Assessing national progress and priorities for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): experience from Australia

Cameron Allen, Michael Reid, John Thwaites, Rod Glover, Tahl Kestin

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77 Citations (Scopus)


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a comprehensive and integrated framework of targets and indicators to support national planning and reporting through until 2030. Interest in the SDGs is growing, as seen by the emergence of a range of data-driven assessments of progress, gaps and opportunities for achieving the SDGs. Despite this growing momentum, few national governments have completed their own evidence-based assessment of progress. This paper explores the method and results from an independent, evidence-based assessment of Australia’s progress towards the SDGs. The assessment evaluates Australia’s progress across 86 SDG targets and 144 corresponding indicators which were selected through an expert-driven, consultative process. The study uses a novel approach combining several contemporary methods to produce a comprehensive assessment of national progress on the SDGs. The results show that Australia has mixed performance on the SDGs, with strong progress in goals relating to health and education undermined by poor progress in goals relating to climate action and reducing inequalities. By comparing our results against other recent assessments of Australia’s progress, we observe that SDG assessment results are highly sensitive to the selection of indicators and assessment methods. Our assessment addresses these sensitivities by maintaining the integrity of the SDG framework and a clear linkage to official targets and indicators, while also having regard for national priorities and relevance. The study provides a timely contribution to research in the emerging field of evidence-based assessments of national progress on the SDGs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-538
Number of pages18
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Evidence-based policy
  • Indicator-based assessment
  • Sustainability assessment
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Targets and indicators

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