Follow-up & Review

A relevant innovation of the 2030 Agenda compared to the MDGs is their systematic review mechanism. The international community has committed itself to establishing a “robust, voluntary, effective, participatory, transparent and integrated” review mechanism (Agenda 2030, § 72), which provides for the implementation of the Agenda 2030 at national, regional and global level. The High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) takes on a central role within this mechanism and supports the global exchange of experiences.

One essential factor is that reporting is the responsibility of the member states.


The HLPF has already been mandated by a resolution within the framework of the final document of the Rio + 20 conference, “The Future We Want”. The forum takes place annually in July under the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) at UN New York and is dedicated to the review of selected SDGs during a five-day thematic segment. A subsequent three-day high-level segment focuses on voluntary reporting by member states. In addition to this main program, a large number of so-called side events offer room for discussion.

Each HLPF has a different topic, which is derived from the relevant SDGs:

2019: Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality

Goals: 4, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 17

2018: Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies

Goals: 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 and 17

2017: Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world

Goals: 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 14 and 17

While goal 17 is the focus of the HLPF every year, all other SDGs are reviewed once during a four-year cycle.

At the end of each cycle, another HLPF takes place in September under the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) at the level of the heads of government. This so-called SDG summit took place for the first time on September 24 and 25, 2019. The resolution on the follow-up and review as well as the report of the Secretary General provide information on further modalities.

Multilevel approach to review

At the national level, states are encouraged to review progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda through regular and inclusive processes. These can be designed individually according to national circumstances and priorities and should initially be independent of the HLPF.

At the (sub-)regional level, the UN economic commissions organize so-called regional fora every spring, which offer space to exchange national experiences and learn from good examples. The regions’ progress towards sustainable development is also assessed. The content and formal design is the responsibility of the respective regional commission, the results are presented in the context of the HLPF.

At the global level, the HLPF forms the central forum for review (the presentation of national progress and approaches) and follow-up (the discussion of progress and approaches and recommendation of further procedures by the international community). For this purpose, states submit Voluntary National Reviews (VNR), which, in accordance with the voluntary recommendations of the UN Secretary-General, should explain how the 2030 Agenda will be translated into the national political and strategic framework, how progress in implementation will be determined, how its results will be interpreted and which recommendations will result from it, amongst other aspects. This process-oriented presentation should ideally be supported by statistical reporting.

During the first HLPF cycle, 158 VNRs were submitted, with several states reporting repeated times:

2016: 22

2017: 43

2018: 46

2019: 47

At this point in time, 47 VNRs are registered for 2020 and 2 for 2021.


Due to the aspect of voluntariness, the reports submitted are very different in terms of content and form. The vast majority of countries integrate the 2030 Agenda into existing strategies for (sustainable) development or align the development of new strategies or plans with the SDGs. Another commonality is the increasing participation of various state and non-state actors in the implementation and review of the 2030 Agenda. The availability of qualitative data is emerging as a central challenge.

Various analyzes provide information:

The GIZ global project Partners for Review compares national review mechanisms

The Overseas Development Institute examines compliance with the LNOB principle

The Committee for Development Policy compares compliance with the implementation principles LNOB, integrated approaches and partnerships

The Together 2030 network offers the perspective of civil society

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) publishes annual synthesis reports and creates one-off comparisons of institutional mechanisms of review

Germany was one of the first countries to present its report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in July 2016. The recording of the presentation is here, a short presentation on the report format can be found here.

There are other report formats that contain relevant information depending on the context:

Annual SDG Report: Published by the UN Secretary General and drawn up by the UN Statistics Commission, they are based on global SDG indicators. The 2019 report is here.

Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR): The GSDR is drawn up on a global level by independent scientific representatives from the member states and is published every four years. The report from 2019 is here.

Regional reports: The UN regional commissions independently prepare progress reports on the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. These are the reports from ECA, ECE, ECLAC, ESCAP and ESCWA.

Further information on the reporting process can be found in the dms here.

Factsheet Follow-up and Review


The Inter-agency and Expert Group (IAEG) on SDG Indicators has been developing a set of currently 232 (status 2018) global indicators since 2016. Proposals on the methodological adjustment of the indicators can be submitted via the IAEG each year. Beyond this, a review process is envisaged for 2020 and 2025 that will make it possible to add, remove or adjust individual indicators.

The indicators are divided into three tiers:

Tier 1: Indicator conceptually clear, established methodology and standards available and data regularly produced by countries. (2019: 104 von 232)

Tier 2: Indicator conceptually clear, established methodology and standards available but data are not regularly produced by countries. (2019: 88 von 232)

Tier 3: Indicator for which there are no established methodology and standards or methodology/standards are being developed/tested. (2019: 34 von 232)

With a total of 6 indicators, individual components are assigned to different tiers.

These figures illustrate the massive data gap that exists for the global indicators of the 2030 Agenda. The IAEG is tasked with developing the methodology for these critical groups of indicators over the next few years.

Fact sheet Global Indicator Framework

Data and Indices

Collecting and evaluating (disaggregated) data is one of the major challenges when it comes to measuring and achieving the SDGs.

There are a few global initiatives that provide guidance and assistance in using open data.

Open SDG Datahub

The Open SDG Data Hub of the Statistics Commission (UN STATS) and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) of the United Nations provides the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on the status of the achievement of the official SDG indicators.

SDG Atlas

The World Bank's SDG Atlas presents maps, diagrams and data stories on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and their sub-goals. Trends, comparisons and measurement problems are discussed using accessible and shareable data visualizations.

The data are based on the World Bank's world development indicators, which compile internationally comparable statistics on global development and people's quality of life. Relevant indicators were selected for each of the SDGs in order to illustrate important ideas that can be used as proxy indicators and thus put the meaning of the global indicators in an understandable context.

SDG Tracker

The Oxford University project also gathers proxy indicators and offers a visualization tool.

SDG Index & Dahsboards

The Bertelsmann Foundation and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) have undertaken a provisional inventory of the ‘SDG fitness’ of all 193 UN member states in the form of the SDG Index and Dashboards.

The SDG Index compresses the achievement of the 17 goals into a single figure, which provides information in the form of a ranking about how far which country is from achieving the SDGs.

The SDG dashboards visualize the national performance for each of the 17 goals by using a traffic light. The color codes “green”, “yellow” and “red” are to be equated with the potential to achieve this SDG. The target values are determined by the minimum principle, which derives the aggregated result from the worst value of the respective target.

The SDG 16 Data Initiative

The SDG 16 Data Initiative is a cooperation project of various organizations with the participation of Transparency International, Open Society Foundation and Governance Data Alliance, among others, which has a particular focus on SDG 16, which is relatively badly affected by data shortages: Until recently, the majority of sub-goals of SDG 16 were assigned to Tier III; Even after gradual re-allocation to Tier II through the definition of suitable measurement methods, global data availability remains weak. Under the umbrella of the initiative, globally recognized proxy indicators with sufficient area-wide available data are collected, which can be used for an adequate measurement. Auxiliary indicators for measuring targets for which data are available in individual countries were also proposed.

Further Indices

Progress in the achievement of individual SDG indicators is monitored by so-called custodian agencies. For example, UN Women, OECD DAC and the World Bank provide data for SDG 5 and the gender-relevant goals of the SDGs. SDG 4 is being reviewed by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics on Global Education.

Information on which custodian agencies are responsible for which indicators can be found in the classification according to tiers by the IAEG SDGs.

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) (ODI "Leave No One Behind" Index) measures how well countries are positioned to achieve LNOB in three areas: data, policies/strategies, and financing.

Other indices that focus on SDGs:

Interesting for project design

A look at the voluntary national reviews gives an initial idea of how the country addresses the 2030 Agenda, where priorities lie, whether there is or will be a national strategy, and who the key actors are in the country.

The thematic reports in preparation for the HLPF provide good insight into trends in the respective thematic areas (SDG 5, SDG 1).

The global Partners for Review’ project addresses in detail the global reporting by countries to the HLPF and provides answers to questions.

The indicators offer key guidance for planning officers in assessing where a country or region currently stands as regards implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Planning officers can also use the indicators to make sure when designing new projects that TC programmes are compatible with the indicators of the 2030 Agenda.

Apart from the global indicators (which are located at impact level from the project’s perspective), it is much more relevant to look at the national indicators when designing projects and possibly aligning the indicators.

When appraising global or regional programs, cross-cutting analyses between different states highlight regional development trends and deficits. It should still be borne in mind, though, that the information provided by indices has its limits due to the lack of available data and data quality. Alternative data sources can do little to remedy this situation.

For planning officers, the critical yet constructive discussion of how achievement of the goals can be measured serves as a basis for deciding whether to use global or national indicators (Tier 1) or auxiliary indicators for the project’s results matrix, depending on the sectoral orientation of the project. The data also provide comprehensive information for formulating the problem analysis and the opportunity to make comparisons with other countries in the region.

The UPR-SDG Data Explorer makes it possible to combine recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council with the goals and indicators of the 2030 Agenda. This facilitates the use of information from the UN human rights system in designing programs. The Explorer provides the option of disaggregating data according to countries, regions, the SDGs and target groups.

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