Four years on from the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), countries around the world seek methods that provide simple but comprehensive narratives on their progress. Given the complexity of the agenda and its indicator framework, key questions that arise are what is an appropriate method to summarize information? and how to get everyone counted? This paper provides an overview of various existing methodologies for assessing progress towards the SDGs. It provides guidance on how to choose an appropriate method that is fit for the purpose of analysis. The paper also recommends an approach for measuring SDG progress that accounts for progress among the furthest left behind groups in order to fulfil the leave no‐one behind ambition of the 2030 agenda. Applying the new approach to data from countries in Asia‐Pacific region shows that, when disaggregated statistics are available, the inclusive measurement can significantly change the progress narrative and our understanding of priorities for SDGs implementation.
- Given the diversity of practices in measuring progress towards sustainable development and the complexity of the indicator framework provided by the SDGs, policymakers need to make a careful choice among existing approaches. An appropriate approach is one that clearly answers their policy questions.
- The 2030 agenda is a people‐centred development framework and its measurement should accommodate the inclusion of disaggregated statistics from the furthest behind population groups. SDGs progress assessment should examine if all sub‐population groups are making the required progress to achieve the 2030 targets.
- Setting clear and specific national targets are an essential part of measuring progress towards sustainable development. To make progress assessment possible, policymakers should engage with the statistical community to define specific and numeric target values that are aspirational but within reach if existing resources are used efficiently.
- The SDGs framework is multidimensional and any progress assessment needs to provide insight on all different dimensions to be useful for national planning and prioritization. Measurement frameworks should ensure that information is aggregated and communicated at various levels in order to capture all dimensions of the SDGs.