Assessing SDG localization in Cape Town
City Governance
Cape Town


2015 represented an unprecedented moment in urban global policy agenda setting with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, which included a stand-alone urban goal on making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Various other international agreements adopted in the same and following year, such as the Paris Agreement and the New Urban Agenda, highlight the growing recognition and importance of cities as drivers and sites of sustainable urban development.

With their targets and indicator framework, the SDGs represent a crucial mechanism by which countries will be able to develop and monitor effective measures to address the most pressing issues facing the world today. However, the global consensus around the SDGs, and SDG 11 in particular, masks some important challenges and complexities that are likely to surface in the post-2015 era. These are not only related to the logic and theories that underpin them or the capacity and resources that cities have to effectively solve urban developmental challenges. They also derive from the global focus on monitoring and implementation which, however important, overlooks the role of local processes and actors in shaping how the SDGs are taken up.


In assessing the localisation of the SDGs, there is a need to acknowledge the context specific ways in which cities produce knowledge and engage with/respond to existing as well as unexpected developmental challenges, policies, agendas and monitoring frameworks at different scales of government.

This project assessed the dynamics of SDG localisation in the City of Cape Town to gain a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities for SDG implementation at the subnational level. In doing so, it critically sought to contribute to knowledge production around three bodies of academic work: the local politics and practices of global urban policy making; multi-level governance dynamics; and urban knowledge co-production.

The project investigated the data and knowledge registers mobilised by the City of Cape Town for the localisation and implementation of the SDGs, particularly SDG 11.

It considered how local knowledge and data production related to the SDGs in Cape Town play into, are affected by, and go toward engaging with policies, agendas and monitoring frameworks at other scales of governance, as well as wider urban dynamics. It explored novel and good practices that demonstrate and provide insight into the ability of the city to successfully monitor and achieve selected SDG targets.