Stronger cities for the future: a new set of International Standards just out

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Por Clare Naden
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The populations of most world cities are growing fast, and with it come challenges and opportunities for keeping citizens safe and well. New International Standards for measuring and improving the performance of cities have just been published to help cities keep on top of the game.

Already, more than half of the world’s population lives in a city and that number is to grow to nearly 70 % by 20501). Keeping up with rising urbanization and the stress it places on resources and infrastructure poses a serious challenge for cities everywhere, creating the need for effective planning, management and evidence-based policy making.

In order to make such decisions, cities need a reliable reference for measuring their performance, which is where the world’s first International Standard for city indicators comes into play.

ISO 37120 (Indicators for city services and quality of life in communities) was the first set of internationally standardized city indicators that provide a uniform approach to what is measured and how, when it was first published in 2014. For the first time, cities were able to communicate amongst themselves using globally standardized, comparable data, allowing them to get insights into other cities and learn from each other like never before.

Now, the standard has just been updated, offering even more indicators to help cities effectively improve the quality of life of their citizens and plan for a more sustainable future.

Bernard Gindroz, Chair of ISO/TC 268, Sustainable cities and communities2), the technical committee that developed the standard, said ISO 37120 was updated due to city demand and a gap analysis that was performed, demonstrating the need for many new indicators, including those for culture, urban agriculture and food.

“Currently, nearly a hundred cities have implemented, or are in the process of implementing, the standard, and they have been very vocal in terms of what new indicators they want and need, which we have incorporated into the latest version,” he said.

“For example, there are now more comprehensive indicators on housing, such as vacancy rates and living space sizes, all essential if future cities are to manage growing populations effectively.”  

City managers and planners, politicians, researchers and business leaders are just some of those who benefit from the use of the standard, which covers everything from education and energy to transport, health and water.

ISO 37120 will soon be joined by two other complementary standards on indicators for smart and resilient cities, providing a comprehensive suite of internationally agreed guidelines that help cities everywhere to thrive.

ISO 37122, Sustainable development in communities – Indicators for Smart Cities, and ISO 37123, Sustainable development in communities – Indicators for Resilient Cities, are due to be released later this year.

In addition, a third new standard has also been published to give city leaders guidance on how to develop an effective model for their city that can help them achieve their sustainability goals. ISO 37106, Sustainable cities and communities – Guidance on establishing smart city operating models for sustainable communities, provides a toolkit of “smart” practices for managing governance, services, data and systems across the city in a collaborative and digitally enabled way.

The standards are part of the ISO 37100 series, which includes ISO 37101, the overarching management systems standard for sustainable development in communities.

ISO 37120 and ISO 37106 are available from your national ISO member or through the ISO Store.

1) United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs: 2018 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects

2) The secretariat of ISO/TC 268, Sustainable cities and communities, is held by AFNOR, ISO’s member for France.

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