Who are you going to call? The SDG-busters

2 Jan 2019

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has set an ambitious agenda of 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 169 global targets and 232 global indicators. But wait, there is more. The indicators are to be disaggregated not by one or two but at least eight different characteristics: income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability and geographic location, or “other”. And all “in accordance with the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics” which recognize appropriate and reliable data needs to adhere to certain professional and scientific standards.

So what are we doing to meet this ambitious agenda?

Since adopting the global indicator framework, many international agencies and organizations are mapping international measurement standards and frameworks to the global indicator set. The US Census Bureau has mapped how many of the global indicators rely on a Census of Population and Housing, an Advisory Expert Group on National Accounts has mapped the contribution of the System of National Accounts to the global indicators, a geospatial working group of the UN Inter-Agency Expert Group on the SDGs has mapped where geospatial information makes a direct contribution to the global indicators, the World Bank has mapped the contribution of a Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) system, and the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs have mapped the contribution of earth observation and satellite data.
By bringing these mappings together, we have an idea of which SDG-buster to call upon and when. For example:

  • the System of National Accounts can help ‘bust’ 44 of the agreed global indicators;
  • CRVS will directly ‘bust’ three global indicators and help ‘bust’ another 64;
  • a Census of Population and Housing will help ‘bust’ 32 of the global indicators;
  • geospatial information will help directly ‘bust’ 15 of the global indicators and support ‘busting’ another nine;
  • satellite and earth observation data will significantly ‘bust’ 48 of the global SDG targets.

The UN knows the global indicator framework presents a challenge in many countries. For instance, in Asia and the Pacific, only about 25% of the global indicators could be produced at the regional level in 2017. There is a long way to close the gap and ‘bust’ the SDG indicators.

This is why capacity building is important, particularly in developing countries and other countries in special situations, 32 of which are located in Asia and the Pacific.

And who are we going to call?

ESCAP is using the global mappings to prioritise efforts to strengthen national statistical capacities and focus statistical capacity building efforts.

Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems are a particular area of regional focus. In 2015, Asia and the Pacific endorsed a 2015-2024 CRVS “Get Every One in the Picture” decade. The region has commenced an assessment of progress towards its commitments to “Get Everyone One in the Picture” and will share this assessment at a mid-term Ministerial Conference in 2020.

The use of geospatial information, earth observation and satellite data, particularly in combination with data from the Census of Population and Housing, is being piloted by ESCAP in conjunction with several Asian and Pacific countries in support of SDG 6 (water and sanitation) and SDG 11 (cities).

Environmental-Economic Accounts (SEEA) are also a regional priority, with ESCAP supporting 20 countries to develop waste, energy, water and land, and produce pilot ocean accounts in support of SDG 14 (life below water).

Prioritising efforts on the global SDG indicators is a win-win situation - national statistical capacities are strengthened and so is the evidence base to successfully deliver on the 2030 Agenda.