The Global Sport and Sustainable Development Goals Impact Report

Cover image of the Global Sport and Sustainable Development Goals Impact Report

The Global Sport and SDG Impact Report will be the first global baseline report on the global data available to evidence the contribution that physical education, physical activity and sport make to sustainable development. This policy brief offers a preview of that report, explaining its methodology and indicators, and highlighting areas in which measurable progress has been made and where gaps in the evidence have been found.

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In addition to the full report – which will be published later in 2023 – further data and indicators have been made available in a dedicated online data dashboard. While neither constitute an exhaustive survey of the information available for review, their intention is to serve as a starting point for the data development agenda.

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What methodology was used?

The issue of low availability for current or historical data has been a factor in several of the methodological decisions made, from what indicators to include to how to calculate regional and global scores. There are many empirical and statistical techniques that can be employed to deal with issues of missing data. They do, however, come with caveats.

The report uses imputed data to attempt to overcome the paucity of consistent and comprehensive data across topics and countries. By using data sets that include imputations we are presenting best guesses rather than projections.

Further analysis will be pursued in order to fill the gaps in the data and make future iterations of the Global Sport and SDG Impact Report more comprehensive and robust. In doing so we aim to contribute to the growing understanding of sport’s contribution to the SDGs, and fully optimise the impact of sport as a development tool.

What is this policy brief?

This policy brief contains highlights from the Global Sport and SDG Indicators utilised for the Global Sport and SDG Impact Report. It considers where – in both the Commonwealth and global contexts where possible – measurable progress has been made towards achieving each indicator, and where data gaps exist. A selection of category 1 and 2 indicators were identified for each of the seven domains explored in the following chapters, in order to give an overall picture of data without reporting on each and every one of the indicators, which falls outside the scope of this policy brief; the Global Sport and SDG Impact Indicators dashboard provides further visuals and data. Annex 1 of this report includes example visuals from the data; Annex 2 describes the imputation methods used for each Global Sport and SDG Impact Indicator; and Annex 3 presents the full data findings for all indicators, by domain.

Where did the Global Sport and SDG Impact Report come from?

The Impact Report is a direct result of the delivery of a global multi-stakeholder initiative under the Kazan Action Plan[1] adopted in 2017 – specifically Action 2, which was to

‘[d]evelop common indicators for measuring the contribution of physical education, physical activity and sport to prioritized SDGs and targets.’ Share on Twitter
UNESCO (2017)

This action, set by UNESCO and its member states and outlined in part by the Kazan Action Plan, is the one on which the Commonwealth was asked to take the lead, working alongside other institutions, governments, experts and practitioners. The Impact Report is the outcome of a long and fruitful process of developing a set of Global Sport and SDG Impact Indicators that align local, national and international sport policies and programmes with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What are the Global Sport and SDG Impact Indicators?

These are a set of measures, or indicators, designed to help countries and sporting bodies monitor and evaluate the contributions that sport, physical education and physical activity make to the achievement of the SDGs. Specifically, they help monitor the contribution of sport to areas such as:

  • good health (SDG3)
  • quality education (SDG4)
  • gender equality (SDG5)
  • economic growth and decent work for all (SDG8)
  • reducing inequality (SDG10)
  • sustainable consumption and environmental sustainability (SDGs 12 and 13)
  • safeguarding athletes and participants from abuse and violence (SDGs 5 and 16)
  • building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions (SDG16).

A toolkit has been produced (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2020) that outlines a common approach to the measurement of sport-related policies, implementation plans and strategies, alongside core principles associated with the design of monitoring and evaluation frameworks that integrate the Global Sport and SDG Impact Indicators.

The Global Sport and SDG Indicators continue to be led and co-ordinated by the Commonwealth Secretariat, with the support of a high-level steering group made up of over 250 stakeholders, United Nations agencies, leading member countries and sector experts. The indicators are aligned to, and designed to coherently support and reduce the monitoring burden for stakeholders across the following existing frameworks and action plans:

  • the UN Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace (2018–2020), which includes a focus on improving sport-related data
  • UNESCO’s flagship sports initiative Fit for Life, which will advance impact measurement and stream existing data such as that collected via UNESCO’s Quality Physical Education initiative (UNESCO, n.d.)
  • the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (WHO, 2018)
  • the other four actions of the Kazan Action Plan.

What story does the full Impact Report tell?

The potential for sport to make positive contributions to society is well recognised, and sport is acknowledged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UNGA, 2015) as an important enabler to achieving the SDGs. The Impact Report squarely advocates for the continued need for evidence-based policy across seven domains of impact. Given the complexity of the project, a select basket of indicators was determined in order to present a clear picture of the gaps and opportunities that exist globally in data that measures the contribution of sport to the SDGs. It was important to work with a select basket of indicators, as although one cannot measure everything, one can begin to tell a story that will spur action.

How were the baskets of indicators and domains selected?

Through a selection of category 1, 2 and 3 indicators (Table 1) and across seven domains summarised in Figure 1 and discussed in more detail in the following section.

Of the 88,200 possible data points across all indicators between 2016 and 2022, only 16 per cent of all data was available. Imputations increased this by an additional 32 per cent, meaning that almost half (48 per cent) of all possible data could be included in the report. Overall, Europe had the most available data – 60 per cent of all possible data for the region (24 per cent actual and 35 per cent imputed) – while Asia and the Pacific had the least, 43 per cent of all possible data for the region (13 per cent actual, 30 per cent imputed).

[1]The KAP was adopted on 15 July 2017 by UNESCO’s Sixth International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport (MINEPS VI). See