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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Indicators and a Monitoring Framework for the Sustainable Development Goals

Publication Year: 2015 Publisher: Leadership Council Sustainable Development Solutions Network


Related Goals


In September 2015, a summit of heads of state will adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The experience of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) underscores the importance of thinking through the indicators as early as possible; we cannot afford a lag of several years before we start to measure progress towards achieving the SDGs. The international community has rightly begun to shift attention to the indicator framework and associated monitoring systems. In June 2015, the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) will convene to start the technical work of defining an
SDG indicator framework.

This report is offered as a contribution to the multi-stakeholder debate in support of the SDGs. It outlines how a comprehensive indicator framework might be established to support the goals and targets proposed by the Open Working Group on the SDGs (OWG). The report is the result of 18 months of intensive global discussions involving thousands of experts from UN organizations, academia, civil society, business, and a large number of national statistical offices (NSOs). The large number of detailed comments received from all parts of the world and all areas of expertise gives us confidence that it is possible to measure the full spectrum of SDGs and their targets through a compact indicator framework.

Indicators will be the backbone of monitoring progress towards the SDGs at the local, national, regional,and global levels. A sound indicator framework will turn the SDGs and their targets into a management tool to help countries develop implementation strategies and allocate resources accordingly, as well as a report card to measure progress towards sustainable development and help ensure the accountability of all stakeholders for achieving the SDGs.

The mechanics of SDG monitoring are still being worked out, but an emerging consensus suggests that the focus of SDG monitoring will be at the national level. Complementary monitoring will occur at regional and global levels. Moreover, each major thematic community, such as health, education, agriculture, and so forth, will mobilize, analyze, and communicate data on progress towards achieving its objectives. Such thematic monitoring and review will be an important complement to official monitoring and review at national, regional, and global levels.

Each level of monitoring requires different types of indicators (see Figure 1 and Annex 5 for an illustration). This report proposes 100 Global Monitoring Indicators, accompanied by suggestions for Complementary National Indicators, which together track the full range of SDGs and targets in an integrated, clear, and effective manner (see Tables 1 and 2). Based on discussions with a large number of statistical offices, including Eurostat, BPS Indonesia, the OECD, the Philippines, the UK, and many others, we believe 100 to be the maximum number of global indicators on which NSOs can report and communicate effectively in a harmonized manner. This conclusion was strongly endorsed during the 46th UN Statistical Commission in March 2015, as well as the preceding Expert Group Meeting on SDG indicators.

Each country should pick the number and range of Complementary National Indicators that best suit its
needs and capacity to collect and analyze data. Given the breadth of country circumstances we expect
substantial variation in the number and type of national indicators that countries will adopt. This report includes some initial suggestions for such indicators. We underscore that the preliminary list of Complementary National Indicators is far from exhaustive and meant only for inspiration and illustration.

All SDG indicators need to be considered as an integrated package and must work in harmony with one
another. Many important issues, such as gender equality, health, sustainable consumption and production, and nutrition, cut across goals and targets. The goals and targets are themselves interdependent, and must be pursued together, since progress in one area often depends on progress in other areas. As a result many indicators contribute to monitoring more than one target (Table 2). An SDG indicator and monitoring framework must also give careful thought to tracking cross-cutting issues so that it can support integrated, systems-based approaches to implementation (see Annex 1, page 67).

This report outlines ten principles for Global Monitoring Indicators (GMIs), so they track the range of SDG priorities in a clear and effective manner. Inter alia such indicators should be limited in number; simple, intuitive, and policy-relevant; consensus-based, in line with international standards; relevant to all countries and all people; and able to be disaggregated to track progress for all relevant groups.