Development and Globalization: Facts and Figures2016 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Target 17.18: Capacity-building for reliable data availability

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.
In 2015, average data availability for the Millennium Development Goal indicators was only 68 per cent.

The Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDG) has selected the 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 Statistics17.91 as the best indicator to measure progress towards this target. Unfortunately, this indicator cannot be compiled until all of the other Sustainable Development Goal indicators are formally populated.

As the Millennium Development Goal programme was completed at the end of 2015, the availability of data can be assessed. The Millennium Development Goals were comprised of 8 Goals, 19 targets and 61 indicators.

Figure 17.30. Average data availability rates for Millennium Development Goal indicators in 2015 by development status (Percentage of total) Download data
Figure 17.30: Bar chart
Source: UNCTAD secretariat calculations based on UNSD MDG Indicators database.
Note: Data availability is defined as having at least one data point.

Figure 17.30 shows that even after 15 years, sizeable data gaps exist across all Goals, particularly for Goal 817.92 where average data availability for developing regions was only 29 per cent in 2015. Across all the Goals, in 2015, the average data availability was only 68 per cent.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a much more ambitious and complex proposition comprising 17 Goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators. This represents an almost three-fold increase in the number of indicators required by the new monitoring framework.

But such a simple volume measure underestimates the real data challenge ahead, as the widening of scope and complexity of the Sustainable Development Goals compared with the Millennium Development Goals has greatly added to the task. For example, UNSD estimates that just less than half (47 per cent) of the indicators agreed by the United Nations Statistical Commission in March 2016 are categorized as tier 1The indicator is conceptually clear, an established methodology and set of standards are available, and data are regularly produced by countries.
indicators meaning concepts, methodologies, standards and data exist for compiling the indicator (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Division, 2016).

A significant investment in statistics will be needed to fulfil the requirements of the Sustainable Development Goal monitoring framework.

A further quarter of all indicators (24 per cent) are categorized as tier 2The indicator is conceptually clear, an established methodology and set of standards are available, but data are not regularly produced by countries.
with the residual indicators (28 per cent) categorized as tier 3An indicator for which there are no established methodology or standards and availability of data is unknown. Methodology and standards are being or must be developed and tested.
. While UNSD notes that this estimate is very preliminary in nature, it nevertheless gives an indication of the magnitude of the task that awaits the global statistical community.

The gaps in data availability to measure progress towards the Millennium Development Goals suggest that populating the Sustainable Development Goal monitoring framework will be very challenging. In turn this suggests that a very significant investment in both national and international statistics, data infrastructures17.93 and capacity-building, including statistical literacy, will be necessary to fulfil the requirements of the Sustainable Development Goal monitoring framework.