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 international and national levels.

Against this backdrop, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) has implemented a project on “Sustainable Development Goals Interlinkages and Indicators”. Initiated by IGES Executive Director Hideyuki Mori, the project focuses on SDG indicators and the analysis of the interlinkages between SDG targets since 2015. SDGs targets interact with each other in an indivisible way. 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 SDG interlinkages between targets. Main tasks include the following:

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

The project identifies the causal links between each pair of the 169 targets based on literature review and the results from relevant international consultation processes, such as the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) under the United Nations Statistical Commission and the Indicators and a Monitoring Framework for Sustainable Development Goals initiated by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). The identified causal links between targets are further quantified for nine selected Asian countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Viet Nam) based on the indicators and their time series data for the targets. Identification of the indicators are 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). 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 Social 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 global indicators was formally agreed upon by the UN Statistical Commission at its 48th Session held in March 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, launched in July 2017, used the set of 100 Global Monitoring Indicators that were developed by the SDSN in 2015. Version 2.0 of the Web Tool, launched in July 2018, used 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—nine Asian countries—is based on IGES expertise in these countries. In addition, this regional coverage (with representative countries from East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia) comprises a unique group that plays 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 and the strategic targets identified and provide a checklist for conducting Strategic Environmental Assessment or Sustainability Assessment for medium and long-term national development plans and strategies.
  • Institutional arrangement: To help review the existing national institutional arrangement consisting of lead organization(s) and collaborating organisations in implementing specific Goals and provide recommendations for effective governance 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 of 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 usually face financial constrains.
  • Monitoring and reporting: To help generate a set of headline indicators based on the interlinkages which can substantially reduce the number of indicators while maintaining the monitoring effectiveness.


Dr. Xin Zhou

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

Research Topics & Areas of Expertise
  • 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.