning has never been as important as it is today. More than half the world’s inhabitants live in towns, and the United Nations estimate that over two thirds of the world population will have migrated to towns by 2050. Towns therefore have a part to play in achieving the SDGs.


Clara Gauthier, Project Manager, Sport and Citizenship Think Tank

That is why SDG 11 “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” is so important. We will only be able to attain these goals with the help of towns.

This will start with getting citizens moving. Physical inactivity has numerous consequences: chronic diseases, diabetes, strokes, cancers, high blood pressure and depression are some of the health problems due to a lack of activity in everyday life. It is therefore vital to follow local urban development and environmental policies which help to make town-dwellers more physically active. Towns are an important place for promoting active means of transport for citizens, and the solutions introduced by towns in pursuit of this objective bring with them many other advantages.


The mode of transport is an essential development feature for towns and ensures conditions likely to make towns safe, resilient and sustainable. In the past a lot was done for motor traffic, but now more attention is being given to promoting active ways of getting about in towns. A new look at planning puts the emphasis on walking, cycling and public transport, thus improving road safety. In combination with a reduction of motorised traffic, this will ensure that everyone has access to alternative, safe and sustainable means of transport.

Improved planning in towns has obvious advantages for citizens’ levels of activity, but it also represents an advantage in terms of impact on the environment. Sustainable mobility strategies or the creation of a green space can also reduce road congestion and pollution from emissions, thus increasing the many health benefits.


“Developing work and school environments that encourage physical activity”

One interesting angle is the development of the active cities concept. An active town or city is one where the council prioritises physical activity as a solution by encouraging its citizens to be physically active in their daily lives. An active town is a prosperous, more attractive town, with active citizens who live in lively, healthy communities. This comes down to promoting active ways of getting about like walking and cycling, developing work and school environments that encourage physical activity, and providing sport and leisure facilities offering everyone the chance to be physically active. By encouraging people to be physically active and use “soft” means of transport, the active city concept is an exciting, realistic strategy for achieving the SDGs This is the purpose of the PACTE+ project, led by our Think Tank Sport and Citizenship and supported by the European Union’s Erasmus+ Sport programme (see p. 56).


Find this article and more in our special magazine “Sport and ODD”

Journal 53, sport and citizenship 53

Sport et citoyenneté