Written by Ionel Zamfir.
The 16th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG16) to ‘Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’ represents a new milestone compared with the earlier millennium development goals. While several of its targets (such as peace, corruption-free institutions and freedom from violence) were once seen as prerequisites of sustainable development, the adoption of SDG16 marked the first time that they were globally recognised as development objectives in themselves. To achieve universal recognition, SDG16 leaves out explicit reference to internationally recognised political and civil rights norms, attracting some criticism. Its very general scope has also stirred controversy regarding the type of data required in order to assess progress rigorously.
The state of play with regard to the implementation of SDG16 indicates that substantial progress is still needed in order to achieve the SDG targets by 2030. Violent conflicts continue to affect many parts of the world, societal violence remains widespread in many countries and violence against children in particular remains a pervasive phenomenon, especially in developing countries. The pandemic has erased much previous progress on the SDGs, and led to restrictions on freedoms and more limited government accountability. The war in Ukraine, meanwhile, with its negative spill-overs on other SDGs demonstrates once more the crucial role of peace.
The EU has committed to contributing to the achievement of all the SDGs, and the specific targets of SDG16 have been given special recognition. From the Global Strategy to the ‘new consensus on development’, various policy documents acknowledge the crucial role of peace, democracy, human rights and the rule of law for sustainable development. The interconnection between the pursuit of these fundamental values and EU efforts to help developing countries achieve the SDGs is obvious in numerous measures undertaken in the framework of EU external action. The European Parliament is a strong champion for these values in the world.
This is an update of a Briefing published in February 2020.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Peace, justice and strong institutions: EU support for implementing SDG 16 worldwide‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.