*This article was written by Faye Leone and originally appeared on the IISD SDG Knowledge Hub.

The UN Inter-Agency and Expert Group on the SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) reached agreement on measurement methodologies on several indicators. This agreement will allow for fuller measurement of several aspects of SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), as well as targets on sustainable food production, food waste, access to medicine, free primary and secondary education, market regulation, migration, sustainable urbanization, marine acidity, and organized crime, among others.

IAEG-SDGs 8 convened from 5-8 November 2018, in Stockholm, Sweden, with one of the four days held in a closed format for IAEG members, and the other three days open to observers.

The IAEG developed the global SDG indicator framework in response to a mandate in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The framework was agreed on by the UN Statistical Commission and adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2017. The framework contains 232 indicators for measuring the 169 SDG targets.

Many of the indicators are still under development, and they are classified into three “tiers” to show their status: Tier I denotes that an indicator is both conceptually clear and available data exists for its measurement. A Tier II indicator has a clear methodology but inadequate data. If an indicator is classified as Tier III, it requires methodological development. Tier III indicators are not reflected in the annual SDG reports presented to the HLPF.

By the end of November 2018, following the meeting in Stockholm and subsequent discussions, the Group had agreed to reclassify the following indicators from Tier III to Tier II, reflecting agreement on the methodology for their measurement:

  • SDG 2 (zero hunger):
    • Indicator 2.4.1 – Proportion of agricultural area under productive and sustainable agriculture (for Target 2.4 – Sustainable Food Production and Resilient Agricultural Practices) (target abbreviations per the Global Goals project);
  • SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing):
    • Indicator 3.b.3 – Proportion of health facilities that have a core set of relevant essential medicines available and affordable on a sustainable basis (for Target 3.b – Support Research, Development and Universal Access to Affordable Vaccines and Medicines);
  • SDG 4 (quality education):
    • Indicator 4.1.1 (a) – Proportion of children and young people in grades 2/3 (for Target 4.1 – Free Primary and Secondary Education);
  • SDG 10 (reduced inequalities):
    • Indicator 10.2.1 – Proportion of people living below 50 per cent of median income, by sex, age and persons with disabilities (for Target 10.2 -Promote Universal Social, Economic and Political Inclusion);
    • Indicator 10.5.1 – Financial Soundness Indicators (for Target 10.5 – Improved regulation of global financial markets and institutions);
    • Indicator 10.7.1 – Recruitment cost borne by employee as a proportion of yearly income earned in country of destination (for Target 10.7 – Responsible and Well-Managed Migration Policies); and
    • Indicator 10.7.2 – Number of countries that have implemented well-managed migration policies (also for Target 10.7)
  • SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities):
    • Indicator 11.3.2 – Proportion of cities with a direct participation structure of civil society in urban planning and management that operate regularly and democratically (for Target 11.3 – Inclusive and Sustainable Urbanization); and
    • Indicator 11.7.1 – Average share of the built-up area of cities that is open space for public use for all, by sex, age and persons with disabilities (for Target 11.7 – Provide Access to Safe and Inclusive Green and Public Spaces)
  • SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production):
    • Indicator 12.3.1 (a) – Food loss index (for Target 12.3 – Halve Global Per Capita Food Waste)
  • SDG 14 (life below water):
    • Indicator 14.3.1 – Average marine acidity (pH) measured at agreed suite of representative sampling station (for Target 14.3 – Reduce Ocean Acidification) (see SDG Knowledge Hub story on this indicator reclassification);
  • SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions):
    • Indicator 16.4.2 – Proportion of seized, found or surrendered arms whose illicit origin or context has been traced or established by a competent authority in line with international instruments (for Target 16.4 – Combat Organized Crime and Illicit Financial and Arms Flows); and
    • Indicator 16.7.1 (a) Proportions of positions in national and local public institutions, including the legislature (for Target 16.7 – Ensure responsive, inclusive and representative decision-making)

In addition, the Group reclassified six indicators from Tier II to Tier I, due to regular data production for these indicators. They correspond to SDG targets 3.3 (Fight communicable diseases); 3.8 (Achieve universal health coverage) (2 indicators); 3.b (Support research, development and universal access to affordable vaccines and medicines); 6.5 (Implement integrated water resources management) and 6.6 (Protect and restore water-related ecosystems).

As of these decisions, the tier classification contains:

  • Tier I: 100 indicators (no single SDG has all of its indicators in Tier I);
  • Tier II: 82 indicators; and
  • Tier III: 44 indicators.

Six other indicators have components in different tiers.

Before the reclassifications noted above, SDG 10 had five of its 11 indicators in Tier III; now only one SDG 10 indicator remains Tier III. Goals for which several indicators remain in Tier III include:

  • SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) with eight and a half of its 13 indicators in Tier III;
  • SDG 13 (climate action) with five of eight indicators in Tier III; and
  • SDG 14 (life on land), with four of ten indicators in Tier III.

Among the remaining Tier III indicators, the following correspond to targets with a 2020 deadline:

  • SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth):
    • Indicator 8.b.1 – Existence of a developed and operationalized national strategy for youth employment, as a distinct strategy or as part of a national employment strategy (for Target 8.b – By 2020, develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization)
  • SDG 12:
    • Indicator 12.2.1 – Material footprint, material footprint per capita, and material footprint per GDP (for Target 12.2 – By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources)
    • Indicator 12.4.2 – Hazardous waste generated per capita and proportion of hazardous waste treated, by type of treatment (for Target 12.4 – By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment
  • SDG 13:
    • Indicator 13.a.1 – Mobilized amount of United States dollars per year between 2020 and 2025 accountable towards the $100 billion commitment (for Target 13.a – Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible)
  • SDG 14:
    • Indicator 14.2.1 – Proportion of national exclusive economic zones managed using ecosystem-based approaches (for Target 14.2 – By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans)
    • Indicator 14.7.1 – Sustainable fisheries as a proportion of GDP in small island developing States, least developed countries and all countries (for Target 14.7 – By 2030, increase the economic benefits to small island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism)
  • SDG 15 (life on land):
    • Indicator 15.9.1 – Progress towards national targets established in accordance with Aichi Biodiversity Target 2 of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 (for Target 15.9 – By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts)
  • SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals):
    • Indicator 17.18.1 – Proportion of sustainable development indicators produced at the national level with full disaggregation when relevant to the target, in accordance with the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics (for Target 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 Group plans to continue to reclassify indicators as requirements are met, considering them during semi-annual in-person meetings and bi-monthly teleconference meetings in between. The next tier reclassification web meetings will take place on 17 January and in early February 2019.

The next in-person IAEG meeting (March or April 2019) is expected to include the final progress review of Tier III indicators to determine whether any should be deleted. These will be included in a “preliminary list of possible deletions, replacements, adjustments and additions” for open consultation between May and July 2019 as part of the first “comprehensive review” of the global indicator framework. A list of 37 indicators under consideration for addition has been prepared.

The consultation results will be reviewed by September 2019, and a final proposal will be prepared for consideration by the UN Statistical Commission at its 51st meeting in March 2020. More details on the timeline of the comprehensive review are available here.

IAEG members stressed during the Stockholm meeting that the review should not lead to an additional burden on national statistical work, nor undermine the investments already made in national statistical systems.

The meeting also discussed: a minimum level of data disaggregation for each target and indicator; two proposed proxy indicators (for 11.a.1 and 12.b.1); and the draft guidelines on data flows and global data reporting.