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SDG INDEX AND
DASHBOARDS REPORT

2019

ARAB REGION

Executive Summary
The Arab Region SDG Index and Dashboards are intended as a tool for governments and other stakeholders to measure progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and to highlight gaps in both implementation and data. The 2019 Arab Region SDG Index is the first in its kind and is therefore also intended as a conversationopener about priority areas, policies and actions.
The 2019 Arab Region SDG Index comprises 105 indicators, each of which have an assigned score (0–100) and a traffic light colour (green, yellow, orange, or red) to indicate performance. In addition, arrows indicate trends in progress towards achieving the goals for those indicators where data for multiple years are available.
Compared to the Sustainable Development Report 2019, which contains the SDG Index and Dashboards for all UN Member States, the Arab Region Index introduces 30 new indicators that reflect regional priorities and challenges. The selection of these indicators, along with related thresholds, was greatly informed by two rounds of regional expert consultations, which were conducted in May and August 2019 and collected more than 200 comments from more than 40 individuals. The regional Index also removes indicators that are not useful or relevant for the region or where data coverage is currently insufficient.
In addition, the 2019 Arab Region Index includes Palestine, which has so far not been included in the global SDG Index reports. It also provides a total SDG achievement score for two countries – Libya and Somalia – that did not receive one in the global Index due to low data availability.
The main findings of the study are:
1. The region displays a wide range of sustainable development outcomes, with common challenges around sustainable food production systems and gender equality, among others. The variances between the 22 Arab countries reflect their very significant differences in performance on many socioeconomic indicators. Only a few common denominators are universal in the region, including poor performance on SDGs 2 (Zero Hunger) and 5 (Gender Equality). There are also significant challenges in SDGs 3 (Good Health and Well-being), 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth), 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), 14 (Life below Water) and 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), which cut across the region. Other SDGs show more variation, which makes overarching policy recommendations difficult – responses and solutions need to be country- and context-specific.
2. Five countries are two-thirds of the way to achieving the SDGs. In 2019, five countries emerge as regional leaders, with a total index score of 65 or above. These are Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan, in descending order. Taken as a whole, the Arab region does not score high in terms of SDG attainment, with an average score of 58 out of 100. With only a decade left to achieve the 2030 Agenda the region needs to accelerate efforts in all areas of sustainable development.

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2019 Arab Region SDG Index and Dashboards Report 

Executive Summary
3. Poor and conflict-affected countries face the highest risk of falling behind. Overall, the 22 Arab countries receive a red score for 51% of all the 17 SDGs. The region’s six Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and two other countries suffering from conflict, Syria and Iraq, each have more than 10 SDGs in ‘red’ in the SDG Dashboard, indicating that they are far from achieving these Goals. These countries will require tremendous efforts both domestically and by their regional and international partners to ensure they are not left behind.
4. There is positive momentum in two important areas relating to environmental sustainability, water and climate change. Several countries are on track to achieving SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and SDG 13 (Climate Action), and there are moderate increases in performance across several SDGs. From an environmental security perspective, achieving sustainable water systems and addressing climate change are crucial. Overall, however, only a total of four of the 17 SDGs have so far been achieved in three countries of the region (Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon). This means that 19 countries have not yet achieved a single SDG.
5. Significant gaps remain in data necessary to measure sustainable development performance in the region, particularly relating to income and wealth distribution. The most significant data gaps are currently found on SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities). In both areas, the gaps are the result of lack of data on income and wealth distribution. No publicly-available regional datasets were identified in the process of developing the 2019 Arab Region SDG Index. The Arab region should urgently invest more attention and resources to generating and making available data in the areas outlined above. This will be essential not only for tracking SDG performance but also to enable data-driven, science-based planning and decision-making.

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PART 1
THE SDG INDEX AND DASHBOARDS
Methodology

PART 1
The SDG Index and Dashboards

1.1. Introduction
The SDG Index and Dashboards
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an ambitious agenda. All countries in the world are expected to reach them by 2030. This will require unprecedented efforts from everyone. It will require transformational policies and investments, supporting the poorest and most vulnerable, engaging everyone in implementation and, last but not least, data. Implementing the SDGs, as any policy agenda, requires high-quality, accessible data. In order to make well-informed decisions, governments, businesses and other stakeholders need data on all aspects of the 2030 Agenda. In 2019, the global community is four years into implementation of this 15-year agenda, but data availability remains a major challenge (see Box 1).

In order to address this gap, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Bertelsmann Stiftung developed the SDG Index and Dashboards methodology and, since 2016, have published annual, global-level SDG Index and Dashboards reports that provide a detailed and up-to-date view of progress by countries worldwide on the SDGs. The SDG Index is not an official monitoring tool for the SDGs, but is as closely aligned as possible with the official SDG indicators. It fills remaining gaps with relevant data from reputable sources, which include international data providers (the World Bank, World Health Organization, International Labour Organization and others), research centres and non-governmental organisations.

Figure 1  The Sustainable Development Goals

  2019 Arab Region SDG Index and Dashboards Report

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Part 1. The SDG Index and Dashboards

Box 1. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Role of Data
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, form a common roadmap for all countries to achieve progress in critical areas for both humans and the planet. The SDGs are a universal, indivisible and integrated agenda. In other words, all countries are expected to work towards them, taking into account their different national circumstances, capacities and priorities. All countries are expected to strive to achieve all SDGs. And the Goals have interlinkages – either synergies or trade-offs – that need to be taken into account and understood in policy development and implementation.

The SDGs seek to ensure improvement in the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental, underpinned by good governance and partnerships. They are grounded in the Millennium Development Goals (2000–2015), but introduce several new areas of policy action, in particular relating to environmental sustainability. The SDGs also place partnerships at the heart of the agenda: the 2030 Agenda emphasises both the need to support the poorest and most vulnerable (‘leaving no-one behind’) and the importance of engaging all stakeholders, at various levels, from the global and regional levels, through national and subnational levels to the individual, in implementing the Agenda.

The SDGs form an aspirational agenda. They are not politically-binding on countries. At the same time, they are the only major globally-agreed set of common goals for development for the next decade for all UN Member States.

Data is an important enabler of SDG implementation. SDG 17 has two data-related targets:

17.18

By 2020, enhance capacity-building support to developing countries, including for least developed countries and small island developing States, to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts.

17.19 By 2030, build on existing initiatives to develop measurements of progress on sustainable development that complement gross domestic product, and support statistical capacity-building in developing countries.

Governments have the primary responsibility for following up and reviewing progress on the SDGs at national, regional and global levels. The UN provides mechanisms for supporting this work at both global (High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development) and regional (work under the Regional Commissions) levels.

The UN has also developed a set of official SDG indicators to support this work. The global indicator framework, which includes 232 indicators, was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2017. Indicators are classified in three tiers according to whether it has an internationally-established methodology and data is regularly produced by countries. As of May 2019, there were 104 Tier I indicators, meaning that less than half of the official indicators have an established methodology and data for at least 50% of countries in every region where the indicator is relevant (UNSD 2019a). Another challenge is that almost half of the 169 SDG Targets are not quantified, which makes their tracking difficult (SDGC/A and SDSN 2019, ix).

As stressed in the 2030 Agenda, ‘quality, accessible, timely and reliable disaggregated data will be needed to help with the measurement of progress and to ensure that no one is left behind. Such data is key to decision-making’ (UNGA 2015).

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2019 Arab Region SDG Index and Dashboards Report 

1. THE SDG INDEX AND DASHBOARDS

1.1. Introduction

The Arab Region SDG Index and Dashboards
Similarly to the Global SDG Index, the Arab Region SDG Index is intended as a tool for governments and other stakeholders to measure progress on the SDGs, to highlight areas where further emphasis is needed to speed up implementation, to demonstrate data gaps and to spur conversations about priorities and actions.
The 2019 Arab Region SDG Index and Dashboards comprises 105 indicators, each of which have an assigned score (0–100) and a traffic light colour (green, yellow, orange, or red) to indicate performance. In addition, arrows indicate trends in goal achievement for those indicators where data for multiple years are available.
Inspired by the Africa SDG Index and Dashboards report, the Arab Region Index makes two important amendments to the Global Index:
• Introducing new indicators that reflect regional priorities and challenges; and
• Removing indicators that are not useful or relevant for the region or where data coverage is currently insufficient.
As a result, the 2019 Arab Region SDG Index provides a total SDG achievement score for two countries that did not receive one in the Global Index due to low data availability – Libya and Somalia. In addition, the Arab Index includes Palestine, which has so far not been included in the Global Index reports.
It is important to stress that, as a result of the changes introduced, the results of the Arab Region SDG Index are not comparable with the Global SDG Index or other regional index reports. As new data become available on further

indicators, the Arab Region Index will evolve accordingly to always provide the most comprehensive and up-to-date picture possible. For this reason, future editions of the Arab Region Index may not be directly comparable with the 2019 edition.
The Arab Region SDG Index is not an official SDG measurement tool. Important work is conducted in this regard by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which has been mandated by its member states to prepare a regional report on the 2030 Agenda, called The Arab Sustainable Development Report, every four years to support follow-up and review at the regional level (ESCWA 2019). The Arab Region SDG Index is intended as a complementary tool for policymakers and stakeholders at all levels aimed at informing policy discussions and helping accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the region.
Structure of the Report
This report contains five major parts. Part 1 introduces and analyses the results of the 2019 Arab Region SDG Index and Dashboards. Part 2 presents case studies authored by regional scholars and practitioners that highlight SDGrelated priorities, challenges and success stories both related to thematic areas (water governance, food-energy-water nexus and stabilisation), policymaking (policy integration of the SDGs and green growth) and data (leveraging big data and improving statistical capacities).
Part 3 presents detailed profiles for each of the 22 Arab countries, containing information at indicator and SDG level as well as trends in SDG achievement. Part 4 presents the results of the index per indicator, and Part 5 provides a thorough explanation of the SDG Index and Dashboards methodology, including changes introduced in the 2019 Arab Region edition.

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Part 1. The SDG Index and Dashboards

1.2. 2019 Arab Region SDG Index
The 2019 Arab Region SDG Index describes the Arab region countries’ progress towards achieving the SDGs and indicates areas requiring faster progress. The SDG Index score and scores by goal can be interpreted as a percentage of achievement. The difference between 100 and countries’ scores is therefore the percentage improvement that needs to be completed to achieve the SDGs and goals.
Overall SDG Scores
In 2019, the Arab region exhibits a diversity of sustainable development outcomes, reflecting its vast differences on many socioeconomic indicators. Only a few common denominators cut across the region, including poor performance on SDGs 2 and 5, which measure sustainable food production systems and gender equality, respectively. Many other SDGs show more variation. However, as a whole, the Arab region does not score high in terms of SDG attainment, with an average score of 58 out of 100.
In 2019, five countries emerge as regional leaders, with a total score of 65 or above – meaning that they are approximately two-thirds of the way to achieving the SDGs. These are Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan. Three countries lag behind, having achieved less than 50% of the SDGs: Comoros, Yemen and Somalia. These countries will require tremendous efforts both domestically and by their regional and international partners to ensure they are not left behind. Palestine is featured for the first time in the SDG Index, but due to low data availability (55% of all indicators have data for Palestine), it does not receive a total score in the Index. (See Table 1.)
The SDGs are a unique toolkit for measuring development, which is reflected in the results of the 2019 Arab SDG Index. High performance on the SDGs does not correlate fully with either of the two broadly-used measures of development: gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and the Human Development Index (HDI). As is shown by Table 2, a high GDP per capita does not automatically indicate a high regional ranking in the SDG index (a correlation of 0.34). However, there is a stronger correlation between SDG achievement and GDP per capita among the lower-performing 11 countries (0.87), which indicates a link between economic performance and sustainable development outcomes.

As for the UN Development Programme’s HDI, which was developed in response to a perceived need to measure development also by a country’s progress in social metrics, the correlation is higher for the entire group of 22 countries (0.80). The correlation between the HDI and SDG achievement among the lower-performing 11 countries is even higher (0.90).
Conflict and political instability are generally understood to have a negative effect on development outcomes in the region. However, the SDG Dashboards do not indicate a significant correlation between a country’s overall SDG score and the indicators on political stability and battle-related deaths (0.54 and -0.26, respectively). However, none of the countries in the region suffering from conflict scores in the top-half of the ranking.
It is also important to keep in mind the great variations in population sizes. In 2019, the total population of the 22 Arab countries was 431 million people. There are 11 countries with a population of more than 10 million, together comprising 89% of the Arab region’s population. Egypt alone accounts for 23% of the region’s total population. Figure 2 shows the SDG dashboard scores of the countries of the Arab region combined with a graphic illustration of the number of people living in each country.
New Indicators
The 2019 Arab Index introduces a total of 30 new indicators compared to the 2019 Global Index (see Table 3). The indicators were selected based on their relevance for the region, in consultation with regional experts, and availability of data. Also, some of the indicators from the 2019 Global Index were removed or replaced due to low data availability. A detailed list of all changes is presented in Part 5 (Methodology).
As a result of these changes, the Arab Index scores in 2019 are lower overall than in the 2019 Global Index. The share of SDGs in red (major challenges) in the 2019 Arab Dashboards (51%) is also higher than that in the 2019 Global Dashboards (42%), which covers 21 out of the 22 Arab countries. These differences can be explained with the inclusion of indicators that focus on areas where the region’s countries face sustainable development challenges and the overall higher number of indicators: a red score for a goal is applied if at least two underlying indicators have a red score.

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2019 Arab Region SDG Index and Dashboards Report 

1. THE SDG INDEX AND DASHBOARDS

1.2. 2019 Arab Region SDG Index

Table 1    The 2019 Arab Region SDG Index

RANK COUNTRY

SCORE

RANK COUNTRY

SCORE

1

ALGERIA

66.69

UNITED ARAB 2
EMIRATES

66.17

3

MOROCCO

65.77

4

TUNISIA

65.33

5

JORDAN

65.28

6

LEBANON

63.09

7

OMAN

62.84

8

EGYPT

61.59

9

KUWAIT

61.08

10 QATAR

60.57

11 BAHRAIN

59.82

12 SAUDI ARABIA 59.72

13 IRAQ

55.49

14 LIBYA

53.90

15 MAURITANIA

52.75

16 SUDAN SYRIAN ARAB
17 REPUBLIC
18 DJIBOUTI

52.11 51.86 51.04

19 COMOROS

48.26

20 YEMEN

46.89

21 SOMALIA

43.41

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Part 1. The SDG Index and Dashboards

Morocco 36.6 million
Mauritania 4.7 million

Algeria 42.7 million

Tunisia 11.8 million

Libya 6.6 million

Figure 2
The Arab Region: Comparative Populations and SDG Performance by Country in 2019

This graphic presents the SDG dashboard scores of the 22 countries of the Arab region in 2019, with the size of the SDG rings proportional to the number of people living in each country.1

PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS
16
LIFE
ON LAND 15

PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS
17

NO POVERTY
1

1. Source: 2019 Arab Region SDG Index metadata.

ZERO HUNGER
2

GOOD HEALTH
3 AND WELL-BEING

LIFE
BELOW 14
WATER

4 QUALITY EDUCATION

13 CLIMATE
ACTION

5

GENDER EQUALITY

12 RESPONSIBLE
CONSUMPTION AND
PRODUCTION

6

CLEAN WATER AND

SANITATION

11 SUSTAINABLE

7 AFFORDABLE

CITIES AND
10 9 COMMUNITIES

REDUCED

8
DECENT

AND CLEAN ENERGY

6 INEQUALITIES

INDUSTRY, INNOVATION
AND INFRASTRUCTURE

WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH

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Results and Methodology