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Mind the gap?

A comparison of international and national targets for the SDG agenda

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will set the global development agenda for the next 15 years, with SDG targets acting as a benchmark of progress for rich and poor countries alike. Although SDG ambition will be realised at the national level, during their formulation little consideration has been given to how governments set targets and what existing national targets tell us about levels of political ambition.

This paper compares existing policy commitments and targets at the national level with corresponding SDG targets to assess the gap between national and global ambition. The aim is to draw a political baseline of SDG ambition to inform the UN target setting process and provide a global snapshot that aids comparisons of ambition between countries.

The review analyses 62 targets across 11 goal areas in 75 countries covering more than 80% of the world’s population. 52% of targets identified covered periods that
extended beyond 2015, and many ran from 5 to 10 years, indicating that SDG target setting may need to account for national timeframes.