Global Goals

Measuring success
and what this means for children

Home > The Global Goals for Sustainable Development

September 2015 saw the agreement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals – a 15-year roadmap towards a better more sustainable world. Since then there has been a flurry of activity to lay the ground work for their implementation. But a key question remains: how will we measure success?

In March, the UN Statistical Commission endorsed the proposed list of 230 global SDG indicators. The list includes almost all of Unicef’s priority indicators for children, such as prevalence of stunting due to under nutrition in children under five, or the percentage of children who have experienced sexual violence by the age of 18. Agreeing the indicators was no simple task, particularly when considering there are 17 goals and 169 targets which apply universally to all countries, rich and poor. The goals also cover a very diverse set of issues, from tackling malnutrition and climate change to ending poverty and promoting sustainable growth. However, if successful they have the potential to transform the lives and future of every child.

Read more about the 230 Global SDG Indicators and Unicef’s priority indicators.

Health workers measure 3-year-old Erlan Bernoupereinev’s height and weight, in Uzbekistan. Photo: Unicef/2011/Pirozzi

Health workers measure and record the height and weight of three-year-old, Erlan, at his home.


Why does measurement matter for the Global Goals?

The saying goes “what gets measured gets done”; it’s a phrase that Secretary of State for Development, Justine Greening, is particularly keen on. As part of the new agenda, countries have committed to “Leave No One Behind” [1]. The “Leave No One Behind” principle has the potential to be radical and transformational – making it a priority to challenge entrenched marginalisation and inequalities. Groups at risk of being left behind include people with disabilities, ethnic and religious minorities, women and girls, sexual minorities, and migrants.

Data can help us assess where progress is stalling (and who we are failing) so that we can adapt our programmes to reach the most vulnerable. Data on progress will not only allow us to hold our governments to account for their commitments, but also allow us to better target our interventions. We can only ensure that we leave no one behind if we commit to, and invest in, more extensive and rigorous monitoring of progress.

What should monitoring of the Global Goals look like?

At Unicef we have highlighted four key issues for monitoring, which are to:

  1. Disaggregate data: Indicators must be separated so we can ensure no child is left behind – by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts.
  2. Apply universally: Recognising that all countries – from the UK to Uganda – will be monitored and expected to achieve the goals.
  3. Be participatory: We need to empower local actors to monitor and review progress on the ground and strengthen local accountability.
  4. Be transparent: So that governments and all stakeholders can assess whether progress is actually being achieved and every stakeholder can be held to account.

Read more about Unicef’s key issues for monitoring.

How can people get involved with the Global Goals?

The SDG negotiations were the most open and inclusive to date. This has resulted in a clear expectation that people will be able to participate in follow up and review. New advancements in data technology are making it easier to get feedback in real-time from people at national and local level, providing a critical check on the true impact of the goals on the ground. Mobile technologies are enabling constituency feedback on laws, policies or decisions.

For example, Unicef’s U-Report tool is a free social monitoring platform, designed to address issues people care about. In Uganda every Member of Parliament has signed up for U-Report to monitor and respond to the concerns of young people in their districts. Next month we’ll be launching a pilot of U-Report in the UK.

If the Global Goals are universal, what about the UK?

The UK has been a keen advocate for the “data revolution” and signed on to the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data – although what this means is still unclear. In terms of its own commitments, the UK, led by the Office for National Statistics, is currently in the process of identifying how it will report on the SDGs domestically and what data gaps exist. Following an information gathering exercise across government departments and other stakeholders, the ONS is expected to publish proposals for UK reporting in September 2016.

Several critical issues for children in the UK were not included in the global SDG monitoring framework. For example, data is currently not routinely collected on breastfeeding in the UK – an issue of crucial importance to children’s nutrition and life chances. According to a 2010 survey [2], only one per cent of women in the UK maintain exclusive breastfeeding to six months as recommended by WHO/UNICEF and the UK Health Departments. After a year, it is only one in 200 women in the UK – or 0.5% – still doing any degree of breastfeeding [3]. To put this in perspective, in Germany it is 23%, in Brazil 56% and in Senegal 99% of women. Without adequate data on breastfeeding in the UK we will not be able to measure change and progress. This needs to be addressed in the UK monitoring framework.

What are the next steps?

Countries will have the opportunity to take stock of global progress towards achieving the SDGs at the High Level Political Forum in July 2016. Excluding the UK, 22 countries, have volunteered to be among the first cohort of countries to report on progress. Taking this agenda forward will require new ways of working across countries, and a major financial investment to close data gaps.

With the agreement of the global SDG indicators, the Inter-Agency and Expert Group is now tasked with providing further technical support. This includes refining the underpinning methodology for some indicators and providing guidance on how to dis-aggregate data.

As part of this monitoring exercise, tracking the well-being of children is particularly important. Not only does it help us make investments that will enable children to survive, learn, grow and have the opportunity to fulfil their full potential; it’s a direct predictor of the future.

[1] The Department for International Development  (2015) ‘Leaving no one behind: Our Promise’
[2] HSIC (2012) ‘Infant Feeding Survey UK – 2010, Health and Social Care Information Centre’
[3] The Lancet (2016) ‘Breastfeeding Series Paper 1’

Racheal, a U-reporter narrates how U-report has empowered youth to contribute to issues that concern them.

Racheal, a U-Reporter, explains how U-report has empowered young people to contribute to issues that concern them. Unicef/2013

Yes, I want to campaign with Unicef

Sign up to campaign with us