UN statistics body endorses SDG indicators

18 March 2016

The United Nations Statistical Commission endorsed last week a set of 230 global indicators as the basis for reviewing progress towards the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, called the “last missing piece” of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

The 230 indicators will be refined over the next few months and over time, as they are used by countries and international agencies to measure progress towards the 169 targets supporting the SDGs.

The 2030 Agenda, including the SDGs, was adopted last year at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York following nearly five years of negotiations. The SDGs themselves replace the Millennium Development Goals, which expired at the end of 2015. (See Bridges Weekly, 1 October 2015)

Among indicators as diverse as levels of undernourishment, the proportion of women in managerial positions, and CO2 emissions per unit of value added, the indicator framework includes several metrics designed to measure progress towards the trade-related targets incorporated throughout the SDG framework.

Progress towards target 2.b on correcting and preventing trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets, part of Goal 2 on ending hunger, will be measured using levels of producer support estimates and agricultural export subsidies. WTO members agreed in Nairobi in December 2015 to eliminate agricultural export subsidies. (See Bridges Daily Update #5, 19 December 2015)

Progress towards target 8.a on Aid for Trade, part of Goal 8 on inclusive economic growth, will be measured using levels of Aid for Trade commitments and disbursements, while targets related to illegal trade in protected species under Goal 15 on terrestrial ecosystems will be measured by assessing the proportion of traded wildlife that is poached or illegally trafficked.

Measuring progress against such a broad framework will be demanding, officials say, with this latest development just the first step in a longer process.

“The SDG indicators will require an unprecedented amount of data to be produced and analysed – and it is evident that this will pose a significant challenge for national statistical systems, in developing as well as developed countries,” acknowledged UN Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo in remarks delivered by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development Lenni Montiel at the session.

Wu also noted that this global framework will also need to be complemented by additional indicators that address national, regional, and thematic issues.

The indicator framework will now be sent on to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the UN General Assembly for approval. The latter is due to meet in September for its 71st session. Another key event on the international calendar will be the beginning of implementation reviews on the 2030 Agenda’s implementation, which will be conducted under a high-level political forum from July onward.

ICTSD reporting; “UN Statistical Commission endorses global indicator framework,” UNITED NATIONS, 11 March 2016.

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