21 November 2016
IAEG-SDGs Refines Several Indicators, Plans Further Revisions
Photo by IISD/ENB
story highlights

The IAEG-SDGs agreed to modify several existing indicators, including indicator 3.8.2, to measure household spending on health care, instead of health insurance coverage; and indicator 5.6.2, to measure access for men and women, not only women, to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education.

Participants expressed concern that the "most transformative indicators" are classified as Tier III, and urged an accelerated process to reach conceptual clarity.

18 November 2016: The Inter-Agency and Expert Group on the Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) held its fourth meeting, including a plenary session that engaged a wider set of actors in the topics under discussion. The Group reached agreement on refinements to several of the existing indicators, and received offers from UN agencies to serve as “custodians” for collecting data on individual indicators.

IAEG-SDGs 4 convened from 15-18 November 2016, in Geneva, Switzerland, hosted by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). Following a two-day Members Meeting, a two-day Plenary Session took place with participation from representatives of 46 countries, 34 international organizations, and 41 NGOs.

On refinements to indicators, the Group agreed to modify several existing indicators that governments had flagged during UNSC 47 in March 2016. Based on an open consultation, followed by closed discussions among IAEG members, the Group plans to refine:

· indicator 3.8.2, to measure household spending on health care, instead of health insurance coverage

· indicator 5.6.2, to measure access for men and women, not only women, to sexual and reproductive health care, information and education, and to specify that data will be disaggregated by sex

· indicator 1.a.1 (government-directed resources for poverty reduction)

· indicator 7.a.1 (international financing for clean and renewable energy)

· indicator 8.8.2 (compliance with labor rights)

· indicator 8.9.2 (jobs in sustainable tourism)

· indicator 16.4.2 (seized arms)

Consultations will continue on indicator 2.b.1 (correcting trade distortions) and indicator 3.b.1 (access to medicines/health facilities)

IAEG-SDGs will submit a review of the indicator framework to the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC) in 2020 and another in 2025.

The IAEG also set plans for more comprehensive reviews of the indicator framework. The Group intends to submit a review to the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC) in 2020 and another in 2025.

Discussions also addressed how the 88 “Tier III” indicators, those requiring conceptual clarification, will be advanced. World Vision, in a joint statement for the civil society organizations (CSOs) present at the meeting, observed that the “most transformative indicators” in the 2030 Agenda are in Tier III, and methodologies exist for many of them. Centre International de Droit Comparé de l’Environnement, for the CSOs, observed that 60% of the environmentally relevant indicators of the SDGs are currently in Tier III, including the majority of indicators on sustainable consumption and production, six of the seven indicators for Goal 13 (climate action), and seven of the nine indicators for Goal 14 (life below water). The International AgriFood Network said existing data may not be ideal, but could allow for interim measurement while methodologies continue to progress. On both methodology and data coverage, CSOs encouraged greater use of expertise and data from non-official sources.

The meeting also covered the respective roles of national governments and UN agencies in processing data for the yearly global SDG report, and the communication between them.

The role of the custodian agency, according to UNSD, is to receive data from national statistical systems on each indicator make it international comparable, preparing it for inclusion in the SDG Indicators Global Database, which the UN Secretariat uses to produce the yearly progress reports on the SDGs. UNSD said national bodies can send data directly to the relevant specialized agency, or they can send them to a regional mechanism, which will transmit them to the appropriate agency. For non-official data to be submitted, such as from the private sector, NGOs or other non-statistical bodies, Min said they would go through the national statistical system first, then get transmitted to the agencies.

In an interactive discussion, countries addressed agencies’ “accountability,” stressing the need to have more information on respective agencies’ collection and processing of national data, and for agencies to communicate with countries about the specific data sources being used and the methodology for compilations and comparisons. One asked how to ensure there is “no cheating” with regard to selecting data that favors an agency’s policies.

UN Environment suggested using a model of “modern, open and shared data,” in which the country posts its data on a public platform. With this approach, “who sends it where is of little relevance.” By contrast, in the traditional approach, agencies receive multiple PDFs from countries and have to hand-transcribe the numbers, she explained. Ordaz reflected that there is interest in improving the dialogue between international agencies and national statistical offices (NSOs), and streamlining their communication. He also noted the need for stronger coordination within countries to communicate with the international agencies.

On custodian agencies for “orphan” indicators, several participants offered or requested to serve as the custodian or “interim custodian’ for a specific indicator that did not already have one, leaving the following “orphan” indicators:

· indicator 1.4.1 (Proportion of population living in households with access to basic services) (Tier III);

· indicator 1.a.1 (Proportion of resources allocated by the government directly to poverty reduction programmes) (Tier III);

· indicator 1.a.2 (Proportion of total government spending on essential services (education, health and social protection) (Tier II);

· indicator 3.a.1 (Age-standardized prevalence of current tobacco use among persons aged 15 years and older (Tier I);

· indicator 12.a.1 (amount of support to developing countries on research and development for sustainable consumption and production and environmentally sound technologies) (Tier III) and

· indicator 17.13.1 (Macroeconomic Dashboard) (Tier III).

On data disaggregation, UNSD said this is the “number one priority” for data development for the 2030 Agenda, so that it can address all the groups and populations mentioned and therefore “leave no one behind.” The IAEG plans to: review each type of disaggregation separately, to create a consistent terminology across the indicator framework; begin with the Tier I indicators, since they have the best data coverage; and present a more detailed work plan ahead of the IAEG’s spring 2017 meeting.

Following IAEG-SDGs 4, the Group will submit a report to the UN Statistical Commission in early December 2016, ahead of the 48th UNSC session, which is scheduled to take place in March 2017. The IAEG’s next steps include further develop the work plans for Tier III indicators, “fast-tracking” the more advanced Tier III ones for reclassification; and harmonizing categories for data disaggregation. The Group plans to hold its next meeting in March 2017. [IISD RS Briefing Note]

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