Building Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies
On our journey toward sustainable development, it becomes clear that peace, stability, human rights, and effective governance are the foundation of a thriving society governed by fairness and the rule of law. However, our world stands at a crossroads as the gaps between regions experiencing peace, security, and prosperity and those plagued by unrelenting cycles of conflict and violence continue to widen. To further support this, a 2019 United Nations Report on the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) straightforwardly asserts that achieving the objective of establishing peaceful, fair, and inclusive societies is still a distant aspiration. But this division is not an inevitable fate; it is a challenge that demands our immediate attention. Crimes that threaten the fabric of peaceful societies, such as homicides, human trafficking, organised crime, and discriminatory laws and practices, leave no country untouched. Amid rising calls for global harmony, we witness the highest number of violent conflicts since 1946, with a staggering one-fourth of the global population residing in conflict-affected countries
Amidst these pressing challenges, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) encompass SDG 16, a crucial milestone dedicated to promoting inclusive and peaceful societies, ensuring universal access to justice, and building effective, transparent, and accountable institutions at all levels. This goal recognizes that sustainable development hinges upon addressing the pillars of governance, justice, and human rights. SDG 16 embodies a visionary pursuit to reduce violence, guarantee access to justice, fortify institutions, and foster governance rooted in accountability and inclusivity. By placing peace, justice, and robust institutions at the forefront, this goal paves the way for sustainable development worldwide. It underscores the imperative for collaborative efforts among nations, communities, and individuals to forge a world that embraces harmony, fairness, and equality.
Key Targets and Indicators:
SDG 16 comprises specific targets and indicators that serve as benchmarks for progress and guide us toward the realization of the goal. These targets include the reduction of violence, the promotion of the rule of law, the assurance of access to justice, the fight against corruption, and the establishment of inclusive and accountable institutions. Measuring progress through peace indices, levels of political engagement, corruption perception indexes, and access to justice statistics empowers policymakers with invaluable insights to drive meaningful change.
Why it Matters?
Peace is an indispensable component for the well-being and productivity of the global population. Without peace, the attainment of the remaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would be unattainable. Individuals worldwide must be able to live without the constant fear of violence, irrespective of their ethnicity, faith, or sexual orientation. Unfortunately, conflict, insecurity, weak institutions, and limited access to justice continue to pose significant threats to sustainable development. In 2019, the number of individuals forced to flee their homes due to war, persecution, and conflict reached an unprecedented level, surpassing 79.5 million. Furthermore, one out of every four children remains without a legal identity due to the lack of birth registration, often resulting in limited exercise of their rights in various domains. Other alarming key facts published in the Sustainable Development Goals Report by the United Nations include:
As of May 2022:
Over 100 million people have been displaced due to conflicts, violence, human rights violations, and persecution.
There were 320 fatal attacks recorded in 35 countries, targeting human rights defenders, journalists, and trade unionists.
13,842 deaths were associated with 12 of the deadliest armed conflicts worldwide, with 11,075 being civilians. However, there was a 17% decrease in civilian deaths in 2020 and a significant 69% decrease from 2015.
Over the last decade:
Approximately $349 billion was spent globally on peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, and refugee support.
Between 2016 and 2020:
28% of seized weapons were successfully traced, providing valuable information for investigations.
National authorities destroyed 48% of seized, found, or surrendered weapons between 2018 and 2019.
Between 2015 and 2020:
The global homicide rate decreased by 5.2%, from 5.9 to 5.6 homicides per 100,000 people.
Approximately 8 out of 10 recorded homicide victims are male.
Women and girls represent around 60% of all homicide victims killed by intimate partners or family members.
The global homicide rate is projected to decrease by 19% from the 2015 level, reaching approximately 4.8 homicides per 100,000 people. However, this projection falls short of the "significant reduction" targeted in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Nearly 1 in 6 businesses face requests for bribe payments by public officials.
The figures further entreat why individuals should care about peace, justice, and strong institutions, as addressed in SDG #16. Achieving the target sets translate to;
Ensuring safety and security: Peace and justice are fundamental to ensuring safety and security for individuals and communities. Strong institutions, such as effective and accountable law enforcement and justice systems, can help to prevent crime and violence.
Promoting human rights: SDG #16 aims to promote human rights, such as freedom of expression, access to justice, and equal treatment under the law. This is important for ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and with dignity.
Fostering sustainable development: Without peace, justice, and strong institutions, sustainable development is difficult to achieve. Corruption, conflict, and weak governance can undermine efforts to reduce poverty, promote economic growth, and protect the environment.
Building trust in institutions: When institutions are effective, transparent, and accountable, they can build trust among citizens. This trust is essential for promoting social cohesion and ensuring that institutions can effectively serve the needs of all members of society.
A Look at Challenges and Way Forward.
The progress towards achieving the targets set by sustainable development goal 16 has encountered significant obstacles that impede its objectives. These challenges encompass various aspects of society, including political instability, corruption, inequality, and human rights violations. Moreover, environmental factors like resource conflicts and climate-induced migration also have an impact on peace and stability. Additionally, economic challenges, such as unequal access to resources and opportunities, further exacerbate social tensions.
However, it is crucial to emphasize that strengthening the rule of law and promoting human rights are the most crucial factors in attaining SDG 16. Accomplishing this goal brings about numerous benefits, including a reduction in violence, increased political stability, improved social cohesion, the protection of human rights, and enhanced trust in institutions. It creates a society where individuals can thrive, communities can prosper, and economies can grow sustainably.
To address this global challenge, various best practices are being implemented. These include promoting inclusive and participatory governance, supporting conflict resolution mechanisms, investing in legal and judicial reforms, empowering marginalized communities, and fostering dialogue and reconciliation. Additionally, policymakers should prioritize strengthening the rule of law, promoting transparency, and investing in institutions that uphold justice and human rights to accelerate progress toward SDG 16. Policies combating corruption, supporting conflict resolution, and ensuring access to justice for marginalised groups are crucial. Promoting participatory decision-making processes and inclusive governance structures can also contribute to achieving the goal.
International cooperation, partnerships, and funding mechanisms play a vital role in supporting the achievement of SDG 16. Initiatives such as the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, the Global Alliance for Reporting Progress on Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies, and the Open Government Partnership foster collaboration among countries, facilitate the sharing of knowledge and resources, and support initiatives related to peacebuilding, justice, and good governance. These collaborative platforms enable the exchange of best practices and facilitate collective action toward achieving SDG 16.
Call to Action:
Individuals and businesses alike have a crucial role to play in advancing SDG 16, alongside government efforts to protect human rights and strengthen the rule of law. One way individuals can contribute is by volunteering for organizations that are actively involved in peacebuilding, human rights, and justice initiatives. By dedicating their time and skills, individuals can make a tangible impact in creating more peaceful and inclusive societies. Additionally, raising awareness about the importance of peace, justice, and inclusivity through social media and community events can help to mobilize support and generate dialogue on these critical issues.
Businesses, too, can take action in advancing SDG 16. They can support governments in combating corruption by implementing robust anti-corruption measures within their own operations and supply chains. By promoting ethical business practices and transparency, businesses can contribute to creating an environment conducive to peace and stability. Furthermore, businesses can actively engage in peacebuilding efforts by supporting projects and organizations that focus on conflict resolution, access to justice, and accountable governance. By aligning their corporate social responsibility initiatives with SDG 16, businesses can play a significant role in promoting peace, justice, and inclusivity.
Ultimately, individuals and businesses need to engage in peaceful and respectful dialogue, both within their communities and on a broader scale. By fostering understanding, empathy, and open communication, we can bridge divides and work towards building a world where peace, justice, and inclusivity thrive. Together, through collective action and a shared commitment to SDG 16, we can make a positive difference and contribute to a more peaceful and just global society.
UN Statistics Division (2019). Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels. [online]. Available at:— SDG Indicators