Draft SDGs indicators due in mid-August, followed by stakeholder comments

A full schedule has been released for the work of the Inter-Agency Expert Group, which is to offer its final indicators proposal by the end of November.

The rest of this year promises to be a busy one for statisticians tasked with hashing out an agreement on how to measure the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The U. N. Statistical Division has now released a road map and tentative schedule for the work of a group called the Inter-Agency Expert Group (IAEG-SDGs), made up primarily of representatives from national and multilateral statistics offices. Through November, these statisticians will now have to pare down the number of indicators needed to benchmark global progress toward the 17 goals and 169 targets that are expected to be agreed upon by U. N. member states in September.

According to the new schedule, the group expects to have a draft indicators proposal by mid-August. Thereafter, that draft will open for public comment by national statistical offices, member states and stakeholders through early September.

These indicators will offer specific metrics by which national governments and others can gauge how they are doing in trying to attain the broader aims of the goals and targets. For instance, indicators being proposed for Goal 11, the urban SDG, include such details as the proportion of the population that lives within 0.5 km of a public transit stop, or the percentage of urban solid waste that’s regularly collected and “well managed”. (The Goal 11 indicators have been the subject of two recent piloting tests, with results available here and here.)

Given that the SDGs indicators offer the specifics of what government authorities must actually measure, however, there is a strong push to limit the overall number of these measurements. Some are suggesting that each target should have a single indicator; others are urging the adoption of just 100 indicators overall. The current version of the list of all proposed indicators, dated 7 July, can be found here.

The IAEG has already met once, in June. Yet as Citiscope reported, the group struggled in that first meeting to differentiate the technical work of national statistical offices from the political considerations of national delegations. For now those differences appear to have been smoothed over, however, as the experts group enters its working phase, which for the most part will be conducted remotely via electronic communication.

There are two major activities that the IAEG will undertake in the weeks ahead. One task, facilitated by the Mexican government, will conduct a line-by-line review of each indicator that has been proposed thus far. The other task, facilitated by France, will hunt for interlinkages between SDGs goals and targets — the broader being to reduce the total number of indicators by finding “cross-cutting” metrics that will allow for the measurement of multiple SDGs.

Following the comment period on the draft indicators list, and updated proposal will arrive later in September, likely in time for the U. N. summit that will see finalization of the SDGs. Comments on that updated list list will then be accepted through October, ahead of the IAEG’s second in-person meeting.

A final proposal should be ready by the end of November. Thereafter, that list will be taken up for finalization at the next session of the U. N. Statistical Commission, scheduled to take place in February or March of next year.

According to the new provisional schedule, the timeline for the work of the IAEG-SDGs will be as follows:

11 August: First list of possible indicators finalized

11 August — 4 September: Open consultation

4 September: Deadline for IAEG-SDGs member to make inputs on first list

21 September: Updated list of possible indicators circulated to stakeholders

15 October: Deadline for final comments on updated list

26-28 October (TBC): Second in-person meeting of the IAEG-SDGs

16 November: Deadline for final minor amendments on indicators

30 November: Submission of indicator proposal by the IAEG-SDGs to U. N. Statistical Commission

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