Main authors: Catherine Bowyer , Clunie Keenleyside, Silvia Nanni, Anouchka Hoffmann, Nathalie van Haren , Karin van Boxtel, Paul Wolvekamp
iSQAPERiS editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: Bowyer, C. et al. (2018) Initial stocktaking report on existing policy measures. iSQAPER Project Deliverable 8.1, 125 pp


Contents table
1. Origin, objective and interconnectedness of the SDGs
2. Monitoring the implementation of the SDGs 

1. Origin, objective and interconnectedness of the SDGs

Unanimously adopted by 193 UN Member States and launched in September 2015, the SDGs sit at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development . These 17 goals aim to advance sustainable development in the world by employing a holistic approach in simultaneously advancing social inclusion, environmental sustainability and economic development . The 2030 agenda builds upon the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were set for 2000-2015, and fills the gaps that were insufficiently addressed by the MDGs , . Whereas the MDGs were directed towards developing countries being ‘assisted’ and ‘helped’ by developed countries, the SDGs are applicable to all countries and divide responsibilities across both developing and developed countries.

The Rio+20 Conference took place in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012; this conference’s outcome document, ‘The Future We Want’ (articles 245-251), officially spurred the development of the SDGs. In the interest of creating a new, people-centred development agenda, global consultations were conducted online and offline. Civil society organisations, scientists, academics, the private sector, citizens, local authorities, national governments and international organisations from around the world were actively engaged in the process. The results of these consultations fed into the negotiations between the UN Member States to develop the final SDGs in 2015.

The 17 SDGs are a reference framework for different actors. Although the SDGs are not legally binding, the 193 member states are strongly expected to integrate the goals in their policies . The SDGs are meant to integrate into international, national and regional debates on policymaking and implementation and member states have the primary responsibility to do so. Alignment with international human rights and environmental law can strengthen the enforceability of the SDGs . Due to the public commitments and attention for the SDGs, they can serve for all actors, from policymakers and citizens to academics, civil society and the private sector, as a collective language for the discussion of the implementation and progress of sustainable development; furthermore, individuals can align their goals with the 2030 Agenda.

The SDGs are characterised by:

  1. Interconnectedness: The goals are interconnected via targets and cross-cutting issues, such as land; the goals are also connected via people across regions and borders.
  2. Accountability: The goals refer to the relationship between rights holders and duty bearers. The goals encourage the duty bearers to take responsibility for the fulfilment of human rights and embolden the rights holders to hold the duty bearers accountable for this responsibility.
  3. Commitment to leave no one behind: The goals encourage sustainable development for all.

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Figure 2


2. Monitoring the implementation of the SDGs

The 17 SDGs are divided into 169 targets and 230 indicators, which are used to monitor the progress of the SDGs. The indicator framework was developed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), based on a process of open consultations and working groups.

The IAEG-SDGs has categorised the indicators based on existence of an international standard and data availability for the indicator. The group has categorised the indicators according to the following three tiers:

  • Tier 1: Indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, and data are regularly produced by countries for at least 50 per cent of countries and of the population in every region where the indicator is relevant.
  • Tier 2: Indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, but data are not regularly produced by countries.
  • Tier 3: No internationally established methodology or standards are yet available for the indicator, but methodology/standards are being (or will be) developed or tested.

According to the IAEG_SDGs:

"As of 20 April 2017: the updated tier classification contains 82 Tier 1 indicators, 61 Tier 2 indicators and 84 Tier 3 indicators. In addition to these, there are 5 indicators that have multiple tiers (different components of the indicator are classified into different tiers)."

The indicators have been (partly) integrated into national monitoring schemes; therefore, member states can report on the indicators’ progress. The indicator framework will provide insights into the impacts and results of the SDGs. Yet, at the same time, the challenge remains in the collecting, analysing and processing of the necessary data for reporting .

Therefore, the High-level Political Forum was established. It is the United Nations’ central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs. The High-level Political Forum meets regularly to monitor the implementation of the SDGs. In accordance with paragraph 84 of the 2030 Agenda:

"The HLPF, under the auspices of ECOSOC, shall carry out regular reviews, in line with Resolution 67/290. Reviews will be voluntary, while encouraging reporting, and include developed and developing countries as well as relevant UN entities and other stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector. They shall be state-led, involving ministerial and other relevant high-level participants. They shall provide a platform for partnerships, including through the participation of major groups and other relevant stakeholders."

Every meeting has a theme and focuses on a specific set of goals; though, the High-level Political Forum will annually consider Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. Based on the voluntary reviews and dialogues with the major groups and other stakeholders, HLPF will discuss the progress of the SDGs and give guidance on how to deal with challenges regarding the implementation of the agenda 2030.


Note: For full references to papers quoted in this article see



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