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Goal 11
"Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable"

Cities have served as hubs for ideas, commerce, culture, science, productivity, and social development, and have allowed people to develop socially and economically. As the number of residents in the city is expected to increase to 5 billion by 2030, it is important to have efficient urban planning and management methods to solve the challenges caused by urbanization.

While not putting a burden on the land and resource sectors, there are many difficulties to solve in maintaining the city through job creation and joint prosperity. Common urban problems include insufficient management and operation costs, housing shortages, reduced living infrastructure, and increased air pollution in addition to urban congestion.

Rapid urbanization causes problems such as safe collection and disposal of solid waste in cities, but it can be overcome in a way that continues to develop and grow by improving resource use and reducing pollution and poverty. One such example is the increase in urban waste collection. Future cities should provide opportunities to use basic services, energy, housing, transportation, etc.

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

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

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

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

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

11.6 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

11.7 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.a Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, per-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning

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

SDG 11 and the UN Human Rights Mechanisms

      1st UPR Cycle

      2nd UPR Cycle

      3rd UPR Cycle

Recommending State
Promulgate more laws and regulations on economic, social and cultural rights, to improve the legal framework concerning the exercise of human rights
Take measures to ensure international humanitarian aid reaches the most vulnerable and needy
Work closely with humanitarian agencies to ensure their free and unimpeded access to all populations in need and that humanitarian aid is distributed transparently and reaches the most vulnerable citizens
New Zealand
Secure unlimited access and entirely satisfactory monitoring conditions for humanitarian organisations
Continue its cooperation and dialogue with the relevant international organisations with the aim to address the socio-economic needs of its people
Ensure women an equal treatment with respect to men, especially with regard to the rights to food, education and work
Further develop measures to generate better conditions for the activities of organizations on the rights of women
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
Provide more convenient living conditions to children without parents
South Sudan
Continue its efforts to fulfil the economic, social and cultural rights of all
Ensure equal access to social and economic rights for all citizens\
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Pay greater attention to the construction of sanitation facilities and housing constructions in rural areas
Continue the efforts to ensure the right to adequate housing by continuing to implement plans for the construction and renovation of houses which are provided to the people free of charge
Syrian Arab Republic
Increase access to food, healthcare, education, and adequate housing, throughout the country
Take further measures to improve access to basic health care, nutrition and education of children
Continue to take measures for the sustainable economic, social and cultural development in the rural areas
Continue to promote economic, social and culture development to provide better conditions for the enjoyment of all rights by its people
Intensify its efforts to promote economic development
Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Strengthen measures to reinvigorate the national economy, including allowing more people-to-people contact through engagement in economic and commercial activities, including tourism
Share with others the country's experiences in disaster risk management
Grant access to the United Nations and other international humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to the most vulnerable groups
Grant immediate, free and unimpeded access to international humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to the most vulnerable groups, including prisoners
Secure unlimited humanitarian access to all provinces of the country
Consider seeking technical cooperation and capacity-building support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other international bodies in the process of implementing the law on the protection of the rights of the child
Continue efforts for the protection and promotion of human rights in line with international human rights norms and standards
Scale up its efforts in the promotion and protection of the rights of vulnerable groups in society
Take further measures to ensure that all citizens enjoy their civil, cultural, economic and social rights
Strengthen its efforts to overcome the challenges that negatively impact the promotion and protection of human rights and to provide adequate conditions favorable to the enjoyment of human rights in accordance with international standards
State of Palestine
Implement in an effective manner its Strategy for National Economic Development, and its Strategies for the Development of the Health Sector and for the Development of Education, for a better standard of living for its population
Continue efforts for the implementation of the Five-Year Strategy for National Economic Development (2016-2020)
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Take continued innovative measures to reduce the gaps between urban and rural areas in every possible aspect
Maintain the design of action to guarantee the well-being of its population, in particular children, women, older persons and persons with disabilities, in its economic and social development plans
Develop a strategy to protect persons with special needs and ensure that they enjoy their full rights
Expand the measures designed to uplift the well-being of women, children, persons with disabilities and elderly people
Continue to promote sustainable economic and social development in order to provide a solid basis for its people to better enjoy all human rights
Ensure that a human rights-based approach is incorporated into the implementation of the Law on Disaster Prevention, Relief and Recovery and the Law on Environmental Protection
Increase people's access to food, health care, education and adequate housing throughout the country
Enhance measures to ensure the availability and accessibility of essential services for all and the enjoyment of rights by women, children and persons with disabilities
Strengthen measures to address the gaps in the promotion and protection of the rights of women and children
Make further efforts for the protection of persons with disabilities
Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Further protect the rights of persons with disabilities, including its participation in the review by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Republic of Korea
Seek to improve those housing facilities and public transport that are not accessible to persons with disabilities, with the aim of making them as much as possible for independent living and full participation in all aspects of life
Adopt more measures to allow persons with disabilities to participate more widely in society, such as eliminating physical barriers in public spaces and increasing awareness-raising campaigns to remove stigma about persons with disabilities
Recommending State
Review its legal and administrative measures with a view to ensuring the dignity and better living conditions of the vulnerable groups, including women and children
Continue its efforts in ensuring economic and social rights
Viet Nam
Continue its cooperation with the international community in solving humanitarian issues of mutual concern
Viet Nam
Continue to promote and protect economic, social and cultural rights of its people, with greater emphasis on economic development
Sri Lanka
Continue giving priority to vulnerable groups in the distribution of international assistance
In line with previous recommendations made by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, make every effort to reinforce protection of the right to life and development of all children
Enhance protection of rights of women and children, in particular those in the most vulnerable situations
Take the necessary steps to ensure impartial access to adequate food, drinking water and other basic necessities for all people within its jurisdiction, including vulnerable groups
Strengthen measures to facilitate access and effective distribution of international humanitarian aid to the people in need, with special attention to vulnerable groups
Intensify its efforts to promote and protect the human rights of specific groups within society, such as women, children, disabled persons and the elderly, with a view to empowering them and alleviating their vulnerability
Ensure that high goals of economic development by 2012 contribute to bringing about a decisive turn in the promotion and protection of human rights
Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Continue engaging members of the international donor community in capacity-building in the field of economic and social rights
Strengthen its cooperation with the United Nations and its mechanisms on human rights and humanitarian matters with a view to building national capacities and improving the people's well-being
Work on overcoming the obstacles related to economic problems and the scarcity of resources through cooperation with the international community and the United Nations so as to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights
Continue to cooperate with the United Nations, other international organizations and the world community to settle all the humanitarian issues
Lao People's Democratic Republic
Allow humanitarian assistance providers operating in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea unrestricted and independent movement throughout the country, as well as direct and unimpeded access to all populations in need
United States of America
Implement reforms recommended by United Nations special mechanisms
Put an end to practices of segregation and exclusion in providing care services to persons with disabilities
Costa Rica

SDG 11 and the North Korean Government

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In its presentation given at the Multi Stakeholder Forum in 2019, the DPRK government gave an overview of the progress and challenges to the achievement of SDG 11. The government shared that the continued natural disasters since the mid-1990s have resulted in a great loss to the socio-economic development of the country. It also candidly shared that the implementation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy and the local disaster reduction plans is off track, and that the government is facing major challenges in waste treatment in cities. As a result, the government listed six plans to combat the challenges such as 1) priority to solve dwellings and drinking water; 2) improve transportation system; 3) strict appliance to the land use regulation; 4) pay continued attention to the protection of heritage of national culture; 5) prevention of air, river, stream, lake and sea pollution; and 6) enhance disaster management capacity.

On the other hand, during every one of its National Reports submitted for the Universal Periodic Review, the DPRK has reported on its efforts to provide housing to its citizens. In 2009, the government stated that “citizens are provided with dwelling houses from the State free of charge and […] (while) there are some people living in inadequate conditions but no one is left homeless, since people’s committees at all levels are responsibly taking care of people’s life as householders would do.” In 2014, the National Report stated that “[t]housands of housing units were newly built or renovated in provinces, municipalities and counties, thus providing conditions for people to enjoy a more civilized and happy life. For instance, 400 housing units were built and 800 renovated in Changsong County, a mountainous region. [Additionally], many dwelling houses, schools and kindergartens were newly built on small and large islands on the West Sea.” In 2019, alongside the dwellings built and renovated across the country, the DPRK also reported on its disaster management capacity, stating that “the State took emergency measures for the construction of dwellings for people in the areas affected by such disaster as floods and heavy rain, and concentrated all efforts on the relief of the disaster victims so that they could soon resume normal life. For instance, 1,800 houses were newly built within 40 days in Rason when it was hit by floods in 2015, and 11,900 houses were newly built and 15,000 renovated within 60 days in the North Hamgyong Province that suffered unprecedented floods in September 2016.” Furthermore, in its 2021 VNR report, the DPRK stated that “The Government strives to expand transportation, increase road safety and provide the people with safe and convenient public transportation system”.

SDG 11 and North Korean Escapees

“The Women’s Union became more demanding and requested more payments for things like refurbishments or embankments that had to be constructed because of floods. We always suffered from a flood at least once in two years. The water levels of rivers are too high so we could not store a lot of water like in South Korea but just had to let the water flow away. There aren’t many trees on the mountains so there was always flood damage whenever there were heavy rainfalls. That is the reason why we had to build embankments every two years. So every workplace was told to build a certain amount of embankments but the Women’s Union gave instructions to build this much. The Union is like the shock brigade, which is why my wife just paid money and did not participate in its activities.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2018 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“There were lots of kindergartens and orphanages built. Kim Jong Un built a lot as examples in every province. Many were built in 2016. We were all mobilised to take part in the construction. The people were the ones who built it but word started going around saying that it was built from Kim Jong-un’s favour. I think about 3000 people went out. It was built in a really modern fashion.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2018 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“According to the housing provision system you apply for a residence, at the provincial People’s Committee there is a housing division, this is where you apply and when you get permission, the number of people in your family and other things like that are taken into consideration and a residence is assigned to you. This system still exists. However, the demand and supply don’t match at all. There is a great demand but almost no supply. That is why in reality the system has failed. The state has lost its control over power on real estate, entirely. In North Korea in general it is illegal for individuals to buy and sell things among each other. Even though it is known that this is illegal, nobody is punished because the government has lost its ability to provide housing.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2017 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

SDG 11 and the International Community

As stated by the government in its reports to the UN, in principle all housing is owned and distributed by the state under the regime’s house lending system. However, like many other sectors in North Korea, the economic collapse during the Arduous March has led to marketization and housing becoming private property. In recent years there has been an increasing number of North Koreans who live in apartment buildings with 21.4% reported by the UNPF in 2008 and an increase to 25% in 2014. Moreover, the KINU stated in its report that there is still a lack of access to adequate and safe housing, while the number of people living in apartments in urban areas have increased.

NKDB’s research with North Korean defectors have confirmed that the construction projects mentioned by the DPRK were indeed completed during the period. Nevertheless, the interviewees emphasized that the North Korean people had not been provided with the new houses for free. Furthermore, it is difficult to collect testimonies as to the DPRK’s concrete efforts to establish a welfare system that guarantees people’s right to financial compensation for labour, workplace safety, and workers’ compensation. Although one interviewee related preferential treatment that high-ranking party officials are entitled to after their retirement, this is not the case for the vast majority of North Korean residents.

It appears that the DPRK is working to meet its goal to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems by upgrading its public transport system with new train cars and trolleybuses for the 3 million residents in Pyongyang. However, public transport is a luxury for only those in urban areas, while the right to movement is systematically restricted for North Korean citizens as travel permits must be issued in order for them to travel to other provinces. While North Koreans are now able to travel to other provinces including to Pyongyang as long as they have money for bribes, it has led to a great deal of corruption and had a ripple effect into other human rights violations. For example, officials have taken advantage of these procedures leaving women vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation. Regarding this, NKDB mentioned that as it is often women who are engaged in trade, they will travel to purchase and sell goods from one region to another as a result, officials will not only demand bribes, but also inflict sexual abuse and violence.

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