Note to the reader

Global indicator framework for the follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals

The information presented in this report is based on the latest available data (as of June 2021) on selected indicators in the global indicator framework1 for the SDGs. The global indicator framework is used to review progress at the global level and was developed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) and adopted by the General Assembly on 6 July 2017 (see resolution 71/313, annex).

The choice of indicators used in this report does not represent a prioritization of targets, since all goals and targets are equally important. The composition of regions and subregions cited in this report is based on United Nations geographical divisions, with some modifications necessary to create, to the extent possible, groups of countries for which a meaningful analysis could be carried out.2

Data sources and basis for the analysis

The values for most of the indicators presented in the report represent regional and/or subregional aggregates. In general, the figures are weighted averages of country data, using the reference population as a weight, and calculated from national data compiled by international agencies, according to their respective mandates and specialized expertise, from national statistical systems. The national data compiled by the international agencies are often adjusted for comparability and, where lacking, are estimated. As decided by the Statistical Commission and in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 2006/6, estimates used to compile the global indicators should be produced in full consultation with national statistical authorities. The criteria and mechanisms for validation by national statistical authorities are outlined in the report of the IAEG-SDGs3 and were endorsed by the Statistical Commission at its fiftieth session. 4

The collaboration between national statistical systems and regional and international organizations is essential for the effective flow of internationally comparable data. Such mechanisms can be improved by strengthening the coordination function of national statistical offices in national statistical systems.

A database of available global, regional and country data and metadata for the SDG indicators accompanying this report is maintained by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Statistics Division and is available at https://unstats.un.org/sdgs. Owing to the emergence of new data and revised methodologies, data series presented in this report may not be comparable with previous data series.

Although the aggregate figures presented in this report are a convenient way to track progress, the situation of individual countries within a given region, and across population groups and geographic areas within a country, may vary significantly from regional averages. Presenting aggregate figures for all regions also obscures another reality: the lack, in many parts of the world, of adequate data to assess national trends and to inform and monitor the implementation of development policies.

Investing in data to build back better and accelerate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals

Timely, good quality, open and disaggregated data are vital in enabling Governments, development partners, international organizations, civil society, the private sector and the general public to make informed decisions. The COVID-19 crisis has clearly demonstrated how data can effectively guide decision-making at each step of the pandemic response. At the same time, it has called attention to the fact that even the most basic health, social and economic data are often absent. Without adequate data, the most vulnerable populations who need help the most remain invisible. Many national statistical systems across the globe have faced serious challenges in tracking progress on the SDGs, which requires an unprecedented amount of data and statistics at all levels.

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, financial and technical support for data and statistical systems are needed to ensure continuation of statistical operations, momitoring of emergency response efforts, and preparation of mitigation and recovery strategies. Increased investments in national data and statistical systems and the mobilization of additional international and domestic resources are imperative if we are to build back better from the crisis and accelerate implementation of the SDGs.

Over the last few years, progress has been made on the integration of innovative data sources and the use of new data solutions. This was made possible, in part, through partnerships with civil society, the private sector and academia, and by integrating geospatial information and statistical data. However, data innovation is not benefiting all countries equally, compounded by the fact that data disparities have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The Dubai Declaration, announced at the United Nations World Data Forum in 2018, stresses the critical importance of implementing the Cape Town Global Action Plan for sustainable development data (launched at the first United Nations World Data Forum in 2017). The Declaration calls for an innovative demand-driven funding mechanism that can respond quickly and efficiently to the priorities of national statistical systems, with the goal of mobilizing both domestic and international funds. At the virtual United Nations World Data Forum in October 2020, the data community reaffirmed the urgency of accelerated action on the implementation of the Cape Town Global Action Plan and the Dubai Declaration as a key response to the COVID-19 pandemic and for the achievement of the SDGs.

1 The complete list of indicators is available at https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/indicators/indicators-list .
2 The composition of the subregions is shown in the section on “Regional groupings”.
3 See Report of the Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (E/CN.3/2019/2), Annex I.
4 See Report of the Statistical Commission on the fiftieth session (E/2019/24-E/CN.3/2019/34).