Not fit for purpose: SDG monitoring report fails to illustrate how far the EU is from a sustainable future

On 20 November 2017, Eurostat published its first EU SDG monitoring report “Sustainable Development in the European Union - Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context”. The report is based on a set of indicators adopted in May 2017[1].

The report responds to the European Commission Communication ‘Next steps for a sustainable European future[2] commitment to “carry out more detailed regular monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals in an EU context”, and the Council of the European Union Conclusions[3] demand to “carry out detailed regular monitoring of the SDGs at EU level, including where relevant in the context of the European Semester, and to develop a reference indicator framework for this purpose drawing on existing indicators and data provided by the Member States, institutions and international organisations, and accompanied by a qualitative assessment of the progress made; and [..] to use this indicator framework to assess progress and trends and to inform evidence-based decision-making; to develop a reference indicator framework, and the need to cover the different dimensions of sustainable development (social, economic, environmental and governance)”.

SOLIDAR joins SDG Watch Europe* in welcoming the publication of the report while, at the same considering that it falls short both in terms of what is measured and of how targets are being measured. Some indicators are even obsolete and are not adapted to current social realities. Relying on existing data only, as the Council Conclusions suggest, is not enough: new challenges and new policies require new data collection. These shortcomings are also the result of the process of selecting the indicators which was rushed and confined to the technical realm with limited participation of CSOs and policy-makers in general. Therefore, SDG Watch Europe is pleased that the indicator set is open to “regular reviews” as the report states.

 With this commentary, SDG Watch Europe demands that:

  • the indicator set is revised based on an appropriate and inclusive procedure with adequate civil society contribution;
  • the Commission elaborates outlook reports beyond mere monitoring with a broader and qualitative assessment including the participation of civil society and researchers;
  • the Commission needs to develop a comprehensive monitoring and assessment system including all dimensions of sustainable development with both the domestic and external dimension;
  • the comprehensive assessment should form the base of EU decision making and a real transformation of EU policies and practices.


* SDG Watch Europe is an EU-level, cross-sectoral CSO alliance of NGOs from development, environment, social, human rights and other sectors. Its goal is to hold governments to account for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).


[1] The Commission Communication 'Next steps for a sustainable European future: European action for sustainability' announced a detailed regular monitoring of the SDGs in an EU context from 2017 onwards, and the development of a reference indicator framework for this purpose. This EU SDG indicator set has been developed in the course of 2016 and 2017 and it has been used to produce this first EU SDG monitoring report. The list of indicators is available  here.

[2]  COM(2016) 739 final

[3]  Council conclusions (20 June 2017)