Review of Targets for the Sustainable Development Goals: The Science Perspective

ICSU and ISSC Review of the 169 targets set for approval by the UN

This report is an independent scientific review of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, as submitted to the UN General Assembly by the UN Open Working Group (OWG). It is a unique tool designed primarily for negotiators, technical support teams and other actors engaged in defining a universal, integrated and transformational set of global goals and targets for sustainable development and the political declaration on the post-2015 development Agenda. In particular it is a resource for technical review of the targets carried out in preparation for their adoption and translation at the national level. With more than 40 contributing authors from 21 countries, the report brings together a wide range of scientific expertise.

Full report: Review of Targets for the Sustainable Development Goals: The Science Perspective

The authors find that the SDGs offer a "major improvement" over the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, of the 169 targets, just 29% are well defined and based on the latest scientific evidence, while 54% need more work and 17% are weak or non-essential.

Many of the targets suffer from a lack of integration, some repetition and rely too much on vague, qualitative language rather than hard, measurable, time-bound, quantitative targets, the report finds.

Authors are also concerned that goals address challenges such as climate, food security and health in isolation from one another. Without interlinking there is a danger of conflict between different goals, most notably trade-offs between overcoming poverty and moving towards sustainability. Action to meet one target could have unintended consequences on others if they are pursued separately.


For additional information see the ICSU Webpage [1]