Written by Martin Edwards, Associate Professor and Director at the Center for UN and Global Governance Studies in the Permanent Observer blog
As work moves forward to complete the proposed Sustainable Development Goals, a working list of preliminary indicators for each of the goals recently circulated online. This list of indicators was developed by the UN Statistics Division and was shared with National Statistics Offices. Rather than talk about each of the goals and their indicators in detail, I will build on my previous discussions of the Governance SDG, which is Goal 16. As with the previous work, I will focus more on the expressly political elements of Goal 16, and put aside the peace and violence components of the goal. There are four points worth noting:
1) Official Statistics Have Their Limits.
Some of the public commentary on SDG 16 recognized an important issue at the outset. Many of the things that Goal 16 is intended to measure, namely measures of a state’s degree of transparency and accountability, do not have their basis in official state statistics. It is not hard to understand why this is the case. Even if national level measures of these concepts existed, some states would most certainly not release them. One of the findings of academic research on variations in levels of country transparency is that democratic regimes are more transparent, which is a finding that is robust across studies, measures, and model specifications.
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