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Source: Small Island Developing States

8 September 2019: The UN Inter-Agency and Expert Group on the SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) is beginning to review input from the international community on proposed changes to several SDG indicators. The proposals address indicators for 15 of the 17 SDGs.

The changes were proposed as part of the 2020 Comprehensive Review process, and released for open consultation from 6 August to 8 September 2019. The suggestions include to replace or revise existing indicators, as well as to delete a few indicators and add several new ones.

New indicators are proposed to be added under Goals 2 (zero hunger), 3 (good health and wellbeing), 4 (quality education), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 10 (reduced inequalities), 13 (climate action), 15 (life on land), 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and 17 (partnerships for the Goals). According to the criteria set out for the 202o Comprehensive Review, an additional indicator may be considered “only in exceptional cases” such as: a crucial aspect of the related SDG target is not being monitored; to address a critical or emerging new issue that is not monitored by existing indicators; or when a whole SDG has very few indicators classified as Tier I or Tier II (reflecting a lack of data availability and/or no agreed methodology).

As for deletions, proposals call for deleting two indicators for SDG target 1.a on mobilizing resources, and one under Goal 17 on the proportion of sustainable development indicators produced at the national level with full disaggregation. The Comprehensive Review criteria say that a deletion can be considered when the methodological work of a Tier III indicator has stalled or has not produced the expected results.

A revision is suggested for SDG indicator 8.3.1 on proportion of informal employment in non‑agriculture employment, in order to include all informal employment, disaggregated by agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. For SDG indicator 15.9.1, which addresses Aichi Biodiversity Target 2, a proposed revision would create two parts for the indicator, one on the number of countries that have established national targets, and a second on the integration of biodiversity values into national accounting and reporting systems. Another 17 indicators are proposed to be replaced. According to the Review criteria, adjustments or replacements will be considered when the indicator “does not map well to the target” or does not track the target well. Proposed replacement indicators must have an agreed methodology and available data, and be suitable for global monitoring.

There are no proposals to change the indicators currently being used to measure SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) or SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure).

The set of proposals was developed following a prior open consultation on initial proposals, which ended in June 2019. The input to that consultation is compiled here.

The IAEG has set out guiding principles for the 2020 Comprehensive Review process. These include:

  • Take into account investments already made at national and international levels, and not undermine ongoing efforts;
  • Avoid imposing significant additional burdens on national statistical work; and
  • Make space for improvement while limiting scope of changes are limited in scope and keeping size of global indicator framework about the same.

In a briefing for stakeholders in June 2019, IAEG co-chair Viveka Palm noted that as was anticipated, environmental indicators can be particularly difficult to find, and that “the most glaring gaps are in the climate Goal,” with the result that “we have almost an entire Goal where we don’t have follow-up.”

During the open consultation, the co-chairs of a technical cooperation group on the indicators for SDG 4 (quality education) stressed the importance of maintaining SDG indicator 4.1.1: “the proportion of children and young people achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics.” They called on stakeholders to “safeguard” this indicator, which was proposed for replacement by: “the proportion of the population in a given age group achieving at least a minimum level of proficiency in (a) literacy and (b) numeracy skills.” Co-chairs Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, and Jordan Naidoo, Director of UNESCO’s Division for Education 2030 Support and Coordination, argued that Indicator 4.1.1 better reflects the entire schooling and learning process, and also uses existing data that countries rely on for policymaking, making it more pragmatic for middle- and low-income countries. The alternative proposed would therefore create a “major setback in terms of data availability.”

The next step in the 2020 Comprehensive Review of the SDG indicators is for the comments on the proposed changes to be compiled and considered ahead of the IAEG’s tenth meeting, which will convene in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 21-24 October 2019. The Group’s secretariat reports that a final list of proposals will then be agreed by the IAEG and submitted to the 51st session of the UN Statistical Commission in March 2020 (UNSC 51) for its consideration.

The IAEG secretariat (UN Statistics Division) has indicated that once a new indicator is approved by the UN Statistical Commission, monitoring on that indicator will begin immediately. This should allow for all of the approved changes to be incorporated into reporting for the 2021 HLPF.

A second Comprehensive Review of the SDG indicator framework is expected to take place in 2025.

In other recent activities of the IAEG:

  • In February 2019, it released a list of proxies for nine indicators that are in Tier III;
  • In March, the Group held its ninth meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, the report of which was circulated in May;
  • As of 22 May 2019: 34 indicators remained in Tier III, and work plans existed for 31 of those. Where indicators lacked work plans, this was attributed mainly to the lack of a confirmed custodian agency;
  • An additional 88 indicators were classified as Tier II, and 104 had Tier I status, including three that were moved to Tier I from Tier II thanks to improved data availability (SDG indicators 5.3.1, 5.3.2, and 14.7.1).

[Proposals Included in Open Consultation] [IAEG Webpage on 2020 Comprehensive Review] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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