Screening & Selection of Indicators

Assessing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proposed by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development requires clarifying the terminology involved in the process.

The 17 SDGs are general statements from the United Nations General Assembly about the future we wish to have by 2030.

Each SDG is then structured into Targets. The 169 Targets proposed by the United Nations Open Working Group serve to monitor the actual achievement in quantifiable terms of the SDGs under the different perspectives involved.

Targets are associated with Indicators designed to measure the progress over time and the compliance with Targets. Sustainable Development Indicators are defined by UN-DESA: “a statistical measure that gives an indication on the sustainability of social, environmental and economic development”.

While SDGs and Targets are well established, there is still an ongoing discussion about the most appropriate Indicators, under the direction of the United Nations Inter-agency Expert Group on SDG Indicators.

The APPS’ methodology implies, as a very first step, the definition of a set of Indicators with the following features:

  • relevance for the SDG they refer to;
  • connection with one of SDG Target;
  • sufficient data coverage for each country;
  • possibility of projecting their trends up to 2030.

The final APPS screening concluded with 27 Indicators covering 16 SDGs (All but SDG5 – Gender Equality).

APPS Indicator
SDG Target
Poverty headcount ratio at $1.25 a day (PPP2005) (% of population)
1.1  By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day
Prevalence of undernourishment (% of population)
2.1  By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round
Physician density (per 1,000 people)
3.c  Substantially increase health financing and the recruitment, development, training and retention of the health workforce in developing countries, especially in least developed countries and small island developing States.
Healthy Life Expectancy (HALE) at birth (years)
Youth literacy rate (% of population 15-24 years)
4.6  By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy
Annual freshwater withdrawals, total (% of internal renewable water)
6.4 By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity
Access to electricity (% of total population)
7.1  By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
Renewable electricity (% in total electricity output)
7.2  By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
Primary energy intensity (MJ / $PPP2011)
7.3  By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
GDP per capita annual growth (%)
8.1  Sustain per capita economic growth in accordance with national circumstances and, in particular, at least 7 per cent gross domestic product growth per annum in the least developed countries
GDP per person employed ($PPP2011)
8.5  By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
Employment-to-population ratio (%)
Manufacturing value added (% of GDP)
9.2  Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and, by 2030, significantly raise industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product, in line with national circumstances, and double its share in least developed countries
Total energy and industry-related GHG emissions over sectoral value added (t of CO2e / $PPP2011)
9.4  By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities.
Palma ratio
10.1  By 2030, progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a rate higher than the national average
PM2.5 pollution, mean annual exposure (micrograms per cubic meter)
11.6  By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management
CO2 intensity of residential and transport sectors (t of CO2 / t of oil equivalent energy use)
Material productivity ($PPP2011/ kg)
12.2 By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources
Net GHG emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sectors per square metre of forest and agricultural land (t of CO2e / sq. m)
Compliance to Conditional INDCs*
13.2,  Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning
Gap from equitable and sustainable GHG emissions per capita in 2030 (t CO2eq) **
15.5 Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity, and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species
Marine protected areas (% of territorial waters)
14.5  By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
Terrestrial protected areas (% of total land area)
15.1 By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements
Forest area (% of land area)
15.2  By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally
Endangered and vulnerable (animals and plants) species (% of total species)
15.5  Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity, and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species
Corruption Perception Index
16.5 Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
Central government gross debt (% of GDP)
17.4 Assist developing countries in attaining long-term debt sustainability through coordinated policies aimed at fostering debt financing, debt relief and debt restructuring, as appropriate, and address the external debt of highly indebted poor countries to reduce debt distress
Research and Development (R&D) expenditure (% of GDP)
17.6 Enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms, including through improved coordination among existing mechanisms, in particular at the United Nations level, and through a global technology facilitation mechanism when agreed upon
*This indicator is used only in the assessment of Future Sustainability
** The equitable and sustainable GHG emission per capita level in 2030 is computed as the ratio of the median GHG emission level in 2030 according to scenarios that will contain (with likelihood > 66%) the temperature increase below 2°C by the end of the century , i.e. 42 GtCO2 e (UNEP, 2015), and the median estimate of world population in 2030 (UN, 2015).