Reducing the SDG reporting burden: WHO/Europe’s initiative presented at the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development underscores the importance of “quality, accessible, timely and reliable disaggregated data … to help with the measurement of progress and to ensure that no one is left behind” (Paragraph 48). Improving the collection, coordination, analysis and dissemination of data and building statistical capacities for monitoring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remain significant challenges for all countries in the WHO European Region and beyond.

The Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Region, held on 25 April 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland, featured a round table dedicated to data and monitoring. It provided policy-makers, statisticians and other stakeholders with an opportunity for dialogue and mutual learning on the needs, feasibility and limitations of SDG data.

Many Member States, United Nations agencies, intergovernmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations attended the session. It revealed that most developed countries can report on only 50% of the SDG indicators, as data are not readily available for the other half. For example, member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development can report on just 73 of the 169 SDG targets.

Both Member States and international organizations expressed concern about the sustainability of the increased monitoring efforts required for the SDGs. Further, a lack of human resources in statistical offices is an issue in all countries in the UNECE Region. These countries called for guidelines for reporting on SDG indicators. They also underlined that the increased reporting burden related to the SDGs and numerous global and regional frameworks is multiplied for national, regional and global levels.

WHO/Europe joint monitoring framework

In this context, WHO/Europe presented its work on a proposed joint monitoring framework. The framework streamlines indicators and minimizes Member States’ health reporting burden for different frameworks such as Health 2020, the Action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in the WHO European Region and the 2030 Agenda. It is currently undergoing consultation with Member States and will be discussed at the next session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe.

Towards a European Information Initiative?

Based on its experience with the European Health Information Initiative, a multipartner and multicountry network coordinating and harmonizing health information activities in the Region, WHO/Europe also proposed the establishment of a European Information Initiative. This would facilitate the sustainability and harmonization of data collection and monitoring at the regional level. Several participants welcomed the proposal, and the UNECE will consider it in its capacity as regional coordinator of SDG monitoring and reporting.

Improving health data and monitoring and evaluation while strengthening research and innovation is among the 6 key areas for action identified by WHO/Europe to improve health and well-being and achieve the SDGs. Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, outlined these areas in her remarks during the policy segment of the Regional Forum.

About the Regional Forum

The Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE Region follows up on and reviews progress towards implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs. Participants include stakeholders from international and regional organizations, civil society, academia and the private sector. Held annually, it is designed to provide input from the UNECE Region to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The HLPF oversees follow-up and reviews processes at the global level.