IV-d Monitoring and Evaluating the SDGs: An Introduction

Description of workshop content

In 2015, the UN General Assembly endorsed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an important part of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. For evaluation, this is a significant change of perspective. While development evaluation tends to focus on projects or programs, the agenda 2030 changes this focus. International development agencies, governments, civil society actors and businesses have now been called upon to pursue an integrative approach to sustainable development. Agenda 2030 also highlights the need for transformative development. All of this demands attention to different systems (ecology, economy and the social system), different levels of activities (global, regional, national and local level), different time-spans (short-term, medium-term and long-term).

The development of a coherent monitoring and evaluation system for realizing the SDGs, linked to national development priorities and plans, has therefore become a priority.

This course introduces key elements of evaluating sustainable development, based on (complex) systems thinking, and how these can be implemented in monitoring and, evaluation systems. It addresses four major challenges:

  1. Existing evaluation approaches and practices frequently suffer from a disconnect between the local and the global – so from organizational or project to global level.
  2. They are prone to selective boundary setting with a strong focus on physical transactions.
  3. Third, they often disregard the growing body of data on changes in the socio-environmental systems in which they are embedded (e.g. data on sustainability trends, risks and opportunities).
  4. Fourth, they tend to ignore the interactions between sustainability dimensions, between the SDGs and national goals, and between different levels of interventions (e.g. policies, programs, Projects).

This workshop aims to provide practical, solution-oriented information in conversation with the participants. It is divided into four sections:

  1. The first section introduces the concept of sustainable development, including its history and implementation in the SDGs. It briefly outlines the Rio process and its implications for evaluation.
  2. It is followed by an overview of issues and trends with respect to national monitoring and evaluation systems, with specific reference to existing national evaluation policies and sustainable development strategies, and the SDG reporting as mentioned in the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). Furthermore, it describes the global efforts by initiatives such as EvalPartners/EvalSDGs for the integration of evaluation in these processes and systems.
  3. A presentation of key elements for evaluating the SDGs from a systems perspective, with an emphasis on the interaction between ecological, environmental and social systems, the vertical integration of different intervention levels, and the transformative approach as a development perspective towards sustainability. Examples will be debated to show the potential use of these concepts and to discuss its practical utilization within the context of development evaluation with the participants.
  4. A discussion of the challenges and possible solutions in getting national authorities and organizations to engage with the shifts and changes that an emphasis on evaluating the SDGs from these perspectives might require. Some first approaches for evaluating the SDGs and for governing SDG policy including evaluation as an important instrument will be discussed.

Workshop objectives

The participants:

  1. know about the concept of sustainable development and its implementation in Agenda 2030
  2. understand the demands and challenges for national monitoring and evaluation systems brought to the fore by the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs
  3. know first attempts of practical and useful national monitoring and evaluation systems linked to the SDGs
  4. are enabled for developing systems-informed approaches to monitoring and evaluation

Recommended for

  1. Policy makers involved in the implementation of SDG reporting
  2. Parliamentarians interested in SDGs
  3. Commissioners responsible for SDG evaluations
  4. Evaluators who are interested in developing approaches for SDG Evaluation


This is a workshop on beginners’ level. No previous knowledge about sustainable development, evaluation or the SDGs required. Some involvement in SDG debates within the own organizational and/or national context is helpful but not necessary.


No prerequisites. Any information about recent developments in your affiliation about the evaluation of SDGs are highly welcome to enrich the discussion during the workshop.


Wolfgang Meyer