CBS launches international SDG dashboard

/ Author: Masja de Ree
Beach sailing, with wind turbines and Tata Steel plant in the background
© ANP / Berlinda van Dam
25 September 2023 is SDG Action Day. The day the Netherlands reflects on the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, takes note of how the country is faring on these goals, and considers necessary actions to achieve them. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) has chosen this day to launch its new international SDG dashboard for the Netherlands, which serves to enhance the information published in the annual Monitor of Well-being and the SDGs.


CBS has been tasked with monitoring Dutch progress on the seventeen SDGs of the United Nations (UN). Bo Hoogerwerf, researcher at CBS: ‘All national statistics offices of UN member states were given this responsibility. CBS first published a baseline report for the Netherlands in 2017, with available information on all the indicators the UN had defined for the SDGs. However, we soon realised that the UN indicators were not always relevant to the work of Dutch government policymakers. For example: the global poverty threshold was set at such a low level that according to this definition there would be no poverty in the Netherlands. We needed another definition to be able to provide meaningful information. To present more relevant context, therefore, the SDGs have been incorporated in our Monitor of Well-being and the SDGs since 2019.’

Global comparison

Alongside the Monitor of Well-being and the SDGs – which aims to describe the specific Dutch situation – the new dashboard published on 25 September contains information on all the official UN SDG indicators. This makes it easier to compare the Netherlands with other countries across the world. Sandra Pellegrom, national SDG coordinator for the Netherlands at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commissioned the new SDG dashboard. ‘The Netherlands was one of the first countries in the world to publish a national baseline report on the SDG targets, in January 2017. And we should be proud of this feat. The SDGs are extremely important for a sustainable future, but the agenda is a voluntary one.’

Sound basis for policymaking

To keep our eye on the ball, Pellegrom says, we need accurate and reliable information on Dutch progress on the SDGs. ‘With the new dashboard, UN organisations which monitor the SDGs at global level – the Custodian Agencies – have direct access to Dutch data. They no longer need to approach various Dutch ministries individually. The dashboard also gives our own ministries more overview and therefore a sounder basis to structure government policy supporting progress on all the SDGs, at home as well as across the world, and to work together to do this.’

Young girl near the Maas floodplains in Limburg
© ANP / Flip Franssen

Climate action and gender equality

Hoogerwerf: ‘The international SDG dashboard provides an overview of all available information. It comprises all the SDG targets and indicators, including those not relevant to the Netherlands – on mountainous regions, for example – and targets we have already achieved. This also makes it easier to pinpoint targets where action is still needed or which are not yet monitored reliably.’ The option of comparing Dutch progress with that in other countries – which CBS also does in the Monitor of Well-being and the SDGs – is essential, says Pellegrom. ‘We need to compare ourselves with other countries in Europe, our peers. And when we do, we see that we are by no means frontrunners in terms of sustainable development. Although trends for climate action and gender equality are positive, for example, within Europe we are still only in a middling position for these goals. The Netherlands is among the best scorers on the international SDG-index of all countries. But we are lower down than a few years ago.’

New information

The SDG dashboard also confirms that the Netherlands complies with international agreements on SDG monitoring, and that it is measuring the right indicators. Pellegrom: ‘CBS is a leading statistics institute with a high reputation of presenting clear information. This is especially important in the case of the SDGs, as the goals encompass so many different areas, and policymaking in these areas is spread across various ministries.’ Most of the data for the new SDG dashboard were already available. But some new indicators have been developed – in collaboration with the Land Registry, for example, on accessible public space in built-up areas. Detailed developments in low-income households through the years can also be traced in the data. ‘Using the overview provided by the dashboard, we can improve, update and expand our SDG monitoring even further’, explains Hoogerwerf. ‘We are working with Rijkswaterstaat – part of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management – for example, to develop additional data for SDG 6 (on water) in the coming year,’

National sustainability strategy

Judith Maas, director of SDG Nederland, the foundation that brings together all organisations, citizens and groups working to achieve the SDGs, is also impressed with the new dashboard. She hopes the new overview provided by the dashboard will spur the government to draft coherent policy for all the SDGs. ‘The dashboard makes it easier to see what happens in one policy area if you tweak policy in another. This is so important because the SDGs are all connected and all affect each other, sometimes adversely. At SDG Nederland we have been glad to notice that ministries are increasingly realising that they need to link policy areas. After the general election this November, we hope the new government will develop a national sustainability strategy. We think this could also be a way out of the nitrogen crisis.’ The timing of SDG Action Day on 25 September is very favourable, says Maas. ‘We’ll be going to the polls in November, and sustainable development is a main topic in election campaigns. The more information voters have, the better use they can make of their vote.’