The Importance of
Measuring SDGs


Adopted by world leaders in September 2015, Agenda 2030 represents an ambitious effort by the global community to ensure that ‘no one is left behind’. At its core are 17 Sustainable Development Goals with 169 Targets ranging from poverty and hunger, equality and climate action, to peace and justice. While the earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set for 2015 prioritized the reduction of poverty together with progress primarily applied to low and middle-income countries, the 17 SDGs Agenda is universal, expanding to countries of all income level.

New approaches: Indicators

For countries seeking to meet the SDGs, the changing political landscape requires new approaches to ensure inclusive and sustainable outcomes. The commitments to the SDGs made by governments now need to be translated into programs and public investments that can deliver on this wide-ranging set of goals and their 169 accompanying targets. While many require commitment at the global or multilateral action level, they also demand national action and, if countries are to be held to account for their advancement towards these goals, appropriate indicators for monitoring progress are necessary.

This justifies the demand for information and good data at governments’ disposal to increase evidence-based policymaking for sustainability at both local and national level, and for citizens to hold them accountable. In fact, one of the main criticisms regarding the reason why reaching MDGs partly failed, relates to the fact that many countries lacked the basic information and capacity to monitor and report on progress. In March 2016, the UN Inter-Agency Expert Group on SDGs Indicators presented its report for a final agreement on the indicators selected as best fitting to evaluate progress in the different sustainability areas. The UN Statistical Commission endorsed an official set of SDG indicators as the basis for follow-up and review at the global level in the years to come.

Tier Classification

To facilitate the implementation of the Global Indicator Framework, the IAEG-SDG came up with a Tier Classification on the basis of their level of methodological development and availability of data at a global level. The definition of the three different Tiers is as follows:

Indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, and data are regularly produced by countries for at least 50 percent of countries and of the population in every region where the indicator is relevant.

Indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, but data are not regularly produced by countries.

No internationally established methodology or standards are yet available for the indicator, but methodology/standards are being (or will be) developed or tested.

As of 11 May 2018, while a general agreement on the methodology implied by the majority of indicators to measure the progress towards SDG Targets has been met (there are 93 Tier I Indicators), there are still 62 indicators that are categorized as ‘Tier III’. 

This leaves a big gap in the effort of the international community towards achieving the SDGs.

Agenda 2030, under “Follow-up and Review” states that: ‘76. We will support developing countries, particularly African countries, LDCs, SIDS and LLDCs, in strengthening the capacity of national statistical offices and data systems to ensure access to high-quality, timely, reliable and disaggregated data. We will promote transparent and accountable scaling-up of appropriate public-private cooperation to exploit the contribution to be made by a wide range of data, including earth observation and geo-spatial information, while ensuring national ownership in supporting and tracking progress’.

Data-Pop Alliance and UNDP aim to contribute towards this end, expanding the support to other world regions too.