Children are central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

June 12, 2017


Key facts

  • The 2030 Agenda includes 17 Global Goals addressing the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.
  • Attached to the Goals are 169 concrete targets measured by 230 specific indicators.
  • 50 of these indicators are directly related to children.
  • Worldwide data availability is limited or poor for more than half of these indicators.
  • Most also lack disaggregated data – necessary to meet the commitment to leave no one behind.
  • UNICEF, as the global leader of data for children, is the custodian for 10 global SDG indicators and co-custodian for a further 7 indicators.

Children and the Sustainable Development Goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development charts an ambitious course for the coming decade and beyond. Understanding the situation of children in relation to the SDGs is crucial both for the well-being of children and for reaching the targets of the Global Goals. Most SDG goals and targets are either directly or indirectly related to children. The world cannot and will not reach most targets unless the specific needs of children are monitored and addressed throughout the 2030 Agenda.

Underlying the Sustainable Development Agenda is a commitment by United Nations Member States to tackle inequalities and to leave no one behind. But the SDGs can only deliver on the promise of equity if the world knows which children and families are thriving and which are being left behind – both at the launch of the Agenda and throughout its implementation. Improving the coverage and quality of child related data is essential to harnessing the power of the 2030 Agenda for children. This commitment is especially crucial for ensuring that the most disadvantaged children and families benefit from the Agenda in the years to come.

UNICEF is the global leader of data for children

UNICEF has established extensive global databases of indicators relating to the well-being of children. In collaboration with other child-focused agencies, the organization has pioneered the development of new indicators and methods for the collection of data through household surveys and administrative data sources and strengthened the capacity of many countries to collect, analyse and use these indicators and methods. It has also played a leading role in the development of international standards for data quality and estimation methods recommended by Inter-Agency and Expert Groups, guided by country needs. UNICEF has established mechanisms for collecting, compiling and verifying data at country, regional and international levels and is responsible for providing estimates for the UN Secretary-General’s reports on a wide range of child-related indicators.

UNICEF also supports countries to collect, analyse and use a wide range of other child-related indicators, including through the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and administrative reporting mechanisms, which may be suitable for national, regional and thematic reporting on children in the SDG period.

Is every child counted? Status of data for children in the SDGs

Mar 6, 2017

“Is every child counted”, a recent status report by UNICEF, shows that sufficient data are available for less than half of child-related SDG indicators. Many indicators, such as those on poverty and violence, are not comparable across countries, and are either too limited or of poor quality, leaving governments without the information they need to accurately address challenges facing millions of children, or to track progress towards achieving the Goals. Data are also very limited on the situation of the most disadvantaged populations within each country. Better disaggregated data on these populations is necessary. The report also identifies priorities for enhancing the collection, analysis and use of data for children.

Brochure | Full report

UNICEF is the custodian or co-custodian for 17 SDG indicators

UNICEF is the designated custodian agency for 10 global SDG indicators and co-custodian for a further 7. In this role, UNICEF supports countries in generating, analyzing and using data for these indicators for all their citizens. This includes leading methodological work, developing international standards, and establishing mechanisms for compilation and verification of national data, and maintaining global databases.  

UNICEF’S commitment to data for children is guided by the fact that the SDGs impact every aspect of a child’s wellbeing.

UNICEF’s work is structured around 5 overarching areas of well-being for every child which are grounded in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These five areas are that:

  • Every child survives and thrives
  • Every child learns
  • Every child is protected from violence and exploitation
  • Every child lives in a safe and clean environment
  • Every child has a fair chance in life

This human rights based approach pursues a vision of realizing the rights of every child, especially the most disadvantaged and responds to the call to “leave no child behind”,  so that the rights of every child, everywhere, will be fulfilled. The table below lists the SDG indicators that have been identified by UNICEF, based on these broad areas, as most relevant for monitoring the situation of children under each SDG goal.

Child-related SDG indicators


1.1.1 Proportion of population below the international poverty line, by sex, age, employment status and geographical location (urban/rural)

1.2.1 Proportion of population living below the national poverty line, by sex and age

1.2.2 Proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions

1.3.1 Proportion of population covered by social protection floors/systems, by sex, and distinguishing children, unemployed persons, older persons, persons with disabilities, pregnant women, newborns, work injury victims, and the poor and the vulnerable

1.4.1 Proportion of population living in households with access to basic services

2.2.1 Prevalence of stunting (height for age <-2 standard deviation from the median of the World Health Organization (WHO) Child Growth Standards) among children under 5 years of age

2.2.2 Prevalence of malnutrition (weight for height >+2 or <-2 standard deviation from the median of the WHO Child Growth Standards) among children under 5 years of age, by type (wasting and overweight)

3.1.1 Maternal mortality ratio

3.1.2 Proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel

3.2.1 Under-5 mortality rate

3.2.2 Neonatal mortality rate

3.3.1 Number of new HIV infections per 1,000 uninfected population, by sex, age and key populations

3.3.2 Tuberculosis incidence per 1,000 population

3.3.3 Malaria incidence per 1,000 population

3.4.2 Suicide mortality rate

3.6.1 Death rate due to road traffic injuries

3.7.1 Proportion of women of reproductive age (aged 15–49 years) who have their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods

3.7.2 Adolescent birth rate (aged 10–14 years; aged 15–19 years) per 1,000 women in that age group

3.8.1 Coverage of essential health services (defined as the average coverage of essential services based on tracer interventions that include reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases and service capacity and access, among the general and the most disadvantaged population)

3.9.1 Mortality rate attributed to household and ambient air pollution

3.9.2 Mortality rate attributed to unsafe water, unsafe sanitation and lack of hygiene (exposure to unsafe WASH services)

4.1.1 Proportion of children and young people: (a) in grades 2/3; (b) at the end of primary; and (c) at the end of lower secondary achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (i) reading and (ii) mathematics, by sex

4.2.1 Proportion of children under 5 years of age who are developmentally on track in health, learning and psychosocial well-being, by sex

4.2.2 Participation rate in organized learning (one year before the official primary entry age), by sex

4.5.1 Parity indices (female/male, rural/urban, bottom/top wealth quintile and others such as disability status, indigenous peoples and conflict-affected as data become available)

4.6.1 Percentage of population in a given age group achieving at least a fixed level of proficiency in functional (a) literacy and (b) numeracy skills, by sex

4.a.1 Proportion of schools with access to: (a) electricity; (b) the Internet for pedagogical purposes; (c) computers for pedagogical purposes; (d) adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities; (e) basic drinking water; (f) single-sex basic sanitation facilities; and (g) basic handwashing facilities (as per the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All (WASH) indicator definitions)

5.2.1 Proportion of ever-partnered women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner, in the previous 12 months, by form of violence and by age

5.2.2 Proportion of women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to sexual violence by persons other than an intimate partner, in the previous 12 months, by age and place of occurrence

5.3.1 Proportion of women aged 20–24 years who were married or in a union before age 15 and before age 18

5.3.2 Proportion of girls and women aged 15–49 years who have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting, by age

5.4.1 Proportion of time spent on unpaid domestic and care work, by sex, age and location

5.6.1 Proportion of women aged 15–49 years who make their own informed decisions regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and reproductive health care

6.1.1 Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services

6.2.1 Proportion of population using safely managed sanitation services, including a hand- washing facility with soap and water

7.1.2 Proportion of population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technology

8.7.1 Proportion and number of children aged 5–17 years engaged in child labour, by sex and age

10.1.1 Growth rates of household expenditure or income per capita among the bottom 40 per cent of the population and the total population

11.1.1 Proportion of urban population living in slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing

12.8.1 Extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development (including climate change education) are mainstreamed in (a) national education policies (b) curricula (c) teacher education and (d) student assessment

13.1.1 Number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies

13.1.2 Number of deaths, missing and persons affected by disaster per 100,000 people

16.1.1 Number of victims of intentional homicide per 100,000 population, by sex and age

16.1.2 Conflict-related deaths per 100,000 population, by sex, age and cause

16.2.1 Proportion of children aged 1–17 years who experienced any physical punishment and/or psychological aggression by caregivers in the past month

16.2.3 Proportion of young women and men aged 18–29 years who experienced sexual violence by age 18

16.9.1 Proportion of children under 5 years of age whose births have been registered with a civil authority, by age

17.18.1 Proportion of sustainable development indicators produced at the national level with full disaggregation when relevant to the target, in accordance with the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics

17.19.2 Proportion of countries that a) have conducted at least one Population and Housing Census in the last ten years, and b) have achieved 100 per cent birth registration and 80 per cent death registration