SDG Goal 16 Audit

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) has released the SDG16+ Progress Report for 2019, which provides a comprehensive audit on the available indicators for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG Goal 16).

SDG Goal 16 identifies peace as a critical component to achieving sustainable development. It acts on lessons learnt from the Millennium Development Goals showing that low peace and weak institutions hinder development.

The latest IEP report builds on previous work analysing data available for SDG Goal 16 by expanding the scope to include SDG Goal 16+.

The report includes an overview of accessible data, other sources of data that are useful as proxies, a likely timeline for obtaining missing data, and case studies from ten countries demonstrating ways to collect datasets that are currently unavailable.

What is SDG16+?

SDG16+ is a larger framework of indicators connected with peace, justice and inclusive societies. The framework combines the original SDG16 targets with an additional 24. All of these indicators have been taken from seven other sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The total number of targets increases to 36 under the new framework. This brings the total number of measurable indicators to 33.

The key finding of the report is that while SDG16 and SDG16+ are conceptually linked, an empirical link cannot be clearly established. The lack of available data measuring SDG Goal 16 indicators offers a potential explanation.

If more data were available, the empirical link may be easier to decipher. After a comprehensive data audit, the report finds that of the 33 indicators in SDG16+ framework, official data only exists for 15 of these indicators. Only six of these indicators have coverage for more than 100 countries.

Despite the lack of data, the report provides a number of substitute measures. These substitutes can be used until the appropriate official data sources are developed by countries.

Of the 18 additional SDG16+ indicators with no official data source, proxy indicators have been found for eleven. These indicators are robust and provide the ability to track countries’ progress towards meeting SDG16+ commitments. Furthermore, data coverage ranges from 34 countries to 146 countries.

Data collection difficulties

It will be many years before adequate data mechanisms are in place to officially measure SDG Goal 16 within some countries. Third party data providers will play a pivotal role in the meantime.

Once relevant statistical capacity is achieved by national statistics offices, third party providers will continue to be important independent benchmarks to show inconsistencies in data.

It is expected that even highly developed countries will find it difficult to collect the necessary indicators to measure all SDGs. Accordingly, less developed countries will prioritise data most important to them.

To highlight the depth of the problem, only four of the 44 measurable SDG16 and SDG16+ indicators are tracked by data for all 163 countries analysed by IEP in its Positive Peace Index 2020 report. Only two indicators have a trend series of five or more years for the 163 countries.

Analysis of SDG16+ data finds that only two indicators have a statistically significant relationship with SDG Goal 16. With the remaining indicators, four had moderate significance, and nine showed low or no statistical relationship.

It is possible that stronger statistical results linking SDG16+ with SDG16 could be obtained if more data was available.

Positive Peace Framework to assess progress

Given that the empirical analysis of SDG Goal 16+ is hindered by data shortages, the report presents IEP’s Positive Peace framework as a useful tool to assess progress. This is especially the case in the absence of official data sources.

The utility of IEP’s Positive Peace framework to SDG16+ is twofold. Firstly, IEP’s Positive Peace Index data covers 163 countries and independent territories, 99.7 per cent of the world’s population.

Secondly, Positive Peace shows a statistically significant relationship with 12 of the 15 SDG16+ indicators, where data is available.

Given this, Positive Peace acts as a good proxy to measure the broader systemic approach that SDG16+ aims to capture. It can also act as a good benchmark to verify or capture inconsistencies with official country data.

The 2019 SDG16+ Progress report also includes ten country case studies from multiple regions. Each contains varying levels of statistical collection capacity and Positive Peace. It highlights that in many cases, existing survey instruments could be modified or extended to collect data for most of the SDG16+ indicators.