National-level Targets, Indicators and Benchmarks for Management of Natural Resources to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals


Global SDG monitoring and reporting indicators on natural resources are of little value for management at the country level.

It is at the country and even local scale where managers will strategize how to balance the need to use natural resources against the need to protect them.

A recent publication lays out an approach to be used by countries for setting benchmark values for natural resource SDG targets.

The uptake of the SDGs at the global level has been a momentous process, with frenetic activity at the UN level matched by many countries that are serious about SDG monitoring. However, there is a glaring issue that seems to be bypassing most concerned, which relates to the different requirements of global versus national monitoring and to the need, at the local level, to balance the use and protection of natural resources, so that the global aspiration for sustainability can be achieved.

While the main emphasis of SDG monitoring and reporting to date has been on global indicators, these data, while interesting when looking at global trends, are of little value for management at the country level. This is a big deal because management at the country, and even local level, is where the SDGs will either succeed or fail, something that is recognized in the text of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: “Targets are defined as aspirational and global, with each government setting its own national targets guided by the global level of ambition but taking into account national circumstances.” It goes on to say “The Goals and targets will be followed up and reviewed using a set of global indicators. These will be complemented by indicators at the regional and national levels which will be developed by Member States.”



Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.