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Overview of the challenges in measuring and monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals

As noted in the United Nations Secretary-General’s 2019 report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, high-quality statistics are vital for enabling governments, regional and global organizations, civil society, the private sector and the general public to measure progress towards achievement of the SDGs. Moreover, the broad ambition of the 2030 Agenda creates the need for an unprecedented range of statistics at the subnational, national, regional and global levels, including those derived from official statistical systems and from administrative and non-traditional data sources. The 231 indicators selected to measure the SDGs are varied, complex and, in many cases, methodologically underdeveloped. NSOs and the broader national statistical systems (NSS) they lead in many countries (see Box 1) face an urgent need to adapt and develop in order to rise to the challenge of SDG measurement and monitoring. Though there is a wide range of statistical capabilities across countries, with some countries facing greater challenges than others, all countries face at least some challenges in SDG measurement and monitoring. As a result, accurate and timely statistics about some critical aspects of development remain missing, leaving certain groups (such as migrants) less than fully visible to decision makers and many development challenges poorly understood. To address these shortcomings and improve the statistical basis for measurement and monitoring, new data sources and collection and treatment technologies must be explored. This cannot be done by NSOs alone, so vertical and horizontal partnerships with other members of NSSs, municipalities, civil society, the private sector and academia are needed.

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