Measuring the Sustainable Development Goals: What does it mean for Ireland?

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MacFeely, Stephen
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De Gruyter Open
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In March 2017 the United Nations (UN) Statistical Commission adopted a measurement framework for the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development (UN, 2015d), comprised of 232 indicators designed to measure the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their respective 169 targets.1 These universal goals cover all three key development pillars: economic, social and environmental. They also include indicators for enablers such as institutional coherence, policy coherence and accountability. The implementation challenge arising from the SDGs is colossal but lies outside the scope of this article. Instead this article will focus primarily on issues relating to the measurement of the SDG indicators and the enormous challenges this will pose for countries, their statistical systems and their broader information ecosystems. The paper will also discuss how the SDGs provide a perfect example of why a coordinated and integrated statistical system is required by countries. Of course such a system is also required for national planning purposes, but often indicators are not defined by national policy from the outset and thus the data demands are not always as immediately evident. By examining the challenges ahead, oppor - tunities are identified where the Irish Statistical System (ISS) can show international leadership in areas of particular relevance to Ireland. The remainder of this article is presented in five sections. The next section provides a short history of the SDGs and their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and identifies some of the most important differences between the two. The following two sections outline some of the challenges involved in measuring the SDGs and speculate on what the cost of the measurement framework might be. Some implications and possible opportunities for Ireland and the ISS are then discussed, centring around globalisation and gross domestic product (GDP), administrative data, an Irish Govern - ment Statistical Service, privatisation of official statistics and the challenges of coordinating the flow of data required to feed the SDG monitoring framework. The final section concludes the paper.
United Nations , Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) , Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
MacFeely, Steve. (2017) 'Measuring the Sustainable Development Goals: What does it mean for Ireland?', Administration, 65(4), pp. 41–71. doi: 10.1515/admin-2017-0033