Opinion: SDG 16 is an accelerator for the entire 2030 Agenda

A view of the presentation of “SDG16+ Report” by Global Alliance. Photo by: Noëlla via Twitter

As the Sustainable Development Goals continue to be reviewed at the 2019 High-level Political Forum this week, the U.N. Development Programme is working with the U.N. system and a broader alliance of stakeholders to highlight the importance of SDG 16 — “peace, justice and strong institutions” — as an accelerator of the whole SDG framework.

A new report provides the critical perspectives of member states and stakeholders active in implementing SDG 16.

Achieving SDG 16 — and the SDGs in general — will depend on a step-change in the way we think about our support to help countries and regions break cycles of conflict and instability. It requires partnerships, integrated solutions, and for countries and member states to take charge and lead in reshaping the institutional and social landscape, preparing grounds for important reforms that help build sustainable peace.

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The findings so far resulting from our multistakeholder consultations show that the number of countries that are reporting on SDG 16 is increasing, but more needs to be done to ensure that goal 16 is also included as part of development planning, prioritization, and budgeting.

The new “SDG 16+ Report” shows indisputably that urgent action is needed.

What needs to happen to address the challenges?  Here seven insights:

1. Inclusive and participatory approach to development is crucial to counteract the potentially destabilizing impact of marginalization and exclusion. Rise in populism, nationalism, and xenophobia, and targeting of journalists, civil society actors, and human rights defenders results in increased politicization and polarization among population groups.

2. Collaborative and dialogue capacity is vital. Leaders at all levels should collaborate across political and social boundaries to push forward critical reforms; work together to utilize natural resources in the public interest.

3. Data availability is key. In order to measure progress on the goals and targets, countries will have to strengthen national statistical systems. Specific challenges in coordination and data collection in fragile contexts should also be further addressed.

4. Accountable and inclusive institutions should be in place to ensure participatory decision-making and responsive public policies that leave no one behind, and whereby citizens have unfettered access to justice and the rule of law, without which there can be no sustainable development.

5. Human rights are central to achieving SDG 16. Strengthening human rights institutions in line with international standards is critical to address exclusion and discrimination. This includes support on implementing the principle of leaving no one behind.

6. Localization of the SDGs is necessary. The role of local and regional governments is crucial in prioritization of SDGs. It can only flourish with the consensus-based targets and indicators at the local level complimented by investment and implementation measures.

7. Multistakeholder partnerships are important to facilitate the achievement of SDGs. Achieving the SDGs requires adopting a multistakeholder approach involving actors from government, civil society, youth, and private sector.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development commits signatories to intercultural understanding, tolerance, mutual respect, and an ethic of global citizenship and shared responsibility. Most significantly, SDG 16 aims to focus on addressing some of the key drivers of conflict and violence. UNDP has been mobilizing and elevating voices from across different regions to articulate how goal 16 is critical for all SDGs — including poverty eradication, gender equality, decent work, reducing inequalities, and addressing the injustices of climate change.

UNDP plays a strong integrator role within the U.N. system for conflict prevention. At the country level: In Libya, we have provided critical capacity-building and stabilization support. In Iraq, UNDP has started a new generation of large-scale stabilization programs, aiming at rapidly reestablishing basic services. In the Central African Republic, the UNDP-supported Rule of Law Accelerator Initiative is currently facilitating the coordination, collection and analysis of data to facilitate planning and monitoring of progress toward the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

Most recently we have partnered with the government of Italy to launch “16x16” – a new global initiative implemented by the UNDP Youth Global Programme to support 16 youth-led organizations advancing goal 16 at local and national levels. The youths will continue to amplify their voices and local experiences to inform global conversations and reviews and contribute to connecting SDG 16 to other relevant agendas at all levels.

SDG 16 cannot be achieved by governments alone. It requires a “whole-of-government” and “whole-of-society” approach. Partnership and investment will be key to accelerating progress on SDG 16 and across the 2030 Agenda — to transform the world for the better.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Asako Okai

    Ms. Asako Okai is United Nations assistant secretary-general and UNDP’s director for the Crisis Bureau. She leads UNDP’s corporate fragility-related work and drives UNDP’s vision and priorities for crisis prevention, response, and recovery. Ms. Okai has held Japan’s diplomatic senior positions worldwide and worked closely with the U.N. headquarters, both in the Permanent Mission of Japan to the U.N. and as a senior member of the Office of the President of the 66th U.N. General Assembly, most recently serving as consul-general of Japan in Vancouver, Canada.