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IAEG-SDGs Sets Workplan for Finalizing Indicators

unstats28 October 2015: The second meeting of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on the Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) agreed on a work plan for finalizing its report to the 47th UN Statistical Commission (UNSC) in March 2016. The plan includes a three-day comment period on the report.

The 46th session of the UNSC established the IAEG-SDGs to develop a global indicator framework for the monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their targets. The Group is composed of UN Member States from each sub-region, with Italy and the Philippines as Co-Chairs. The first meeting of the IAEG-SDGs took place in June 2015, in New York, US. The second meeting convened in Bangkok, Thailand, from 26-28 October 2015.

The second meeting focused on reviewing the proposed list of indicators that had been developed in the previous months. Participants also addressed the work plan and next steps for finalizing the indicators.

John Pullinger, UNSC Chair, opening the meeting, noting the difficulty of coming to agreement on indicators for monitoring such a broad agenda. He urged delegates to distinguish between issues that can be resolved immediately, and those that will require further work. He suggested that the Group clearly outline a research agenda specifying how, when and by whom further methodological work will be done, in order to obtain the necessary political support and financing for investment in national statistical systems. He also clarified that, based on the IAEG-SDGs' work, the UNSC will send its technical recommendations to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in the form of a global indicator list, together with a technical note explaining in detail the process and criteria applied in reaching the recommended indicators.

Over the three-day meeting, the Group reviewed the indicators for each of the SDGs' 169 targets. They identified as “green” the indicators that require little additional work, while marking as “gray” the indicators with significant conceptual or methodological issues remaining.

Before the end of the meeting, IAEG-SDGs members met in a closed session to finalize the work plan and next steps.

Summing up the meeting outcome, Co-Chair Lisa Bersales (Philippines) reported that the IAEG-SDGs had listed 159 green and 65 gray indicators. She said the Group will focus next on finalizing the green indicators, and will allow a three-day window for observers, including UN Member States that are not members of the IAEG-SDGs, international agencies and other stakeholders, to provide input through an online mechanism. The timing of the three-day window and the criteria for observer inputs will be announced. She said that, while all proposed indicators must be submitted to the UNSC in March 2016, the IAEG-SDGs may introduce some caveats, including the need for further time to develop the gray indicators.

Bersales outlined the agreed schedule leading up to the UNSC in March 2016, covering further work on: green indicators and data disaggregation (29 October -20 November); gray indicators (1 December-15 February); and circulation of the draft report among IAEG-SDGs members (30 November-7 December). She said the draft report to UNSC will be finalized from 7-16 December 2015, and some indicators will be updated based on the outcome of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris, France, on 8 December 2015.

She also anticipated that the IAEG-SDGs Co-Chairs will participate in a meeting of the High-Level Group (HLG) for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for post-2015 monitoring, in mid-January 2016. She announced that the third meeting of the IAEG-SDGs will take place following UNSC 47, to move forward on next steps.

Finally, Bersales reported that the IAEG-SDGs had agreed that SDG indicators should be disaggregated, where relevant, by income, gender, age, ethnicity, migration status, disability, geographic location or other characteristics, in accordance with the fundamental principles of official statistics.

Addressing the meeting, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said data disaggregation is also in accordance with international human rights law, and suggested the Group's final report reflect this in the chapeau. She also highlighted that States are already obliged to collect disaggregated data, in order to detect where discrimination is occurring, and that SDG 17 provides for capacity building. She cautioned against picking and choosing which population groups are worthy of attention, and noted that target 10.2 under the SDG on addressing inequality only mentions disaggregation by age and sex, falling “far behind” the overall ambition of the target.

Many IAEG-SDGs members expressed their appreciation for the Co-Chairs' steering of what had been a difficult process. Several regional groups and UN agencies expressed concern about having only a three-day window for providing input. Bersales clarified that after the close of the window, the IAEG-SDGs will follow up on areas where clarity is lacking, and where specific input from the technical agencies is needed.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said that 30-40% of the "green" indicators need further work, and that further indicators need to be generated as well. He stressed the SDGs should not interfere with developing countries' priorities, or override their national statistical development plans.

In closing remarks, Lenni Montiel, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), emphasized that IAEG-SDGs members represent their governments, rather than working in an individual capacity. He encouraged everyone to have patience with the process, and thanked them for their commitment. [IAEG-SDGs Webpage and Webcast links] [UNSC Chair's Statement] [Meeting Documents and Webcast Links] [Organization of Meeting] [Tweets from IAEG-SDGs 2][Sustainable Development Policy & Practice coverage of first meeting of the IAEG-SDGs]