28 April 2022
OECD Report Measures Distance to SDG Targets on the Short Road to 2030
Forsmark 2012
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The report titled, ‘The Short and Winding Road to 2030: Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets,’ finds that progress towards 21 targets is "way off track".

The report also suggests some initial lessons to spur thinking about the framework for global action that will succeed the SDGs.

The report is based on the IAEG Global Indicator List and uses data from the UN SDG Database and OECD databases.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has launched a report on the progress of its 38 member countries towards the SDG targets and the likelihood of meeting them by 2030. According to the report, OECD countries have met or are close to meeting 25% of the targets for which performance can be measured. The report also highlights the current “blind spots” in SDG statistics for OECD countries.The report titled, ‘The Short and Winding Road to 2030: Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets,’ finds that progress towards 21 targets is “way off track.”

Ten targets have been met, and another 18 are close to being fulfilled. Many of these relate to basic needs, covering areas such as:

  • access to sanitation, fresh water and energy;
  • reducing maternal and infant mortality;
  • access to early childhood education;
  • providing modern education facilities; and
  • affording legal identity to all citizens.

Eradicating severe hunger is an area where most OECD countries are close to achievement. However, few of the governments “will be able to fully prevent social exclusion or reduce malnutrition by 2030,” the authors predict.

On environment-focused targets, the report finds progress in many areas, such as energy intensity, water use, and municipal waste management. But some of this progress has come from shifting production abroad in resource-intensive and pollution-intensive sectors. In addition, “the use of material resources to support economic growth remains high, and many valuable materials continue to be disposed of as waste.”

On climate action (SDG 13), greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been somewhat decoupled from GDP growth, but total emissions are not decreasing at the necessary pace. On biodiversity (SDGs 14 and 15), the report notes rising threats, and says none of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets that should have been fulfilled by 2020 have been met by all OECD countries.

Data gaps still persist for OECD countries. The report finds that 136 of the 169 SDG targets are covered by available data, but even these may have gaps such as timeliness or granularity. Thus, they do not sufficiently provide a gauge of current outcomes or performance over time. To inform decisions towards 2030, governments need to accurately track their progress on the SDGs, but in many cases data are still inadequate. As the authors write, “if the SDG reporting framework is incomplete or not up to date, or fails to represent all segments of the population, any inference about the efficiency of policies risks being flawed. The same is true if diagnostic tools cannot provide a comprehensive assessment of the most recent trends, especially in times of uncertainty.”

The report also suggests some initial lessons to spur thinking about the framework for global action that will succeed the SDGs. It highlights the need to consider how a new framework could capture the interlinkages between different goals, targets and indicators and their overall coherence. Global monitoring and assessment instruments such as the System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) should be promoted as crucial “public goods”, and measures of policy instruments and measures of ultimate outcomes should be separated, to better identify the causal chain from inputs to processes, outputs and outcomes in evaluations and assessments of the framework.

A final lesson relates to the tension between adopting a broad framework while facilitating focus on a small number of top-level indicators. To address this tension, the report suggests that “implementation needs to be sensitive to national needs and priorities, as well as limited resources,” with national dialogues — informed by international frameworks — undertaking the task of selecting targets and indicators. 

The series of OECD reports ‘Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets’ is part of the OECD’s action plan on SDGs aiming to help member countries implement the 2030 Agenda. The report is based on the IAEG Global Indicator List and uses data from the UN SDG Database and OECD databases. [OECD press release] [Publication: The Short and Winding Road to 2030: Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets

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