About the project

The adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2015 offers a clear direction for transforming the way countries develop for the foreseeable future. For the SDGs to guide the transition pathways, they will require indicators and tools for measuring, analysing, and communicating the progress over time at both the international and national levels. To balance human development in multiple dimensions by achieving the SDGs and their targets inclusively requires a paradigm shift in policy-making from a siloed approach to an integrated approach.

Against this backdrop, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) has implemented a project on “Sustainable Development Goals Interlinkages and Indicators” since 2015. Initiated by IGES Executive Director, Hideyuki Mori, the project focuses on SDG indicators and the analysis of the interlinkages between SDG targets. Actions taken in achieving one target may not only impact on its own but also on other targets attributable to the intrinsic nature of the interlinkages between the SDG targets. On the one hand, achieving one goal or target may contribute to achieving other goals or targets. For example, enhanced food security (Goal 2), full and productive employment and decent work (Goal 8) and reduction of inequality (Goal 10) will reinforce poverty eradication (Goal 1). On the other hand, the pursuit of one objective may conflict with the achievement of another. For example, an increase in agricultural production to help end hunger (Goal 2) can result in an increase in water use for irrigation which may compete with water demand for achieving universal access to drinking water (Goal 6). Understanding the SDG interlinkages can support policy integration and help minimise conflicts, avoid trade-offs and seek synergies for making achievements inclusively across all 17 SDG areas.

The project aims to support science-based policy integration in the processes of planning, institutional arrangement, implementation, and monitoring by providing a practical tool on the quantification and visualisation of the SDG interlinkages between targets. Main tasks include the following:

  • To develop a systems approach for the quantification and analysis of the SDG interlinkages;
  • To develop a practical web tool on the visualisation of the SDG interlinkages which can enable informed policy discussions and communications among various stakeholders to explore an integrated approach for SDG planning and implementation at the national and local levels;
  • To provide an in-depth analysis of SDG synergies and trade-offs and the impacts of achieving one target on others using the Network Analysis techniques and other quantitative analysis approaches;
  • To work with relevant national policymakers to provide technical support and recommendations on priority setting, institutional and financial arrangement and monitoring from a SDG interlinkages perspective.

The project identifies the causalities between relevant SDG targets based on literature review and the results from relevant international consultation processes. The identified causalities between relevant targets are further quantified for 27 selected countries from East Asia (China, Japan, Mongolia, and Republic of Korea), South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka), and Southeast Asia (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam), as well as from Africa (Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, South Africa, and Tanzania) based on the target-level indicators and corresponding time series data. Identification of the indicators is based on the official indicators that are enlisted in the “Global indicator framework for the Sustainable Development Goals and Targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (UN Statistical Commission, 2017). When specific data or indicators are not available, proxy indicators and their corresponding data from various sources (such as the World Bank) are used. A web tool, SDG Interlinkages Analysis & Visualisation Tool, has been developed for users to visualise the interlinkages between targets and explore the data for monitoring SDG progress. Using the Network Analysis techniques, the interlinkages between SDG targets can be analysed. Experts from the Strategic and Quantitative Analysis Centre (QAC) of IGES collaborated to implement this timely project.

While the initial set of 232 individual global indicators was formally agreed upon by the UN Statistical Commission at its 48th Session held in March 2017 and adopted by the General Assembly in July 2017, improving the SDG indicators is an open-ended process. The global indicators will be refined annually and reviewed comprehensively by the UN Statistical Commission at its 51st Session (2020) and 56th Session (2025). For this project, Version 1.0 of the SDG Interlinkages Analysis & Visualisation Tool was launched in July 2017. From Version 2.0 (launched in July 2018) onwards, the IGES SDG Interlinkages Analysis Tool uses the global indicators as the main reference for the identification of the indicators with trackable data (Click to see the correspondence table on SDGs, targets and indicators). IGES SDG Interlinkages Analysis & Visualisation Tool will be updated on a regular basis to reflect the progress made in refining the global indicators and the improvement in data availability and quality.

The geographical coverage in this project—27 countries—from Asia and Africa, is based on IGES expertise and interest in these countries. This regional coverage comprises a unique group of countries that face varying levels of socio-economic and environmental challenges but also play an increasingly important role in the global economy. Focusing on a limited number of countries also helps to conduct more in-depth, country-specific studies. Similar research can be duplicated and extended to other countries when the required data is available.

Major outputs of the project include:

SDG Interlinkages Analysis & Visualisation Tool

IGES SDG Interlinkages Analysis & Visualisation Tool and the results of SDG interlinkages analysis can serve as a practical tool to support policy integration and coherence at the national as well as local levels in the following areas:

  • SDG planning: To help priority setting based on the synergies and trade-offs analysis and the identification of strategic targets from an interlinkages perspective.
  • Institutional arrangement: To help review the existing national institutional arrangement consisting of the lead organisation(s) and collaborating organisations in implementing specific goals and provide recommendations for effective institutional arrangement based on a systems approach and SDG interlinkages.
  • Financial resource allocation: To support efficient budget allocation by jointly addressing the areas with strong synergies to avoid overlapping investments as well as provide guidance on budget allocation to address the trade-offs in an effective way. This is particularly important for developing countries and least developed countries which face many financial constraints.
  • Monitoring and reporting: To help generate a set of effective core indicators based on the interlinkages.


Dr. Xin Zhou

Research Leader and Principal Policy Researcher
Strategic and Quantitative Analysis Centre, IGES

Research Topics & Areas of Expertise
  • SDG interlinkage analysis and visualisation;
  • SDG indicators;
  • Climate policy assessment;
  • Green investment and green jobs assessment;
  • Energy system scenarios analysis;
  • Water-energy-food nexus study;
  • Trade and the environment;
  • Input-output analysis,life-cycle analysis,and resource flow analysis.
Dr. Mustafa Moinuddin

Senior Policy Researcher and Research Manager
Strategic and Quantitative Analysis Centre, IGES

Research Topics & Areas of Expertise
  • SDG interlinkages analysis and visualisation;
  • Sustainable development and transition to green economy;
  • Trade and the environment;
  • Regional cooperation and integration;
  • Green jobs and labour market assessment;
  • Energy trade and market integration.