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SDG16+ Progress Report 2019: A comprehensive global audit of progress on available SDG16 indicators

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Executive Summary

This report presents the third in a series of yearly reports produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace on Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG16), which measures peace, justice and strong institutions. Experience from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) shows that development is hindered by low peace and weak institutions. As such, in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, SDG16 is considered fundamental to the achievement of many of the other SDGs.

Building on previous work, this year’s report will focus on SDG16+. It covers the practical aspects of which data is available and which sources can currently be used as proxies. The report looks at the likely timeline for obtaining the missing data and the best mechanisms for collecting the data in ten case studies.
SDG16+ extends SDG16 to reflect that creating peaceful, just and inclusive societies requires simultaneous efforts in other interlinked SDGs. The broader measures of SDG16+ combines the original SDG16 targets with an additional 24 targets from seven other SDGs, taking the total number of targets to 36.
These additional targets are measured by a total of 33 indicators.

The main finding of this report is that although there is a clear conceptual link between SDG16 and the additional SDG16+ targets, the empirical link cannot be clearly established. The lack of data offers a potential explanation for this, if more data were available the link may be more easily shown. IEP has conducted a comprehensive data audit finding that of the additional 33 indicators in SDG16+, there is official data for only 15 of these indicators, with only six of these indicators having coverage for more than 100 countries.

To assist in filling gaps in the data, IEP provides a number of measures that can be used as substitutes, until the appropriate official data sources are developed. Of the 18 additional SDG16+ indicators that have no official data source, proxy indicators have been found for eleven. These indicators are robust and have coverage ranging from 34 countries to 146 countries, providing the ability to track progress towards meeting SDG16+ commitments within each country.

Third party data providers will play a pivotal role in the SDG16+, as it will be many years before adequate mechanisms are in place to officially measure SDG16+. However, even after the national statistical offices have collected enough relevant data, the third party providers will still be important as they will be able to act as independent benchmarks against official country data to determine inconsistencies or irregularities.

To highlight the depth of the problem, only four of the 44 measurable SDG16 and SDG16+ indicators have data for all 163 countries tracked by IEP in its Positive Peace Index. Only two indicators have a trend series of five or more years for the 163 countries. With such a paucity of data, it is expected that even highly developed countries will struggle to collect all the necessary indicators for all the SDGs. Less developed countries will have to prioritise the data that is most important for them.

Empirical analysis of the available SDG16+ data from official sources finds that only two indicators showed a high and statistically significant relationship with SDG16, while 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.

Given that empirical analysis of SDG16+ is hindered by data shortages, this report presents IEP’s Positive Peace framework as a useful tool to assess progress in lieu of official data sources.
The utility of IEP’s Positive Peace framework to SDG16+ is twofold. Firstly IEP’s Positive Peace Index has data that 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+ is aiming to capture. It can also act as a good benchmark to verify or capture inconsistencies with official country data.

As a practical example, this report also includes ten country case studies from multiple regions, each with 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.