Counting critically: SDG ‘follow-up and review’ needs interlinked indicators, monitoring and evaluation

This IIED briefing paper discusses the role of global indicators in the monitoring and evaluation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation, review and follow-up at the national level. The paper advocates for a greater role of evaluation in follow-up and review processes of the SDGs, especially in voluntary national reviews. This paper is the second in a series of briefings discussing the role of evaluation in achieving the SDGs. Read the first paper here: Evaluation: A crucial ingredient for SDG success.

The information provided was supplied by Stefano D'Errico, IIED. 

Authors and their affiliation

Dorothy Lucks is co-chair of EVALSDGs, IOCE board secretary, an EvalPartners executive committee member and the executive director of SDF Global.

Zenda Ofir is the President of the International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED), a former president of the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) and an honorary professor at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

Thomas Schwandt is a professor at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA and an editor emeritus of the American Journal of Evaluation.

Stefano D’Errico is the monitoring evaluation and learning lead at IIED and a council member of the United Kingdom Evaluation Society (UKES).

Kassem El-Saddik is vice-chair of EVALSDGs and a member of the Evaluators Middle East and North Africa network (EvalMENA). 

Year of publication 


Type of resource

Discussion paper

Key features

Global indicators are important for understanding progress towards each of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, they can mask sub-national and thematic variations. They cannot explain how or why change occurred or its significance to different stakeholders. Evaluation helps to define and assess the worth, merit and significance of national policies in different contexts. This briefing introduces key considerations for the use of indicators, monitoring and evaluation of SDGs implementation, review and follow-up at the national level. It promotes the importance of context-sensitivity, broad stakeholder involvement and adaptive management approaches in efforts to achieve development results. 

Who is this resource useful for?

  • Advocates for evaluation;
  • Commissioners/managers of evaluation;
  • Evaluation users;
  • Other – policy makers involved in national review processes of the SDGs; practitioners of civil society organisations

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

The paper can be used to advocate for a greater role of evaluation in follow-up and review processes of the SDGs, especially in voluntary national reviews. The paper looks at the role of monitoring and evaluation in getting the most from indicators. It explains how measuring indicators in not enough, when it comes to assessing how effectively countries are implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It advocates that for indicators to be meaningful, governments and citizens need to understand what the indicators show and this requires proper evaluation. It makes a clear case on why evaluation has a role in promoting accountability to citizens, encouraging exchange of best practice and mutual learning, and identifying gaps and success factors to inform policy choices. 

Why would you recommend it to other people?

I would recommend this resource because it explains how evaluation differs from monitoring and indicators, and it is complementary to them. It explains the role of evaluation in follow up and review processes of the SDGs in simple words. 


Lucks, D.,  Schwandt, T., Ofir, Z., El-Saddick, K. and D’Errico, S. (2016). Counting critically: SDG ‘follow-up and review’ needs interlinked indicators, monitoring and evaluation. IIED Briefing, July 2016. IIED.