What is the SDG Cities Certification?

Cities participating in the SDG Cities programme benefit from the certification process which recognizes cities’ efforts in achieving SDGs. Certification does not constitute an opinion by UN-Habitat on the sustainability performance of a city; rather it recognizes achievement of cities to measure, evaluate and accelerate their performance against the SDG priorities that they have identified. The efforts and progress of cities are certified using standardized global criteria and guidelines.

The UN system-wide Global Urban Monitoring Framework is at the core of the SDG Cities certification process. By using this internationally agreed monitoring index/mechanism, cities will be able to produce data driven strategies to realize the urban SDGs and improve the quality of life of inhabitants.

The Global Urban Monitoring Framework, UN-Habitat 
The Global Urban Monitoring Framework, UN-Habitat  


The certification process works as a system of rewards (without penalties) for policy and resource inputs into achieving the SDGs. It allows cities to check, evaluate, understand and act so as to ensure they are on the sustainable development path.

The certification process encourages a focus on clearly defined objectives to reach SDG impact, and recognizes completion of each stage of the programme. Considering contextual differences in the capacities of cities and countries, the certification does not attempt to measure whether a city has reached an SDG target, nor does it compare the SDG outcomes between cities. Rather, an SDG Certified city has demonstrated progress towards increasing factors that produce positive changes in the implementation of SDGs and addresses those that limit good performance.

How it Works?

The performance of cities in generating evidence-based plans, improving local systems and capacities, and ultimately driving SDG impact is recognized globally through a series of SDG Cities Certificates.

SDG Cities Certification


Participating national governments in coordination with UN-Habitat will measure and certify progress of local governments according to the efforts and actions they undertake to realize SDGs and improve quality of life. Cities joining the SDG Cities Programme independently will be certified by UN-Habitat or its development partners. In such cases, they will agree on their performance criteria from the outset with UN-Habitat.

In collaboration with national governments and other development partners, UN-Habitat awards certificates to cities in an incremental basis at each key phase.

  • Silver Certificate: Awarded on commitment to implementing the SDGs.
  • Gold Certificate: Awarded when data on SDGs and a clear process to achieve the SDGs is defined.
  • Platinum Certificate: Awarded on evidence of strengthened local institutions.
  • Diamond Certificate: Awarded on evidence of human impact in line with the SDGs.

Four Levels of Certification

Silver Certificate

The Silver Certificate is awarded upon commitment to meet the SDGs, the creation of an SDG Cities team and workplan, and the completion of a stocktaking assessment of sources of SDG data and plans indexed against the Global Urban Monitoring Framework.

Sustainable Development Goals
Sustainable Development Goals
Criteria to be a silver certified city
  • City sends an expression of interest to participate in SDG Cities.
  • City is asked upon its vision and goals for 2030, its Development Strategy, the baseline data available, the key actors working in the Economic and Social Development, Environmental Sustainability, Culture and Governance areas as well as the notable SDG interventions made and those that are being planned.
  • City agrees on a plan of action after reviewing available resources and resource gaps to deliver on the planned certification.
  • UN-Habitat and the City Mayor sign a shared Letter of Intent to which the action plan is appended.
  • City assigns an SDG Cities Coordinator and assembles the SDG Cities Task Force.
  • Stocktaking assessment of sources of SDG data and plans indexed against the Global Urban Monitoring Framework.
  • City undertakes the long listing exercise to identify its priorites
  • UN-Habitat reviews and provides feedback on information and grants SDG City Silver Certification to the city.
SGC Cities Silver Certificate Image
Gold Certificate

The Gold Certificate is awarded upon evidence of a public plan outlining how SDG targets will be achieved.

Figure 1: Matrix of Domains and Objectives 

Society X X X X
Economy X X X X
Environment X X X X
Culture X X X X
Governance and Implementation X X X X

Indicators from several attributes can be combined to measure different subject matter specific features.

The Global Urban Monitoring Framework, UN-Habitat

Criteria to be a gold certified city
  • City selects the final list of UMF indicators and undertakes a baseline assessment based on the Global Urban Monitoring Framework(UMF), or reviews its existing baseline assessment against the UMF.
  • From the information gathered, city undertakes an inclusive strategic planning process, in line with SDG Cities Adaptation of the Cities Alliance City Development Strategy Guidelines or reviews its current city development strategy in line with the following criteria: demonstrating the principle of leaving no-one behind ; balancing economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development ; including actions to improve quality of life in the most deprived parts of the city, and thus reducing inequality ; setting sufficiently ambitious actions to make a significant impact against the city SDGs baseline.
  • The city is encouraged to undertake a Voluntary Local Review to assess progress towards specific SDG targets.
  • UN-Habitat reviews the City Baseline Assessment and City Development Strategy methodology and awards the Gold Certificate.
SGC Cities Gold Certificate Image
Platinum Certificate

The Platinum Certificate is awarded upon evidence of strengthened local institutional capacity to deliver the SDGs.

Criteria to be a platinum certified city
  • Relevant local institutions undertake the self-diagnostic exercises using the tools provided by UN-Habitat, including governance, planning and own source revenue tools, plus at least two service delivery areas depending on its needs: mobility, waste management, water utilities.
  • The high priority recommendations of the self-diagnostic reports are verified internally and capacity strengthening priorities and actions are agreed upon.
  • The actions mentioned in the institutional capacity strengthening action plan should be substantially completed.
  • Change in Institutional Capacity is measured through a second self-diagnostic exercise in action areas that have been addressed.
  • UN-Habitat reviews before and after diagnostic reports and awards the Platinum Certificate.
SGC Cities Platinum Certificate Image
Diamond Certificate

The Diamond Certificate is awarded upon measurable human impact, or significant investment and progress towards implementing projects and actions with high impacts on SDG indicators, in line with the city's SDG priorities.

 City Investment Facility Services 
City Investment Facility Services


Criteria to be a diamond certified city
  • Based on the previous assessments, “soft” transformative actions prioritized with the SDG City Development Strategy are implemented through plans, local legislation and regulations.
  • “Hard” infrastructure projects are uploaded on the City Investment Portal where SDG pipeline projects are posted to a global audience of investors and assessed against SDG principles.
  • City Investment Advisory Platform supports upstream preparation of projects and City Investment Vehicles bring investment partners to reach financial close for these projects to be financed and implemented.
  • Transformative change is measured through a second baseline assessment and the city is awarded Diamond Certificate.
SGC Cities Diamond Certificate Image

Recognizing Impact

Often it takes several years to measure impact. The Certificates outlined above recognize tangible progress towards impact, and wherever possible recognize actual impact. Further recognition to SDG Impact is given as follows.

To Go Further

The Global Urban Monitoring Framework UN-Habitat March 2022

September 19, 2022


Guidelines for Voluntary Local Reviews, Vol.1 UN-Habitat 2021

September 19, 2022


Guidelines for Voluntary Local Reviews, Vol.1 UN-Habitat 2021

September 19, 2022


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