Measuring progress, true wealth, and well-being
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) published the 2019 Europe Sustainable Development Report.The report was commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Office in Finland, and the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (HBF) European Union, to provide an independent quantitative report on the progress of European Union Member States towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report includes 113 indicators covering the 17 SDGs: thefindings show that the biggest challenges faced by EU member states concern goals related to climate, biodiversity and circular economy. The countries closest to achieving the SDGs are Denmark, Sweden and Finland, while Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus rank last out of the 28 countries. The report outlines six transformations that can support achieving all 17 SDGs. The report concludes with practical recommendations to the European Commission with a focus on three broad areas: internal priorities, diplomacy and development cooperation, and tackling negative international spillovers.
The SDG Centre of Excellence for the Arab Region (SDGCAR) of the EDA (Emirates Diplomatic Academy) supported by the SDSN Secretariat, published thee 2019 Arab Region SDG Index and Dashboards Report.Intended to act as a tool for governments and other stakeholders, the report measures progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and marks a starting point for priority areas, policies and future action. The index comprises 105 indicators and uses a traffic light system to indicate performance. The study finds that there is a notable regional disparity across achievement of the SDGs, with poor and conflict-affected countries at the highest risk of falling behind. The most significant common challenges arise around sustainable food production and gender equality, and a positive momentum between environmental sustainability, water and climate change is identified. Insufficient data remains a barrier to measure sustainable development performance, which makes overarching policy recommendations difficult – as responses and solutions need to be country- and context-specific.
The Council of the European Union has adopted conclusions on the Economy of Wellbeing. The Economy of Wellbeing, which is a priority of the Finnish Presidency, is a policy orientation and governance approach which aims to put people and their wellbeing at the centre of policy and decision-making. This is vitally important to the Union’s economic growth, productivity, long-term fiscal sustainability and societal stability. By adopting the conclusions, the Council invites Member States and the European Commission to include an economy of wellbeing perspective horizontally in national and European Union policies.
The 2019 Sustainable Development Report: Mediterranean Countries Edition was produced by the University of Siena (Santa Chiara Lab), on behalf of Sustainable Development Solutions Network Mediterranean (SDSN Med). The report analyses the progress of 23 countries in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean basin towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report includes 114 indicators. The best results are recorded with regard to Goal 1 (no poverty), 3 (good health and well-being) and 4 (quality education). Six major transformations are identified to promote the progress towards implementing various SDGs; ‘Sustainable food, land, water and oceans’, ‘Energy decarbonisation and sustainable industry’, ‘Sustainable cities and communities’, ‘Health, wellbeing and demography’, Education, gender and inequality’, and ‘Harnessing the digital revolution for sustainable development’. The report makes policy recommendations to improve sustainable agricultural practices, integration of women within society and to give priority to the conservation of marine biodiversity. The report also advocates for increased public and private investment in research and innovation for sustainable development.
The King Khalid Foundation (KFF), a charitable organization established by the family of the late King Khalid, has published a report providing a National Framework for Measuring Prosperity in Saudi Arabia. The framework covers all aspects of quality of life and provides a model for monitoring national assets that serve as a driving force of the quality of life. The framework is divided into two components - current and future prosperity. The first one is composed of 12 dimensions of quality of life: safety; income, expenditure & wealth; jobs & earnings; life-work balance; health; education; housing; environment; civic engagement & governance; social connections; life satisfaction; culture. The second component focuses on four resources: natural, economic, human, and social wealth. The framework shows a gap in equal opportunities in education, employment and training for young people, as well as disparities in economic participation and earnings between females and males. The objective of the KKF, through the framework, is to build a Saudi society with equal opportunities and prosperity that leaves no one behind.
The Social Progress Imperative, a US-based non-profit, published the 2019 edition of the Social progress Index. The index is the only metric to comprehensively and systematically focus on the non-economic dimensions of social performance across the globe. The index has evolved over time, involving a large body of research on moving “beyond GDP”. The sixth edition covers 149 countries, ranked though 51 social and environmental indicators which cover three dimensions of social progress: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity. In addition, each dimension is divided into four components. The results of the 2019 index show striking differences across countries but overall social progress is advancing. The world score is 64.4, with improvements observed in all social progress components. 137 countries register an improved social progress score since 2014 but there are also some negative outliers, such as Chad, Central African Republic and South Sudan. The top performing countries are Norway, Denmark and Switzerland.
The Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 “Future is Now: Science for Achieving Sustainable Development”, was prepared by an independent group of scientists appointed by the United Nations. The report was commissioned by the Member States of the United Nations in 2016 and will be officially launched at the UN SDGs Summit. This quadrennial report describes the current development model as unsustainable and states that the progress made so far could easily be reversed due to worsening social inequalities and dangerous declines in the natural environment. It therefore calls for a drastic change in development policies, actions and incentives as well as more specific transformations in key areas, such as human activities, including food, energy, consumption and production, and cities. In order to achieve such changes, the report advocates for a better understanding of the interconnections between the individual SDGs and the concrete systems that define society today. Science must play a major role in advancing sustainable development.
The Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) published a paper titled “Measuring prosperity – navigating the options”, commissioned by the WWF. As the title suggests, the paper explores the shortcomings of GDP as a measure of progress and identifies key alternative indicators. These are distinguished between indicators which primarily act as narrative or ‘story-telling’ devices, and those which primarily act as decision aids for policy. Advantages and disadvantages of alternative indicators are discussed throughout the paper, as well as the conditions that make a “good” indicator.
The Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge published its initial report for the Wealth Economy Project, titled “Measuring wealth, delivering prosperity”. The report advocates for an improvement in economic measurement to guide effective policy making. An alternative measurement framework is recommended, going beyond GDP and based on the wealth economy instead. The proposed framework measures comprehensive wealth through six types of economic assets: physical assets and produced capital; net financial capital; natural capital; intangible assets; human capital; social and institutional capital. Measuring changes in these assets is essential to deliver sustainability for the economy, society and environment.
Legatum Institute, an independent educational charity, published the Prosperity Index of the United States. The index assesses the development, growth and extent of prosperity across the 50 states and the District of Columbia and its evolvement over the past decade. Prosperity is assessed through 200 indicators in 11 pillars: business environment; market access & infrastructure; economic quality; safety & security; personal freedom; governance; social capital; living conditions; education; health; natural environment. The results indicate that prosperity has increased all across the US, with Massachusets being the most prosperous state and Mississipi the least one. However, no single state has succeeded in achieving both economic and social well-being. Out of the 11 pillars, Economic quality is the one that has seen the greatest improvement over the last 10 years.
The OECD published the 2019 “Going for Growth” report. The publication provides a guide to policy makers on where to focus their reform efforts for citizens’ well-being, so as to achieve a strong, sustainable and inclusive growth. For the first time, the 2019 edition explicitly includes environmental sustainability considerations, calling for environmental taxation, reductions in transport emissions and the phase out of environmentally harmful subsidies. The report finds slow growth, high uncertainty and rising inequality and recommends country-specific structural reforms that can boost growth, competitiveness and productivity, create jobs and ensure a cleaner environment. As a result, most countries have reform priorities that address both growth and environmental issues. The report also includes an assessment of top structural reform priorities in 46 OECD and non-OECD economies, finding a disappointing pace of reforms in 2017-2018. The most common reform priority across countries was Education.
The UNDP’s Human Development Report Office (HDRO) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) published the 2019 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index. The publication provides a detailed overview on global poverty and monitors progress towards Goal 1 of the Sustainable Development Goals – to end poverty. The index studies 101 countries - 31 low income, 68 middle income, and 2 high income. The report reveals that 1.3 billion people are ‘multidimensionally poor’, meaning that the term poverty goes beyond income levels and includes additional indicators such as poor health, poor working conditions, and threat of violence. Two-thirds of multidimensionally poor people are found to live in middle-income countries. The report also reveals that 10 countries showed progress in poverty reduction, with India, Cambodia and Bangladesh showing the fastest reductions. Furthermore, the report argues that no individual indicator can give sufficient information on inequality and multidimensional poverty, rather a combination of indicators must be used for the best assessment.
The United Nation Statistics Division published the 2019 Sustainable Development Report. The report tracks global progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), taking stock of how far we have come in realizing our commitments. The results of the report are based on the latest available data (as of May 2019) on selected indicators in the global indicator framework for the SDGs. The findings show progress in certain areas and trends. For instance, extreme poverty has declined and concrete actions are being undertaken also in relation to the protection of the planet. Despite such progress, the report shows that many areas still need urgent collective action to unleash the social and economic transformation needed to achieve our 2030 goals. The natural environment is deteriorating at an alarming rate and current efforts to end human suffering and create opportunity for all are moving too slowly. The report also highlights the importance of the quality and availability of data to track progress on the SDGs.
UNCTAD published the SDG Pulse, their first annual online statistical report on the developments related to the Agenda 2030 and the SDGs. The report provides an update of selected SDG indicators, data and statistics, reviews the progress in methodologies for Tier III indicators and provides an overview of UNCTAD’s contributions to the Agenda 2030. The indicators cover three themes: multilateralism for trade & development; productive growth; and structural transformation. In addition, indicators are categorised by goal, reflecting UNCTAD’s broad mandate of economic and sustainable development. In particular, the indicators analysed in the SDG Pulse relate to Goal 2, 8, 9, 10, 12, 16 and 17. Every year, the SDG Pulse highlights a specific aspect of the 2030 Agenda, and in 2019 addresses aspects of global economic and income inequality as well as inequality in access to data.
Eurostat published the 2019 Report on “Sustainable Development in the EU”. The report monitors the EU’s progress towards the SDGs. The analysis builds on the EU SDG indicator set which comprises 100 indicators across all 17 SDGs. The EU’s progress and trends towards the SDGs are monitored over the past five years (short-term) as well as over the past 15 years Long-term), where data is available. According to the findings of the report, the EU has made some progress towards most of the SDGs in the short-term. The best performance is observed for SDG 3 ‘good health and well-being’, followed by SDG 1 ‘no poverty’ and SDG 8 ‘decent work and economic growth’. However, within some goals, the report finds that the EU has actually moved away from sustainable development objectives. Trends were not calculated for SDG 6 ‘clean water and sanitation’, SDG 14 ‘life below water’ and SDG 16 ‘peace, justice and strong institutions’ due to insufficient data.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Bertelsmann Stiftung published the Sustainable Development Report 2019, presenting an updated SDG Index and Dashboards for all UN member states. The report, published annually since 2016, provides an assessment of countries’ progress in the achievement of the 17 SDGs. The 2019 edition includes new indicators, in particular in relation to agriculture, diets, gender equality and freedom of speech. In addition, new metrics have been added for international spillovers. The findings of the report show that no country is on track for achieving all 17 SDGs. In particular, countries perform worse on SG 13 (Climate Action), SDG 14 (Life Below Water), and SDG 15 (Life on Land). Income and wealth inequalities remain important challenges in both developing and developed countries. Denmark, Sweden and Finland top the SDG index, whereas the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, and the Central African Republic rank last among the 162 countries assessed.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa (SDGC/A) have released the 2nd edition of the Africa SDG Index and Dashboards report. The report ranks 52 African countries (Seychelles and Libya being excluded due to insufficient data coverage) based on 97 indicators across all 17 goals. The SDG Index score represents each country’s position between the worst (0) and best (100) possible outcomes. This year’s top country is Tunisia, with a score of 66.01, meaning that Tunisia is 66% of the way towards achieving the SDGs. The overall average score is around 52, meaning that the continent as a whole is far from achieving the SDGs. The report also assesses governments’ efforts at incorporating the SDGs in their national strategies, budgets, etc. Lack of funding and resources is reported to be the single most significant challenge both in terms of SDG implementation and monitoring.
The Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP), a UK-based think tank, has published a report introducing the new CPP Inclusive Growth (IG) Country Index, the first major output of its recent partnership with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Inclusive Growth. The index, building on five indicators on consumption, life expectancy, leisure, consumption inequality and unemployment, aims to assess inclusive growth across over 150 countries, and presents data for 2000-2017. The report found that there are significant differences between GDP per capita and the IG score. In particular, the relevance of GDP per capita for inclusive growth is lower for richer countries. Inclusive growth was also found to be closely related to, but distinct from, other measures of welfare, such as human development. Two additional inclusive growth metrics are to be developed as part of this project, one at community level in the UK, and the other at company level.
In May 2019, the New Zealand government unveiled its Wellbeing budget 2019, thus becoming the first ever national government to allocate its entire budget based on wellbeing priorities. The budget focuses on five priority areas: mental health, child wellbeing, Maori and Pasifika aspirations, productivity, and economy transformation. Data from the Treasury’s Living Standard Framework (LSF) Dashboard, combined with experts’ advice, were used to identify these priority areas. The LSF Dashboard, produced by the New Zealand Treasury, provides a range of wellbeing indicators and serves as a framework for assessing the wellbeing impact of policies and proposals. The Treasury will be required to report on New Zealand’s wellbeing data at least every four years. The Public Finance Act is to be amended to ensure that wellbeing remains a focus in future budgets.
The Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP), an academic institute at University College London (UCL), and the London Prosperity Board, a cross-sector partnership established by the IGP, launched in May 2019 the Prosperity Index for London, the UK’s first citizen-led Prosperity Index. The Prosperity Index measures what matters to the prosperity of local communities in five neighbourhoods in east London, using specially commissioned household survey data comparing local experience to the average for Greater London and secondary data sources. The Index reports on 5 domains, 15 dub-domains and 32 headline indicators, chosen through qualitative research informed by citizens. It represents the outcome of four years’ research. Headline finding is that insecure livelihoods (household security, job security, and financial stress) are undermining the foundations of prosperity in east London.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Brabant Center for Sustainable Development published the first-ever SDG Index and Dashboards Report for European Cities. The report shows and compares the performance of cities in the European Union and European Free Trade Association on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The approach used builds on the methodology used by the SDSN and the Bertelsmann Stiftung to measure SDG performance globally. Index scores and detailed dashboards are presented for each goal for 45 European cities. The findings of the report show that no European capital or metropolitan areas has achieved the SDGs. Oslo is the best performing city, followed by Stockholm and Helsinki. Overall, the worst performance is observed on SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 15 (Life on Land).
The OECD published the second edition of the report “Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets – An assessment of where OECD countries stand”. The study compares countries’ progress across SDG goals and targets with the objective of helping OECD countries in understanding challenges and setting their priorities for action within the Agenda 2030. The study is based on the 232 UN global indicators and data is available to assess 105 of 169 SDG targets. Going beyond the 2017 edition, the report shows whether countries are moving in the right direction, indicator by indicator, but not the pace of change. The report highlights that more than half of the targets of Agenda 2030 is transboundary in nature, thus requiring countries to consider their impacts beyond their own borders. Findings show that OECD countries are on average closest to achieving goals on energy, cities and climate and goals relating to planet. On the other hand, they are furthest away from goals related to inclusiveness.
The Scottish Government, under their ‘National Performance Framework’ (NPF), published Scotland’s Wellbeing Report 2019, “Delivering the National Outcomes”.The NPF sets out Scotland’s purpose and vision on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report informs on Scotland’s performance on 11 National Outcomes, through 81 economic, health, social and environmental national indicators, presenting an overall picture of wellbeing. The report aims at providing a clear assessment of Scotland’s progress one year on from the refreshed NPF.
Happy City, a UK based charity with the mission of “making what matters count”, published the second edition of the Thriving Places Index, with support of Triodos Bank. The index aims at putting the well-being of people, place and planet at the heart of decision-making in the UK. It provides a reporting framework showing the conditions for well-being at the local level. The index is formed by a broad set of indicators grouped under three main domains: local conditions, sustainability and equality. The 2019 edition includes the coverage of all second-tier local authorities areas in Wales, in addition to England. The result is a clear picture of the local conditions in 373 local authority areas in England and Wales. Results for England show a noticeable North-South divide for Local Conditions, with the South performing better. Areas with greater population diversity perform better in Equality. Results for Wales show a general downward trend compared to the average.
Istat, the Italian National Statistical Institute, published the second edition of the Report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with statistical information on the Agenda 2030 in Italy. The report provides an overview of the Italian transition to sustainable development and an update of the indicators used in Italy to monitor progress towards the SDGs. The 2019 edition includes an updated set of 123 UN-IAEG-SDGs indicators and 303 national statistical measures. Particular attention was given to potential disaggregation by socio-demographic characteristics, such as gender, citizenship, presence of limitations (disabilities), and territory. For 175 measures, it was possible to provide also regional disaggregation. Progress is monitored in the long (10 years) and medium (5 years) term. In the medium term, positive variations have been observed in relation to Goal 2, 4, 5, 7 and 12, while more than 50% of indicators have remained unchanged. Geographical differences show that the North of Italy is progressing more on sustainable development compared to the rest of the country.
The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) released the 2019 Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific, published annually since 1947. The 2019 Survey consists of four chapters. The first one underlines the social and environmental costs of the Asia-Pacific region’s economic growth over the past 50 years, and the second assesses the economic outlook and policy challenges faced by the region. The third chapter estimates the financial cost of achieving the SDGs through investments in people and planet, and the final chapter concludes on the necessity of cooperation and calls for raising ambition beyond economic growth. SDGs are broken down into five categories and the investment necessary to achieve each of them by 2030 is calculated using several indicators. Overall, the survey estimates that economic conditions in the Asia-Pacific region are stable, and that achieving the SDGs by 2030 would require a significant investment for the developing countries in the region.
The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network has released the 7th World Happiness Report on International Day of Happiness. This year’s central theme is happiness and community, focusing on happiness evolution over the past 12 years and the role of technologies, social norms, conflicts and government policies in driving those changes. The reports presents 156 country happiness rankings and their evolution since 2005, using a scale composed of three key happiness measures: life evaluations, positive affect, and negative affect. Six key explanatory factors of well-being are also evaluated: social support, freedom, corruption, generosity, log of GDP per capita, and healthy life expectancy. At global level, life evaluations fell sharply in 2008, before recovering by 2011 and falling steadily since then. Global inequality of well-being has been fairly constant between countries, but is rising within countries. Finland tops the ranking, while Benin, Nicaragua, Bulgaria and Latvia are among the 20 countries showing the biggest increases in happiness from 2005-2008 to 2016-2018. Venezuela and Syria show the largest declines in life evaluation.
The French Government and the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) have released their annual report on new wealth indicators (Nouveaux Indicateurs de Richesse), first published in 2015. The indicators cover employment, research expenses, public debt, disability-free life expectancy, life satisfaction, income inequalities, poverty in life condition, early exit from school system, carbon footprint and soil artificialization and are linked to an SDG target. Starting from July 2018, these ten indicators should be included in France’s national voluntary review on SDGs implementation and considered in the design of national public policies. For each indicator the report presents time trends and France comparison with EU average and other EU countries, as well as an explanation of government’s actions towards each goal.
Social Justice Ireland, an independent think tank, has released the 2019 Sustainable Progress Index, the third annual assessment of Ireland’s progress towards all 17 SDGs in three dimensions: economy, society and environment. Ireland’s performance is compared to the performance of the other EU15 countries, which have experienced similar levels of development. The index is based on 65 indicators which were selected from the UN Indicator Set (2017) for monitoring SDGs progress. Data comes from official international sources such as OECD, WHO, UN, and NGOs such as Gallup and Transparency International. Ireland’s overall ranking among EU15 countries in SDG performance is 11, reaching the top third for SDGs 4 (quality education), 16 (Peace and Justice) and 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation). Significant challenges remain for SDGs 17 (Partnership for the Goals), 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), 10 (Reduced Inequality) and 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), where Ireland is ranked among the bottom four countries.
The Global Happiness Council (GHC) has launched the second edition of the Global Happiness Policy Report, at the 2019 World Government Summit in Dubai. The GHC is a global network of leading academic specialists in happiness and key practitioners in areas ranging from psychology, economics, urban planning, civil society, business and government. In the 2019 report the GHC identifies best practices in happiness and well-being policies in six thematic sectors - education, workplace, personal happiness, public health, city design and metric – through international case studies. The report also include policy recommendations specific to each sector, drawing on these findings. Conclusions include the desirability of building well-being skills and academic skills hand-in-hand; the importance of public participation in sustainable urban governance; and the necessity to put well-being indicators at the core of policymaking.
The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released its first bulletin combining its data on both personal (Oct. 2017 – Sept. 2018) and economic (July - Sept. 2018) well-being. This is part of a news series on people and prosperity, within the ONS’s ‘Beyond GDP’ initiative. Personal well-being is scored on a scale from 1 to 10 and is assessed through four measures: Life satisfaction, Worth of things done in life, Happiness and Anxiety. Economic well-being is assessed through ten headline indicators and fifteen supplementary indicators. Key findings compared to last year include improved performance on economic indicators such as employment, income and spending, but no change in personal well-being, and an increased pessimism over future personal financial situation. Future bulletins will provide insights into well-being inequalities and will assess the effect of the UK’s exit from the EU on well-being.
The Belgian Federal Planning Bureau has released its annual update of a set of indicators complementary to GDP, together with a report presenting results, the fourth since 2016. The 67 indicators, grouped for the first time by SDG, cover the period from 1990 to 2017. For each indicator, three dimensions are evaluated: ‘here and now’, ‘later’, and ‘elsewhere’. Several indicators were added, and the composite indicator to measure well-being ‘Here and now’ was updated, notably including measures for different population categories: by sex, age and income. This composite indicator synthesizes several main components of well-being in Belgium: health, standard of living, community life, work and education. Data shows that the country reached its highest level in 2008 and then dropped significantly, with a slight increase since 2015. Data also suggest significant inequalities in well-being within the population, notably based on income and age.
The Global Data Lab of the Radboud University (The Netherlands) has released a new version of its Sub-National Human Development Index (SHDI). The SHDI is a translation of the UNDP’s official HDI to the subnational level, which aims at estimating Human Development for country regions. The 2.0 version covers 1625 regions within 161 countries for the period 1990-2017. Data was added for Equatorial Guinea, and updated for Somalia, Kosovo, East Timor, Argentina, Venezuela, Malaysia and EU-countries. Values of the SHDI are computed on the basis of three dimension sub-indices (education, health, standard of living), which were constructed through subnational data on four indicators: expected years of schooling, mean years of schooling, life expectancy and gross national income per capita. Data is freely available as well as a global map. Comparisons with national HDI suggest that the regional distribution of Human Development is particularly unequal in low and middle developed countries.