A consistent call during the last five years has been the need to strengthen statistical capacity to address data gaps through investment in data and statistics.
Recently launched global platforms permit the user to explore SDG-related data through visualizations and other features.
The data ecosystem is enhanced with issue and region or country specific data platforms, which can sort through the large amounts of data and bring context and targeted functions specific to an audiences' data needs.
If you were listening to the discussions and announcements released during the eighth session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), you no doubt heard about the role of data in SDG implementation.
Many of the messages about data during the HLPF were not new; the importance of good data in tracking SDG implementation has been consistently underlined at every session. Nonetheless, the availability and uses of data change each year. Due to time lags in datasets, many of the data reports published during the first years after 2015 provided baseline assessments that let us know where we were starting rather than where we were going. Some of the reports launched in 2020 now focus on data collected since 2015. In March 2020, the UN Statistical Commission adopted 36 changes to the SDG indicators, which will affect indicator datasets in future years.
A consistent call during the last five years has been the need to strengthen statistical capacity to address data gaps through investment in data and statistics. This policy brief offers an overview of some of the data platforms and indicator sources that are currently available, to assist our readers in tracking SDG implementation as well as to stimulate thinking about where SDG indicator investments are needed.
Global SDG Assessments and Datasets
A starting point for thinking about SDG global datasets is to look at the key reports that are released prior to the annual HLPF session:
- Secretary-General’s SDG Progress Report,
- Sustainable Development Goals Report (by UN Statistics Division), and
- SDSN’s Sustainable Development Report and Indexes.
The SDG Progress Report and the Sustainable Development Goals Report rely on data from the UN Statistics Division’s Open SDG Data Hub. The data in this set are maintained by the custodian agencies for each of the indicators. In 2020, a SDG Progress Chart was also developed using this dataset to provide graphs for selected SDG targets showing how well each region is doing.
SDSN’s annual Sustainable Development Report incorporates a variety of datasets into its rankings of countries according to how well they are implementing the SDGs. In 2020, SDSN released an additional resource: ‘SDGs Today: The Global Hub for Real-Time SDG Data‘. This portal, which was developed in partnership with Esri and the National Geographic Society, provides access to datasets that are updated regularly and have been produced within the last year. The datasets are selected “based on the level of frequency, quality, international comparability, public availability, and ease of understanding.”
Several other platforms permit the user to explore SDG-related data through visualizations and other features:
- IISD’s Global SDG Indicator Platform incorporates data from the Open SDG Data Hub into a user-friendly tool that permits the exploration of data through global maps. The Platform’s “dashboard” feature permits users to compare the data for two nations.
- The SDG Tracker presents data from the Our World in Data database, which uses official statistics from the UN and other international organizations. The SDG Tracker offers charts and maps to view the status of progress on the SDG targets.
- Resource Watch provides access to hundreds of datasets on the state of the planet’s resources and citizens. It provides dashboards for datasets on the ocean, energy, forests, cities, climate, water, food and society.
Country and Issue Specific Datasets
The Resource Watch “about” page highlights that, while “more data are available today than ever before,” policymakers, business leaders, and analysts often cannot access the data they need to make informed decisions about the environment and human well-being. The global platforms and datasets seek to increase transparency and access to data globally. The data ecosystem is enhanced with issue and region or country specific data platforms, which can sort through the large amounts of data and bring context and targeted functions specific to an audiences’ data needs. Such data platforms include the following:
- The UN Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) data dashboard to help its member countries monitor their progress on the 2030 Agenda. The platform presents data from its member states for 80 “regionally relevant” SDG indicators;
- The Goal Tracker for South Africa, which provides information about South Africa’s national policies related to achieving the SDGs and seeks to offer tools for decision-making, resource allocation and enhanced collaboration between all stakeholders in support of the SDGs;
- The World Bank’s Sovereign ESG Data Portal, an online platform that provides sovereign-level environmental, social and governance (ESG) data, to support efforts by the financial sector to improve the sustainability of their investments by better aligning ESG analysis with key sustainable development policy indicators; and
- The SDG 6 Data Portal, which provides snapshots of global, regional, and national performance on SDG 6 indicators, as well as data visualizations and animations showing changes that have occurred over time.
- Community indicator systems, which organize data based on community-identified priorities, are supporting local-level SDG implementation (see for example this story about IISD’s headquarters city of Winnipeg, Canada).
Many studies of indicators provide as much information about where investments in data would be usefully applied as they do about where we are going on SDG implementation. The sustainable development community is acting on this information: the landscape of data platforms looks different now than it did for a policy update on data platforms published in March 2018. We will watch as it continues to evolve, especially in the coming months.
Data collection is the subject of one of the “2020 targets” (17.18: By 2020, enhance capacity-building support to developing countries, including for least developed countries and small island developing States, to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts). The reason this target has an accelerated completion date is also a reason for the interest in data: SDG implementation will be measured and driven through monitoring, based on the indicators. Watch this space for news about these critical tools for driving the 2030 Agenda forward.