Design and development of integrated indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals Report

pier.buttigieg [ at ]


As part of the United Nations support to member countries in the development of the Sustainable Development Goals and following on from UNEA Resolution 1/4, UNEP organized an expert workshop on integrated indicators and the data revolution. The main aim was to develop integrated indicators which could support multiple goals and targets, using semantic networks and ontologies, relevant up‐ to‐date information and where needed big data derived from earth observation and mobile platforms. The multi‐disciplinary nature of large‐scale monitoring creates a complex collaborative setting characterised by a broad and varied knowledge‐base. Ensuring that entities in this environment are clearly represented on a semantic level can greatly enhance the gathering, retrieval, querying, handling, sharing, analysis, and reuse of data by diverse systems and communities, and ultimately the generation of indicators based on a common understanding and set of protocols. The discipline of ontology has much to contribute towards this aim in information‐rich systems. An ontology attempts to systematically identify, in simple (i.e. as ‘low‐level’ or empirical as possible) and precise terms, what the component entities in domains of interest are and how they relate to one another. This is done by creating a defined and logically‐structured vocabulary comprising classes and the relations between them. A series of six ontologies were used as a basis for the development of integrated indicators in six environmental areas, air quality, water quality, biodiversity, oceans, chemicals and waste, and land tenure. The aims of the workshop were to: i) determine the key semantics, ontologies and definitions for the six areas in order to develop common frameworks for integrated indicators across domains ii) Identify potential comparable baseline data and statistics for existing indicators and measurements, protocols for their use and where new and/or disaggregated data and statistics would be needed. The general conclusions from the meeting were: • Despite the numerous processes currently ongoing at the global, regional, sub‐regional and national levels which aim to promote and support the development and use of indicators, specific work on alignment of domains is needed to be able to develop indicators to measure progress in an integrated and systematic way. • The six focus areas, air quality, water quality, biodiversity, chemicals and waste, land tenure and oceans, were found to be causally linked to all 17 proposed SDGs, and to underpin their successful delivery. • The complexity of interactions between thematic areas could be captured through a core set of integrated indicators based on well‐aligned domain ontologies. • To fully support the SDGs, additional ontologies will need to be developed, for example in land and common resources.

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Buttigieg, P. L. , United Nations Environment Programme (2015): Design and development of integrated indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals Report , [Miscellaneous]


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