I.INTRODUCTION: Conceptual Framework

By 2050, almost 66 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas. According to the aforementioned UN figures, urban settlements are becoming the main habitats for human beings year by year in the 21st century.1 While urban settlements provide better living opportunities for people, they are also severely exhausting natural resources. Thus, as one of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), “sustainable cities and communities” is being promoted by the United Nations (UN). In New York, the High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly of the UN in 2015, all member states agreed on 17 sustainable development goals by 2030. One of those goals is Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11) which addresses the risks and expectation for better and more liveable life standards in urban areas. SDG 11 aims at creating safe, sufficient, inclusive urban settlements through the concept of sustainability. To fulfil this aim, SDG11 also addressing some sub targets. These are (i) offering safe and liveable cities and efficient urban services; (ii) preserving the natural and cultural heritage of the world; (iii) preventing the negative impacts of natural disasters and epidemics; (iv) considering environmental impacts of urban settlements as well as air quality and waste management; and (v) adapting to the consequences of climate change and building up disaster risk management.2 At a global scale, the process of urbanization is analysed in light of sustainable development. In this respect, the most effective way of designing a road map for sustainable urban development can be through considering SDG 11. Since SDG 11 is highly interactive with the other 16 SDGs, an integrated action plan might offer a better method to design such a road map (See fig.1). In addition to the integrated action plan, some urban models are complementary with the concept of SDG 11. These models include smart cities, green-eco cities, resilient cities, liveable cities, branding cities, and inclusive cities which provide many inputs to design a road map for sustainable urban development. As having a high urbanization rate, Turkey needs an effective road map to achieve a sustainable urban development.

Fig. 1 Interactions of SDG 11 with Other Goals3


II.1. Turkey as a Rapidly Increasing Urban Population Country

The Republic of Turkey lies between 36-42 degrees north latitude and between 26-45 degrees east longitude. Turkey’s physical geography bridges the Continents of Asia and Europe (see fig. 2). To the west it is bordered by European Countries (Bulgaria and Greece). To the east it is bordered by Asian Countries (Georgia, Armenia, and Iran). To the south it is bordered by Middle Eastern Countries (Syria and Iraq). Geographically, Turkey is a peninsula surrounded by the Black Sea (on the north), the Mediterranean Sea (on the south) and the Aegean Sea (on the west). It has a centralized administrative system divided by 81 provinces. The recent population figure is approximately 80 million in Turkey (www.turkstat.gov.tr). Turkey is a founding member of the United Nations and a member of the Council of Europe as well as an applicant to accede to the European Union.

Fig. 2 Geographical Location of Turkey

Over the course of the last 70 years, Turkey has experienced one of the most significant surges of urbanization in the world. Recently, cities accommodate over 75 percent of the country’s population. Furthermore, they are prone to high disaster risks due to their dense population and construction in Turkey.4 According to the 10th Development Plan of Turkey, the most significant urban problems are described as rapid and pseudo urbanization, insufficient numbers of descent housing units, traffic congestion, lack of urban safety and infrastructure, social cohesion, and environmental degradation. To surmount those problems, a set of recommendations was formulated in the 10th Development Plan. These include creating liveable cities by relevant operations in existing settlements and preparing integrated disaster hazard and risk plans to mitigate both disaster and climate change potential impacts on cities.4 According to the Report on “Turkey Urbanization Review-Rise of the Anatolian Tigers” prepared by the World Bank in 2015, the urbanization experience of Turkey has a remarkable potential to provide a road map to the countries experiencing rapid urbanization. However, Turkey still has some difficulties associated with creating effective cooperation and interoperability among the spatial planning authorities.5 Thus, in this paper, an effective approach to achieve sustainable cities and communities by 2030 is proposed by considering the concept of interoperability as well as stakeholder participation.

II.2. On the Way to A Solution

To make an overall assessment for Turkey regarding SDG 11, a detailed analysis was prepared by the UNESCO Turkey Commission/Specialized Committee for Sustainable Development. As a Committee Member, the author of the paper prepared an analytical report on Turkey by considering responsible institutions, legal documents and instruments, methods and process of implementation as well as human and technological resources in the period of 2017-2018. As a method of country assessment, a quick SWOT analysis has been conducted with regard to short-, medium-, and long-term expectations as well as the five sub targets of SDG 11, previously mentioned. As a result of the SWOT Analysis, the following country profile for sustainable cities and communities can be analysed:


S1: Turkey has sufficient institutions and legal documents to create sustainable urban development. In terms of technical capacity and personnel, the relevant institutions are also capable.

S2: While Turkey has a rapid urbanization rate, it has also large number of potential urban development areas.

S3: Turkey successfully reduced the number of squatter areas by applying effective policies and providing a sufficient number of social and affordable dwelling units starting from the early 1990s.6

S4: The issues of sustainable urban development have been taken into consideration since mid 2000 in Turkey. In the 9th and 10th development plans, some main policies and strategies addressing sustainable urban development were created. In parallel with those policies and strategies, an “Integrated Urban Development Strategy and Action Plan” was enacted in 2010.7

S5: The Central Government of Turkey made a significant attempt to mitigate disaster risks in the country by enacting a new law (The Law of Transformation of Areas under the Disaster Risks) in 2012.8 In terms of scope of the law, especially urban areas gained priority to mitigate the disaster risks stemming from precarious housing sites and construction that was non-compliance with the Building Code in Turkey.


W1: Turkey has not yet produced a macro scale/country wide policy and a strategy document for SDG 11.

W2: Turkey continues to experience difficulties in coordination among the relevant institutions, as well as difficulties in creating an effective institutional culture for interoperability.

W3: Turkey has not created integral development plans and programs for urban and rural areas.

W4: A majority of municipalities (local authorities) have financial and economic deficiencies in the provision of urban services.

W5: Marginalized groups have still remarkable difficulties in accessing public spaces, social, technical and some other urban services. Despite some new arrangements in green parks and public facility areas, the disadvantaged groups are not yet sufficiently comfortable and safe in the urban areas.

W6: While Turkey introduced a new law to mitigate the disaster risk priory in urban areas, some new instruments for public services such as land acquisition, housing market regulation, and real estate assessment are still needed.

W7: One of the main challenges of rapid urbanization is a migration from rural areas to urban areas. That also causes an agglomeration in and around the metropolitan areas. Some novel approaches are required to create economic and industrial attractiveness in the small towns and rural areas with potential for development

W8: Insufficient numbers of governmental subsidies and incentives regarding recycling of wastes might cause failure to achieve some targets of SDG11.

W9: According to the air pollution standards of the World Health Organization, entire population in Turkey is prone to pollution.

W10: For overall improvements in urban services, the concept of smart cities should be encouraged. Not all municipalities have the technical and financial capacities to apply smart city instruments.


O1: Turkey has numerous urban development areas where new sustainable city models can easily be applied.

O2: Turkey is in close cooperation with the international and regional organizations e.g. UN and EU to develop the newest legal documents and novel approaches for sustainable urban development.

O3: Some initiatives and projects have been executed for the conservation of cultural and natural assets.

O4: In terms of disaster risk mitigation and institutional capacity development, Turkey has recently been generating projects.

O5: In terms of waste management, Turkey is in a process to generate various projects such as “Zero Waste”, “Sustainable Environmental Management Systems” and “Energy Efficiency”.

O6: Turkey has been working on regional development plans since 1980s. In this respect, some regional development institutions were developed, such as the South-Eastern Anatolian Project Regional Development Directorate (1989). Furthermore, there are some other regional projects implemented successfully such as the”Eastern Anatolian Project”, the “Eastern Black Sea Region Project”, and the “Plain of Konya Project”. Finally, due to the process of accession to the European Union, Turkey developed 26 regional development agencies working on various regional development projects.6

O7: In terms of improvement of transportation services, there are many ongoing projects, such as “Development of Infrastructure for Public Transportation”, “Smart Traffic Systems”, and “Reducing Emissions in Traffic”.


T1: Turkey has been experiencing relatively rapid changes in institutional structure, which has threatened sustainability in many projects and programs for approximately 15 years.

T2: Rapid urbanization frequently creates failures in the provision of urban utilities and in urban environment.

T3: Despite numerous initiatives for sustainable urban development, not all of them have successfully prevailed due to failures in the auditing and controlling processes.

T4: By considering the very high potential of cultural and natural assets in Turkey, more effective policies and legal instruments should be created. The existing legal instruments are not sufficiently integrated into urban development plans and strategies.

T5: While many numbers of macro scale policies and strategy documents have been prepared for disaster mitigation and management issues, the potential climate change threats have not yet been integrated into those legal documents.

The SWOT results with a view to achieving to the goal of “Sustainable Cities and Communities” (SDG 11) also address the importance of interoperability among the stakeholders. The relevant actors/stakeholders are analyzed through two different categories: internal and external actors. In terms of internal actors, the main actor in Turkey is the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization. Other key stakeholders include the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, municipalities, the Directorate of Disasters and Emergency Management (AFAD), the Mass Housing Authority (TOKI), as well as other related foundations, NGOs, academic and research institutions. Furthermore, private firms should also be considered as stakeholders because of the importance of public private partnerships in urban utilities. In terms of external actors, the UN Development Programme and UNESCO can be described as the two main stakeholders under the UN umbrella. By considering the accession process of Turkey to the European Union, the EU institutions and Member States are other stakeholders. The international funding/donor institutions are also considered as the stakeholders in creating sustainable cities and communities. By 2030, Turkey will be able to achieve SDG 11 by preparing a strategic action plan highlighting the various actors and their necessary actions to take. Those actions should be grouped into the short-, medium-, and long-term programs. A coordinator institution should be designated to follow and audit those actions by organizing regular meetings as well as keeping the development reports from the stakeholders.

In this context, a list of recommended actions addressing the relevant actors is provided below to facilitate the aforementioned approach:

  1. For the Central Authorities/Institutions: An action plan for sustainable urban development needs to be prepared as a country document providing guidance to central and local authorities as well as other stakeholders, such as NGOs and universities. In the action plan, a nationwide strategy should be clearly stated by addressing responsible institutions and other institutions needed for coordination. The nationwide strategy should also consider the transboundary impacts of recommended actions, e.g. common projects with EU countries and potential problems with neighbouring regions. The action plan should lay out the short-, medium-, and long-term goals as well as sets of actions to reach those goals. The follow-up process is also important for the performance of the action plan.
  2. For the Local Authorities: The local authorities have remarkable potential to create awareness among citizens about SDG11. The creation of public awareness can be performed by developing stakeholder participatory projects. Local authorities should also pay attention to public-private partnership models for those projects to increase efficiencies in resources. While developing local projects, another significant issue is considering local priorities and needs.
  3. For Academies and Research Institutions: In Turkey, despite many research projects executed by various universities and research institutions, only a limited number of cooperative actions are available among them. However, multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional projects and activities will better serve the purpose of SDG11. In this respect, academic and other research institutions should develop their contacts for better cooperation and increase their capacity for interoperability with a view to produce sustainable urban development projects.
  4. For NGOs: Only limited numbers of NGOs are active in the areas of environmental protection and development. For NGOs in Turkey, capacity development is important. They can develop their capacities by providing volunteer contributions to public benefit projects and participating in national and international sustainable development conferences and programs.
  5. For Private Firms and Entrepreneurs: The private firms and entrepreneurs especially working on the provision of urban utilities and services should upgrade their technology and vehicles to fulfil the required performance by SDG 11.In particular, environmental/eco-friendly and energy efficient materials and methods are strongly recommended for them. Those firms should also develop their technical and operational capacities in the line with SDG11.
  6. For the European Union: By taking into consideration of the status of Turkey as a neighbour and a candidate member, the Member States of the EU and the EU itself should develop better policies and strategies with a view to build closer contacts. Particularly, addressing rapidly increasing urban populations can be a high-priority topic for cooperation and collaboration. While the Member States of the EU are developing/upgrading “Urban Indicators”, contributions of Turkey should not be neglected in light of its considerable experience in urbanization process.
  7. For the United Nations Institutions: After launching 17 SDGs in 2015, various UN institutions should encourage member states to achieve their targets by 2030 via country visits, workshops, conferences, and seminars. The optimum task of UN institutions can be in raising public awareness about the 17 SDGs. Another significant contribution of UN institutions should be creating a global sustainable development culture based on failures and success stories of the Member States.
  8. III-A Holistic Approach Integrated with 16 SDGs

    As already emphasized, an integrated action plan should also address the interoperability of SDG 11 and the other 16 SDGs. In order to analyse a country profile and preferences, a method of “Search Conference” was applied. The aim of the “Search Conference” was to design a strategy and a road map for Turkey in implementing 17 SDGs by inviting relevant stakeholders to collaborate. In August 2017, the UNESCO Turkey Commission/Specialized Committee for Sustainable Development applied the aforementioned method to develop a better understanding for Turkey by considering the inputs of participants in the Search Conference. The conference was conducted under the guidance of a consultant team which applied a set of participatory group work sessions for the participants. The participants were selected by the Committee for Sustainable Development to represent the different stakeholders in Turkey. As a result of the Search Conference, the priorities for Turkey focus on more SDGs at the level of economy and society. The main relations with SDG 11 were built by the SDGs 17, 13, 10, 9, 7, 5, 4, 3 (see fig.3).

    Fig. 3 Interoperability of 17 SDGs for Turkey (The 17 SDGs are shown in a pyramid at three levels, namely economy, society, and biosphere)

    On the other hand, all SDGs were analysed in the light of internal and external stakeholder participation to find out potential cooperation and collaboration capabilities (see fig. 4). While some SDGs require high collaboration with SDG11, some others are only tangential. In this context, the strongest relationships of SDG 11 are with SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG7: Affordable and Clean Energy; and SDG 13: Climate Action. Other strong relations due to expected impacts on sustainable urban development are with SDG 8: Economic Growth and Employment; SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG 14: Life below Water; SDG 15: Life on Land; and SDG 17: Partnership for Goals. Additionally, potential impacts of SDG11 on other SDGs were identified: SDG 1: No Poverty; SDG 2: Zero Hunger; SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being; SDG4: Quality Education; and SDG 5: Gender Equality.

    Table 1 Internal and External Actors for 17 SDGs in Turkey
    United Nations 17 SDGs by 2030 Stakeholders
    Internal stakeholders External stakeholders
    SDG 1:End poverty in all its forms everywhere Ministry of Development, Ministry of Economics, Ministry of Treasury & Finance, The Capital Market Board, Banking Regulatory and Supervisory Agency, Ministry of National Education, Governorates/ Municipalities/Foundations/NGOs UN-UNDP, UNESCO,


    SDG 2:End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture Ministry of Development, Ministry of Economics, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry UN-FAO, IFAD, UNESCO, EU
    SDG 3:Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages Ministry of Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Governorates/Municipalities UN-WHO, UNESCO, EU
    SDG 4:Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all Ministry of National Education, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Professional Competency Board UN-UNESCO, EU-Lifelong Learning Program
    SDG 5:Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls Ministry of National Education, Ministry of Justice UN-UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, EU
    SDG 6:Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry, Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, Ministry of Energy & Natural Resources, Ministry of Health, Ministry of National Education, Governorates/Municipalities, Metropolitan Municipalities and their Directorates for Drinking Water & Sewerage Services BM-UNEP, OECD, UNDP, UNESCO, GEF,RAMSAR & Convention for Combating Desertification partners, IWRA& Global Water Forum, EU, EEA (Water Framework Directive)
    SDG 7:Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all Ministry of Energy & Natural Resources, Ministry of Environment and Urbanization BM-UNEP, UNESCO, OECD, GEF, AB
    SDG 8:Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all Ministry of Development, Ministry of Family, Labour & Social Services, Turkish Employment Organization, Professional Competency Board UN-UNDP, ILO, OECD, EU
    SDG 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, Ministry of Industry & Technology, Turkish Institute for Science & Technology, Universities, Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure, DG Highways, DG State Hydraulic Works UN-UNIDO, WIPO, EU
    SDG 10:Reduce inequality within and among countries Ministry of Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency UN-UNDP, Black sea Economic Corporation, Organization of Islamic Corporation & other international corporations
    SDG 11:Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, Ministry of Culture & Tourism, Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry, Disaster & Emergency Management Directory, Governorates/Municipalities UN-HABITAT, UNDP, UNESCO, ISOCARP, AESOP, European Spatial Development Perspective, European Urban Charter
    SDG 12:Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns Ministry of Development, Ministry of Economics, Ministry of Treasury and Finance, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Family, Labour & Social Services, Ministry of Industry & Technology, Small & Medium Enterprises Development Organization UN-UNDP, UNESCO, EU
    SDG 13:Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, Ministry of Energy &Natural Resources, Governorates/Municipalities, The Foundation of Turkey for Combating against to Erosion and Conservation of Natural UN-UNDP, UNESCO,UNEP, UNFCCC, UNCCD partners, GEF, European Environmental Agency (EEA), Kyoto Convention partners
    SDG 14:Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure, Ministry of Environment and Urbanization,


    SDG 15:Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry UN-UNEP, UNDP, UNESCO, GEF, EEA
    SDG 16:Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels Ministry of Development, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of National Education The United Nations Human Rights Council, International Court of Justice, European Court of Human Rights, ECOSOC
    SDG 17:Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development Ministry of Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkish Cooperation & Coordination Agency, The Capital Market Board, Istanbul Stock Exchange UN-UNDP, UNESCO, OECD, WTO,EU

    IV- Conclusion

    Turkey is a country that is capable to fulfil the requirements of SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. However, a novel approach is required to achieve the aforementioned targets successfully. In this paper, a novel approach to create a road map for sustainable urban development is broadly conveyed. The approach addresses stakeholder participation, an integrated action plan, and a set of actions in the short-, medium-, long-term periods by considering priorities of the country. While a proposed approach is detailed through actions and stakeholders, the strengths and weaknesses of Turkey’s current capabilities are also examined. In the light of opportunities and threats, the proposed approach is able to be conveyed more clearly. In the case of application, the proposed approach needs to be elaborated and updated due to newly changing Turkish central institutions since August 2018. The proposed approach is not only a tool to fulfil the requirements of SDG11 by 2030 but also an effective way to maintain the sustainable urban development in other rapidly urbanizing countries like Turkey.


      1. The World Urbanization Prospects-The 2014 Revision (The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, New York, 2014).

      2. The Draft Outcome Document of the United Nations Summit for the Adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, A/69/L.85 (The United Nations, New York, 2015).

      3. Reports on Sustainable Development Goals. UNDP [online] (2017). www.undp.org

      4. 10th Development Plan 2014-2018, 117-118 (in Turkish) (the Official Gazette of 6.7.2013, no. 28699).

      5. The Project of Sustainable Cities 2016. The World Bank [online] (2017)., www.worldbank.org/en/news/loans-credits/2016/12/20/turkey—sustainable-cities-project.

      6. The Report on Turkey’s Initial Steps towards the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (TR Ministry of Development, Ankara, 2016)

      7. The Strategy and Action Plan of Integrated Urban Development: KENTGES 2010–2023 (in Turkish) (the Official Gazette of 4.11.2010, no. 27749). www.kentges.gov.tr/_dosyalar/kentges_en.pdf.

      8. The Law of Transformation of Areas under the Disaster Risks No. 6306 (in Turkish) (the Official Gazette of 31.5.2012, no. 28309).

      9. 17 Sustainable Development Goals UNESCO [online] (2017). en.unesco.org/sdgs.

      10. Global Documents. The United Nations [online] (2017). www.un-documents.net/ocf-02.htm.

      11. International Institute for Sustainable Development [online] (2017). www.iisd.org/pdf/2012/sd_timeline_2012.pdf.

      12. National Earthquake Strategy and Action Plan 2012-2023. The Disaster & Emergency Management Directory [online] (2012). www.afad.gov.tr.

      13. New Urban Agenda-21.10.2016, United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development Habitat III- Quito Declaration. ISOCARP [online] (2016).isocarp.org/app/uploads/2016/11/New-Urban-Agenda-Planning.pdf

      14. The Building Inspection Law No.4708 (in Turkish) (the Official Gazette of 13.7.2001, no. 24461).

      15. The Coastal Law No.3621 (in Turkish) (the Official Gazette of 17.4.1990, no. 20495).

      16. The Conservation Law of Cultural and Natural Assets No.2863 (in Turkish) (the Official Gazette of 23.7.1983, no. 18113).

      17. The EU 2020 Strategy. The European Commission [online] (2017). ec.europa.eu/europe2020/index_en.htm.

      18. The Law of Environment No. 2872 (in Turkish) (the Official Gazette of 11.8.1983, no. 18132).

      19. The Law of Metropolitan Municipalities No.5216 (in Turkish) (the Official Gazette of 23.7.2004, no. 25531).

      20. The Law of Public Works No.3194 (in Turkish) (the Official Gazette of 9.5.1985, no. 18749).

      21. The Law of Tourism Incentive No. 2634 (in Turkish) (the Official Gazette of 16.3.1982, no. 17635).

      22. The Municipal Law No.5393 (in Turkish) (the Official Gazette of 13.7.2005, no. 25874).

      23. The Report of Turkey Urbanization Review-Rise of the Anatolian Tigers (The World Bank Washington DC, 2015).

      24. The Strategic Plan 2015-2017 (in Turkish) (The Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, Ankara, 2015).

      25. The World Commission on Environment and Development Report: Our Common Future, Chapter 2: Towards Sustainable Development From A/42/427.The United Nations [online] (1987). www.un-documents.net/ocf-02.htm


Ebru Alarslan

Sustainable Development Goals Committee Member of UNESCO-TURKEY, HilalMah. 704.Sk. No:9/1 Cankaya 06550 Ankara, Turkey ebrualarslan@yahoo.com

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *