News & Insights

Cardno's role in achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals

There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations in 2015 with a completion goal of 2030. They are described as a ‘blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future’.

Each of the 17 goals has a detailed, systematic plan, and targets within them. They range from Gender Equality (Goal 5), Affordable and Clean energy (Goal 7), to Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (Goal 9). It is the latter, Goal 9, where a certain Cardno project has been playing a part.

Transforming Transportation Conference 2019

The Cardno managed Research for Community Access Partnership (ReCAP) is a UK Aid funded research programme improving accessibility of the rural poor in Africa and Asia. The programme conducts numerous research projects that vary across many aspects of rural access, including climate change, gender and inclusivity, and transport service provision. One project is exploring SDG Indicator 9.1.1, the Rural Access Index (RAI).

“The Rural Access Index is as a key indicator that estimates the proportion of the rural population with adequate access to the transport system. It is defined as the proportion of the rural population living within 2 km of an all-season road.” (Roberts et al, 2006)1

The UN SDG’s are classified into three tiers, which help establish adequate strategies to progress towards the final accomplished goals. They are:

  • Tier 1: Indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, and data are regularly produced by countries for at least 50 per cent of countries and of the population in every region where the indicator is relevant.
  • Tier 2: Indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, but data are not regularly produced by countries.
  • Tier 3: No internationally established methodology or standards are yet available for the indicator, but methodology/standards are being (or will be) developed or tested2.

The World Bank, in partnership with ReCAP, developed new and innovative ways to measure RAI data using geospatial methods, across a number of countries with varying terrain and obstacles3. The team developed a methodology that improved the process for RAI data collection, and this has since been refined further, with Supplemental Guidelines and proof of concept for an RAI Calculation Tool being developed by the ReCAP programme. 

In December 2018, SDG 9.1.1 was promoted to Tier 2. 

Umar Serajuddin, Senior Economist in the World Bank's Development Data Group commented: 

“Road access enables people to lead productive lives and we must measure it properly. The World Bank is pleased to have worked with ReCAP to refine the Rural Access Index, which has been accepted as part of the official SDG monitoring framework. This can help countries plan and invest to effectively meet the development needs of the rural population.”

The team are now strategising the way forward, liaising with the World Bank, and discussing the projects at international conferences, such as the UN’s 5th International Conference on Big Data for Official Statistics, held in April 2019 or the World Bank’s Transforming Transportation 2019 conference held at their headquarters in Washington, or the forthcoming World Road Congress in Abu Dhabi (October 2019). 


Aspirations to progress SDG 9.1.1

It is the aspiration of ReCAP, The Department for International Development (DFID) UK, and the World Bank to progress SDG 9.1.1 to Tier 1 status, by establishing the RAI in at least 50 per cent of UN countries. To this end, ReCAP will be supporting uptake of the RAI methodology and supplemental guidelines in at least thirty countries, including all 17 ReCAP countries in the coming months. 

In addition, ReCAP has just started another project that is to explore the suitability of SDG Indicator 9.1.2 ‘Passenger and freight volumes by mode of transport’ for Rural Access, which will investigate the feasibility of adapting SDG 9.1.2 for low volume rural transport. 

Visit the UN Sustainable Goals website to find out more about the SDGs


1 Rural Access Index: A Key Development Indicator
2 IAEG-SDGs: Tier Classification for Global SDG Indicators
3 Measuring Rural Access