Fourth Meeting of IAEG on SDG Indicators

The indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals are a fundamental component of the Agenda 2030. The task of putting together the list of indicators has been assigned to the Inter Agency Expert Group (IAEG-SDG). It held its fourth meeting at the United Nations Grounds in Geneva on 17-18 November. A trade union delegation was present.

The meeting was meant to continue progress on establishing the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators to begin setting baselines for the global monitoring framework in 2017. The agenda was organised into three broad categories focusing on:

  1. the Tier III indicators, or those indicators which still require significant work to finalize;
  2. the ‘refinement’ of already agreed indicators, to make them more technically sound, and;
  3. more cross-cutting issues like data disaggregation and national to international level reporting.

It is worth noting that the meeting was held over four days but only two days were open to the non IAEG membership, which includes UN Member States, UN Specialized Agencies, Multilateral Institutions and the non-executive actors. Civil Society groups expressed their unhappiness with this approach and insisted that the entire meeting be open. Interestingly, this is not only a matter of transparency, but one of efficiency in working methods, since in many instances the national statistical offices rely upon the UN Specialized Agencies for their expertise in making decisions.

Throughout the meeting there was quite a bit of uncertainty around the status of the indicators, vis-à-vis the UN General Assembly, which would ultimately need to approve the package. The meeting itself did not manage to provide much clarity on the issue, as many of the indicators are a work in progress, and there are no clear guidelines which govern how the IAEG must work, so ‘decision-making’ remains very ad hoc and flexible. For instance, ahead of the meeting it seemed that there would be no grounds for adding new indicators or drastically altering existing ones. However, over the course of the meeting it seemed that both would most likely happen.

Particularly interesting for the labour movement, were the significant alterations to a number of targets which can be viewed here. Notably, the changes to Target 8b (By 2020, develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization), state:
Original Indicator: “Total government spending in social protection and employment programmes as a proportion of the national budgets and GDP”
Proposed Refinement (Pre Meeting): “Total government spending in social protection and employment programmes as a proportion of the national budgets and GDP
Revision Proposed during the meeting: “Existence of a developed and operationalized national strategy for youth employment, as a distinct strategy or as part of a national employment strategy”

Then there are a list of targets where additional indicators are likely to be suggested which can be found here. Of particular relevance is the inclusion in this list of target 8.5 (By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value) and 8.7 (Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms).

Overall, it is positive development that indicators can still be improved. However, there is of course the risk that indicators can be diluted. In addition, the need to finalise the indicators and start monitoring progress on the SDGs and targets is increasingly urgent.

The next IAEG Meeting will take place in March 2017 ahead of the UN Statistical Commission. It is worth noting that the IAEG will continue to work through the next year and likely longer, perhaps becoming something more permanent.

All of the official information for the meeting including agenda, background documents and presentations can be found here.

The following statement was delivered by the trade union delegation which focused on the IMF/WB indicators for targets 10.5 (Improve the regulation and monitoring of global financial markets and institutions and strengthen the implementation of such regulations) and 17.13 (Enhance global macroeconomic stability, including through policy coordination and policy coherence) which can be read here.

Trade unions also contributed to another statement delivered by APWLD which can be read here.

Additional documentation worth reviewing on the Tier Systems can be reviewed here and here.

The workplan concerning Refinement and Revisions can be viewed here.

Finally the workplan of the IAEG can be reviewed here.