Flexible Voluntary Contribution (FVC)

FAO’s work on measuring and monitoring the Mountain Green Cover Index acknowledged and recognised internationally


Mountain landscape in Barskoon, Kyrgyzstan.
© FAO/Mirbek Kadraliev

As the custodian agency for 21 indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is constantly supporting countries in building their capacity for producing and, in turn, using SDG indicators to guide the design of national policies. To accomplish this, FAO has developed and rolled out a technical assistance programme entitled “Measuring the SDGs: Improving country data for monitoring SDG achievements and informing policy decisions”, which aims at increasing the availability and quality of statistics to inform decision-making on the SDGs.

Launched in 2019 within the framework of the Flexible Multi-Partner Mechanism (FMM), the programme has been instrumental in improving partner countries’ reporting on the 21 SDG indicators under FAO custodianship – with countries’ reporting rates increasing from 33.4% in 2018 to 53.6% in 2021.

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, significant efforts were recently made to support countries in strengthening their capacities to monitor the SDGs, including through the use of geospatial data.  These efforts have already borne fruits, culminating with the GEO Award FAO received during the GEO Week 2021 for developing new methods to monitor the Mountain Green Cover Index (SDG indicator 15.4.2), which is obtained entirely using geospatial information.

“Though not a panacea for solving all the challenges related to the immense SDG data needs, geospatial data can significantly contribute both directly and indirectly to improving the availability, quality, and consistency of SDG indicators and, more generally, to strengthening the national statistical system” said Pietro Gennari, FAO’s Chief Statistician, on the occasion of the award ceremony.

FAO’s new approach for simplifying and automatizing the measurement of SDG Indicator 15.4.2 was introduced in 2019.  It has been pilot-tested in several countries and can now be used to monitor the Mountain Green Cover Index anywhere in the world.

“Our approach not only allows us to generate indicator values for all countries and territories of the world using global datasets, but also encourages countries to use their own national data for reporting, where available,” added Anssi Pekkarinen, Senior Forestry Officer and team leader of FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment.

This result was made possible thanks to FMM Resource Partners. Recently, FAO strengthened its partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) on using Earth Observation images to monitor Agrifood systems and help countries achieve the SDGs. FAO is also building capacity in countries for producing their own land cover datasets.

FAO’s achievements were also reflected in the findings of FAO’s 2021 SDG report “Tracking progress on food and agriculture-related SDG indicators”, which recognized sustainable forest management as one of the few areas in which progress has been made in recent years.

To maintain the momentum and accelerate implementation in 2022, FAO calls on the donor community to step up its investments in SDG data. Last December, the FAO Office of the Chief Statistician organized an event to brief all current and potential resource partners on FAO’s progress in providing capacity development for SDG data.

The event, entitled “Data for the SDGs”, highlighted some of the recent FAO’s achievements, linked to the adoption by countries of some of the global SDG indicators mainly through the inclusion in national surveys of few additional questions, such as in the case of indicator 2.1.2 (severity of food insecurity), and 5.a.1 (women’s ownership of agricultural land). It also advocated for further support to the “Measuring the SDGs” Programme, a linchpin for putting the 2030 Agenda back on track. Particular emphasis was given to some fundamental priority indicators still underreported, such as productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, sustainable agriculture, women’s land ownership, food losses, and measuring the private sector’s contribution to the SDGs.

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