Half-Time for SDG Evidence Generation. Insights from the Development Evidence Portal.

Half-Time for SDG Evidence Generation. Insights from the Development Evidence Portal.

Issued in 2023

This working paper provides an overview of state of effectiveness evidence across the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. 

The authors have analyzed impact evaluations and systematic reviews available in 3ie’s Development Evidence Portal published between 1990 to 2022. The study finds substantial evidence bases, built up over several decades, for SDGs focusing on poverty (SDG 1), health (SDG 3), and education (SDG 4). SDGs focused on environmental sustainability (SDGs 12–15) have received limited attention in the impact evaluation literature, apart from a recent surge in evaluations of environmental policies in China. Across nearly all SDGs, there is a limited supply of high-quality evidence synthesis. 

The paper recommends that the SDGs be given a more central role in setting research priorities and coordinating research activities in global development. Global producers and users of evidence should set and monitor progress towards targets for creating a robust evidence base for interventions to achieve the SDGs. To create such an evidence base, researchers and research commissioners will need to prioritize and dedicate resources to efficiently generating evidence for neglected SDGs (e.g., SDGs 6, 7, 11, and 14), conducting high-quality synthesis, and gathering evidence on whether global development interventions reduce or exacerbate existing inequalities. Such efforts will ensure that the evidence base has sufficient coverage of the core themes of sustainable and equitable development to support sound decision making, even after the SDG agenda closes in 2030.