The Challenge of Integrating Indicators Across Levels

Submitted by admin on 28. May 2011 - 18:23
Karlsson, Sylvia


Sylvia Karlsson
IHDP, Bonn, Germany

Presented at the Dialogue on Indicators for Sustainability
Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development
27 August 2002

A series of parallel events at the World Summit on Sustainable Development
(Johannesburg, South Africa, 27 August-3 September 2002)

These papers are as presented at the conference and have not been subject to editorial review by the IEF

(Summary text based on powerpoint presentation)

Progress in developing indicators varies across the different levels of governance. At the national level, there has been substantial progress in many countries. At the local level, there are scattered pilot projects. For the global framework, indicators are largely undeveloped.

To date there has been little integration of indicators across governance levels. However decision-making by individuals, communities, and institutions is increasingly interlinked across all governance levels. This reflects the multiple dimensions of globalization.

Indicators support decision making for sustainable development through the following functions:
- to create awareness of the problems;
- to facilitate decision making by indicating policy directions;
- to enable the evaluation of decisions, policies and implementation.

For creating awareness, state and impact indicators are often useful. However the geographic scale at which indicators are defined and used for monitoring is important, as there can be cross-level deceptions.

For facilitating decision making, the focus is generally on driving force and pressure indicators, as these point towards human activities that can be managed. Some of the challenges are the identification of the root causes for problems among the many layers of interlinked driving forces, and the identification of indicators for level-specific driving forces.

Response indicators can point to the effects of decisions, policies and other implementation actions, enabling their evaluation. However since effects may be reflected at other geographic levels then that where the action is taken, there are limitations on the ability of indicators at a specific level of governance to assess the outcomes.

Therefore the integration of indicators across levels is a considerable challenge. It requires more research and knowledge, and highlights the global complexities of sustainable development and their ethical trade-offs.

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Last updated 1 January 2003