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How the world plans to measure peaceful, just and inclusive societies: the IAEG report on Global SDG Indicators

2030 Agenda, post-2015, SDGs

The proposed global monitoring framework for the SDGs has been released. While holes and risks can be found within it, the indicators on offer cover core issues of importance to peace. But there’s much more (collective) work ahead.

The official plan for monitoring the fulfilment of the world’s new development agenda by 2030 has just been tabled by the snappily-named Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (we’ll go with “IAEG”).

The IAEG has both exceeded expectations and fallen short. Less than a year ago, some member states and national statistics offices (NSOs) were arguing that issues of peace, justice and governance could not be measured. Others made extremely conservative proposals of how this should be done. But drawing from existing practice and the experience of its own members and expert groupings, the IAEG has proved the sceptics wrong.

Big decisions the IAEG got right

The indicators selected for Goal 16 on peaceful societies are in general robust and comprehensive enough to cover the core issues. For example, target 16.1 on violence reduction is to be monitored through data on levels of physical, sexual and psychological violence, perceptions of safety, homicide rates, and conflict deaths. The world should have been measuring conflict deaths for years, but they are by their nature sensitive. By including them, the IAEG managed to rise above politics and fear of the unfamiliar to do its job properly.

The IAEG also proposes to draw on a combination of administrative and survey-based data to monitor Goal 16. This is hugely welcome, because understanding people’s actual experiences and perceptions is central to any effort to measure overall progress towards lasting peace. Many indicators for other goals relevant to peaceful, just and inclusive societies should also prove useful. Monitoring will be made all the more effective through leveraging inter-linkages between indicators, for example by disaggregating Goal 16 indicators by gender in order to measure progress in Goal 5.     

Holes and risks

The framework is not, however, without holes. As the IAEG admits, not every issue has been captured with a global indicator. This means that critical issues will go unmonitored. No global indicators are proposed to monitor asset recovery and organised crime, two important dimensions of target 16.4 on transnational threats.

In other areas, the IAEG has been conservative. Indicators proposed for target 16.3 on access to justice and the rule of law are restricted to measures of the formal criminal justice system, not a broader notion of justice that considers aspects such as dispute resolution or people’s actual experiences of justice. Member states who asserted peaceful, just and inclusive societies as one of five cross-cutting priorities in the agenda may purse their lips at this. The measure of social, political and economic inclusion of all social groups – target 10.2 – is also gravely inadequate.

Considering how these measures will affect the priorities of governments, there needs to be care about perverse incentives. If the ‘number of victims of human trafficking’ (indicator 16.2.2) is based entirely on detection rates, governments who reduced their efforts to detect and address trafficking might appear more successful. And would a reduction in unsentenced detainees (under target 16.3) reflect fairer access to justice or simply more rushed trials? Indicators that carry such risks need to be balanced out and validated using complementary indicators or be replaced.

A more collaborative way forward?

The IAEG still has work to do. It has a year to design a reporting mechanism, assess indicators for data availability and existing use, and agree on methods for monitoring them. It needs to move fast so that indicators come online as soon as possible. With a mandate to do so, the IAEG must keep working on holes and risks that emerge in the indicator set. Additionally, it should be accepted that the process thus far could have been better managed. The IAEG needs to make more use of inputs from UN agencies and other stakeholders; and as it sets out on its work for the next 15 years, it must strengthen inclusion and transparency considerably. This will be in the interest of the IAEG’s own legitimacy and effectiveness.

There are some tricky politics to navigate ahead. After NSOs have endorsed the IAEG proposal in the UNSC, member states still need to back it in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and UN General Assembly (UNGA). While they should request that the proposal be improved to plug holes and address risks, member states should support the proposed list overall: lengthy, politicised wrangling will not improve the product or advance the SDGs.

Agreeing the indicators is the easy bit: NSOs will now need to start pulling together data for 229 indicators, in addition to nationally-selected indicators and any other day-to-day work. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) boosted data availability on the issues they monitored, but the fact remains that after more than ten years, nearly a third of the 48 MDG indicators lacked data for more than half of the world. The ask is much bigger this time: not only are there more indicators, but the data also needs to be disaggregated.

To address this, first, there needs to be a radical boost in NSOs’ capacities, both through financial and technical support and through efforts to ensure they have full political independence. Second, as we have argued before, NSOs will not be able to do this job alone. Research organisations, civil society groups, UN agencies, the private sector and citizens should all be empowered to help collect data. This means capacity support and political space is needed across society. Partnerships between official and non-official data providers should be the new normal. A collective commitment to ensure that there is baseline data for every global indicator in every country by the time of the High Level Political Forum in 2019 could be what binds them together.

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels


IAEG proposed global indicator

16.1 Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere

16.1.1 Number of victims of intentional homicide per 100,000 population, by sex and age


16.1.2 Conflict-related deaths per 100,000 population (disaggregated by age group, sex and cause)


16.1.3 Percentage of the population subjected to physical, psychological or sexual violence in the previous 12 months


16.1.4 Proportion of people that feel safe walking alone around the area they live


16.2 End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children

16.2.1 Percentage of children aged 1-17 who experienced any physical punishment and/or psychological aggression by caregivers in the past month


16.2.2 Number of victims of human trafficking per100,000 population, by sex, age and form of exploitation


16.2.3   Proportion of young women and men aged 18- 29 years who experienced sexual violence by age 18


16.3 Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all

16.3.1 Percentage of victims of violence in the previous 12 months who reported their victimization to competent authorities or other officially recognized conflict resolution mechanisms


16.3.2 Unsentenced detainees as a percentage of overall prison population


16.4 By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime

16.4.1 Total value of inward and outward illicit financial flows (in current United States dollars)


16.4.2 Percentage of seized small arms and light weapons that are recorded and traced, in accordance with international standards and legal instruments


16.5 Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms

16.5.1   Proportion of persons who had at least one contact with a public official and who paid a bribe to a public official, or were asked for a bribe by these public officials, during the previous 12 months


16.5.2   Proportion of businesses who had at least one contact with a public official and who paid a bribe to a public official, or were asked for a bribe by these public officials, during the previous 12 months


16.6 Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels

16.6.1 Primary government expenditures as a percentage of original approved budget, disaggregated by sector (or by budget codes or similar)


16.6.2 Proportion of the population satisfied with their last experience of public services


16.7 Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels

16.7.1 Proportions of positions (by age group, sex, persons with disabilities and population groups) in public institutions (national and local legislatures, public service, and judiciary) compared to national distributions


16.7.2   Proportion of population who believe decision-making is inclusive and responsive, by sex, age, disability and population group


16.8 Broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance

16.8.1 Percentage of members and voting rights of developing countries in international organizations


16.9 By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration

 16.9.1 Percentage of children under 5 whose births have been registered with a civil authority, disaggregated by age


16.10 Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements

16.10.1 Number of verified cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture of journalists, associated media personnel, trade unionists and human rights advocates in the previous 12 months


16.10.2   Number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information


16.a Strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime


16.a.1   Existence of independent National Human Rights Institutions in compliance with the Paris Principles

16.b Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development

 16.b.1 Percentage of the population reporting having personally felt discriminated against or harassed in the previous 12 months on the basis of a ground of discrimination prohibited under international human rights law, disaggregated by age group and sex







Gaspard Kisoki

Gaspard Kisoki

February 26, 2016 at 1:00pm

I need write in French:
Les 16 points sont bons, mais trop théoriques. Il se pourrait que ça soit comme l'agenda pour la paix et le développement des Nations Unies. Une série de rêves non applicables à tous les Etats suite aux intérêts divergents de pays de G8 et autres forts de conseils de sécurité des Nations unies.
Les 16 points se présentent comme un catalogue d'intentions, mais non réalisables à l'exemple de la déclaration universelle de droits de l'homme. Intéressant aussi par ce que ça donne un rêve auquel le peuple du monde entier pourrait aspirer...

Please note that comments on blog posts are moderated, and anything offensive or threatening may be removed.

While they should request that the proposal be improved to plug holes and address risks, member states should support the proposed list overall: lengthy, politicised wrangling will not improve the product or advance the SDGs.

Thomas Wheeler

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Please note that comments on blog posts are moderated, and anything offensive or threatening may be removed.

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