Six months after giving birth to a cluster of nebulous Sustainable Development Goals that aim to dramatically change the economic, social and environmental course of the planet, the United Nations is working on a drastic renovation of global data gathering to measure progress against its sweeping international agenda.
The result that emerged late last week from the U.N. Statistical Commission — an obscure body of national experts that calls itself the “apex entity of the international statistics system” — is a document as sprawling, undefined and ambitious as the sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, themselves — which lay out 17 goals and 169 sometimes overlapping targets to transform global society.
In attempting to cover at least some of that ground, the so-called “draft global indicators framework” likely will add huge new volumes of information that governments collect as they measure progress toward what amounts to a global socialist or progressive agenda.
To the extent that the indicators are adopted or incorporated by national governments, such as that of the U.S., they will also provide a powerful reorientation of public debate as they filter into academic and policy discussions.
In all, the draft framework outlines 230 statistical indicators to measure progress toward the SDGs, including such familiar ones as per-capital Gross Domestic Product and the proportion of populations living below national and international poverty lines.[….]
The indicators endorsed in the framework are “unprecedent in their scale and nuance,” according to John Pullinger, National Statistician of Britain, and immediate past chair of an expert group of national statistical agencies that pulled together the indicators for the Statistical Commission.
(The U.S. was not an expert group member, but participated in a grouping known as the Friends of the Chair of the Statistical Commission that provided guidance for the effort.)
Among other things, the SDG indicator quest included a “really strong push,” in Pullinger’s phrase, for “disaggregation,” which has been defined by the U.N. as a breakdown of statistics by “income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability and geographical location, or other characteristics.”
Just how that information will be collected, and how enlightening it will prove to be, remains to be seen, as the process to refine and obtain the data, Pullinger indicated, is likely to stretch on as long as the SDG agenda itself, through 2030.