Finn Woelm

Hacker · Entrepreneur

Stories from the life of Finn, Openly, and other things.

SDGs Journal

My journey to understand and contribute to the achievement of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Apr 16, 2019 // 6:03pm @ Fischerinsel, Berlin, Germany

I have decided to start by first looking at how we are tracking progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

I started on the UN’s website on tracking progress towards the SDGs. However, the site is disappointingly… empty. It boils down to a mention of Voluntary National Reviews for countries to self-report on progress towards achievement of the SDGs.

These Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) are quite interesing. As I’m writing this, there are 182 of these reviews, all publicly available. (North Korea has announced that they will be conducting such a voluntary review in 2020.

But these reviews are long and it’s time-intensive to extract information on SDG achievement from them. Not the best way to track SDG progress. But a fantastic resource for a super close-up review of an individual country. They will be a good resource to return back to when looking at the specific obstacles in each country.

Voluntary National Review

I then turned to DuckDuckGo. A search for “sustainable development goals progress” led me to Apparently, the first and only website to track progress on the SDGs:

[We] built this SDG Tracker—the first project of its kind to track the latest data across all of the 17 SDGs […] This seemed like a crucial project to launch. Yet no other organisation to date has launched a similar platform.
About Page

For each goal, they list its indicators and then an interactive graph next to it. The graph gives a good idea of progress over time. Although, it would have been nice to show a target line. There’s also a map view as seen below.

SDG Tracker Website

Everything is organized by goal and indicator, not by country. That makes it difficult to see who is and who is not on track to achieve the SDGs.

The people behind sdg-tracker have also researched which indicators are currently not being monitored: Roughly 40%. That is A LOT.

On that note, the UN has actually categorized indicators into three tiers:

Tier Classification Criteria/Definitions:
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.

And they say that “the updated tier classification contains 101 Tier I indicators, 91 Tier II indicators and 34 Tier III indicators.” Hmmm… But they are working on methodology for assessing the tier 3 indicators.

SDG Data Availability: 40% of indicators are not yet being monitored

Continuing my Google searched yielded another result: SDG Index & Dashboard. An annual report focused on identifying each countries’ progress and gaps. The outcomes are beautifully arranged into their interactive dashboard.

For each country, it shows their performance on every single one of the 17 SDGs: Have they achieved it? Are they on track to achieve it? Is their progress reversing?

When you click on one of the SDGs, it even shows progress on each indicator for the goal.

This is a perfect starting point for me to understand where we are currently at in our work towards achievement of the SDGs. I will definitely be coming back to this.

SDG Dashboard: Germany has achieved 1 of 17 SDGs

Side note: I don’t quite understand why it says “Significant challenges remain” for SDG 15 for Germany, but then the trend claims “maintaining SDG achievement”. I’ll reach out to the authors and see what’s up with that.

The last note-worthy resource I found were so-called National Reporting Platforms (NRPs): Separate websites, each run by an individual country to report their own SDG data.

I stumbled across four countries — the US, the UK, Rwanda, and Armenia — using an open-source self-reporting platform. It’s a good place to find data on each of the targets. However, it is quite difficult to see whether a target has been achieved, is on track to being achieved, or is on track to miss the mark. That said, it’s all open source, so you can actually get involved and help make these platforms better. You can find them on GitHub. Seems like the UK’s repository is seeing the most activity at the moment.

The UK's National Reporting Platform

Australia has a different, closed-source (?) website that shows data on the SDGs — but, again, it is very difficult to evaluate progress.

Lastly, there is progress reporting for Asia and the Pacific by UN ESCAP, but with limited details.

I actually learned that this self-reporting of data by every countries is the UN’s official strategy for monitoring SDG progress:

On 6 July 2017, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a global indicator framework to monitor the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a voluntary and country-led endeavour. — The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018, p. 16

Okay, that’s it for now. I’ll let those resources marinate in my head for a while. Be back soon!

Apr 15, 2019 // 9:21am @ Fischerinsel, Berlin, Germany

Welcome to my 2nd journal!

It’s September 2015. 150+ world leaders have gathered in New York. They are here to agree on a list of objectives to guide the development of the world for the next 15 years.

This list of objectives becomes knows as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goals range from ending poverty to tackling climate change. A greatly ambitious endeavor.

My goal in life has always been to contribute to a world that works for all, people and planet. The UN’s SDGs are the best description of such a world that I have seen to date.

So I am starting this journal to better understand the SDGs. And to seek answers to question like these:

  • Is the work of the UN limited to setting goals? Or is there a blueprint for how we (as a world) will achieve the SDGs?
  • Are we on track to achieve the SDGs (by 2030)? Who is tracking progress?
  • For each goal, which countries are making progress? Which are regressing?
  • For each goal and country, what are the key obstacles to achieving the targets?
  • For each obstacle, who are the key players working to overcome these challenges?
  • How can I be useful in all of this?

Do you have any thoughts? I would love to hear from you!