Measuring progress – the role of monitoring
Monitoring is the process of collecting information on a set of indicators that inform on key parameters. By comparing the current indicator data with previous data, we can track progress over time and find out which solutions are effective and which are not. This information is essential for an effective follow-up and review, to ensure accountability and communicate needs. By defining indicators, we specify what we want to monitor, and by defining methodologies, we describe how to monitor these indicators.
Communicating progress or the lack thereof
It’s important to recognize that different types of indicators and monitoring serve different purposes. In the context of the 2030 Agenda, a global indicator framework has been broadly defined to track progress towards the SDGs at the global level. To this end, each country is asked to provide one national value (aggregate) for each global indicator.
Having data on overall water stress (global indicator 6.4.2) from all countries in the world, for example, will provide a good overview on how well the global community is ensuring sustainable water withdrawals (SDG target 6.4), and will also indicate which countries and regions need to focus more attention on this target.
At the national level, a national aggregate can act as a very powerful message, emphasizing the need for strategic focus and internal and/or international investment. It can also be used to communicate the extent of progress to the general public, to ensure accountability.
For policy- and decision-making and planning at national and subnational levels – for example, deciding where to build a new drinking water supply or which ecosystem to protect – more detailed information is needed to prioritize and optimize interventions.
The global indicators are still useful but the data need to be disaggregated spatially and temporarily, by sector, subcomponents and different socioeconomic strata. The data also need to be contextualized and considered alongside data from other sectors, to ensure a comprehensive analysis of the impact of different development paths.
The global indicators have been defined to correspond to the global targets, and to be as useful as possible for as many countries as possible. However, not all global indicators are relevant to all countries, so each country should devise additional national and subnational indicators that reflect national circumstances and priorities while complementing the global indicators.