[N]ow is the time to correct a glaring blind spot in how we measure economic prosperity and progress. When profits come at the expense of people and our planet, we are left with an incomplete picture of the true cost of economic growth.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Our Common Agenda: Report of the Secretary-General
The simultaneous challenges with which the world is grappling (COVID-19, the climate, biodiversity, and pollution crises, extreme inequalities, shifting globalization dynamics, financial volatility and vulnerability, rapid digital transformation and the digital and data divides among others) have ignited a broad rethinking of business-as-usual practices in evaluating the wellbeing of people and planet. In this context, the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) in November 2021 deliberated on measuring progress beyond gross domestic product (GDP).
CEB underscored that as numbers and the lack of them shape national and global policies in important ways, going beyond GDP was not just a macroeconomic or statistical issue, rather it interconnected all dimensions and key drivers of sustainable development and was deeply consequential for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships.
CEB felt that there was an opportunity for the UN system to make a contribution on measuring progress beyond GDP that considers these dimensions, and tasked HLCP to develop a UN system-wide contribution on Beyond GDP, including an analysis and proposed recommendations relating to data, policy coherence and capacity development in support of Member States in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly SDG target 17.19. The target aimed to “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” by 2030. This effort will also contribute to the follow-up of Our Common Agenda and support the multi-year update of the System of National Accounts (SNA) led by the UN Statistical Commission.
An HLCP Core Group on Beyond GDP was established in December 2021, co-led by DESA, UNDP and UNCTAD. The Core Group developed a concept note approved by HLCP at an intersessional meeting held on 18 February 2022. In-depth discussions on the substantive aspects of Beyond GDP were held on 31 March and 1 April 2022 at the 43rd session of HLCP in London. The Committee agreed to a set of conclusions that guided the production of the UN system-wide contribution.
The HLCP Core Group on Beyond GDP drafted the paper Valuing What Counts: United Nations System-wide Contribution on Beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP), containing a narrative on why the international community need to go beyond GDP, followed by a section containing a proposed framework for Beyond GDP, and a set of recommendations for the UN system, Member States, and other stakeholders. Valuing What Counts was approved by HLCP at an intersessional meeting held on 28 July 2022 and taken note of by CEB in August 2022.