The 2030 Agenda recognizes that “there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.”. Peaceful, just and inclusive societies are accordingly considered both outcomes and enablers of sustainable development.
Recognizing SDG16+, including issues like peace, justice, accountability and human rights as an enabler for achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is tremendous value for civil society to utilize SDG16+ as an additional entry point for advancing their work around peacebuilding. Without the enabling environment that SDG16+ provides for the delivery of the SDGs, it will be difficult or nearly impossible to realize the ambitious vision of the 2030 Agenda to end poverty, achieve gender equality, promote economic growth and combat climate change. In other words, without a focus on the SDG16+ targets for peace, justice and inclusion, none of the SDGs will be able to be delivered in full.
Looking back over the first five years of the 2030 Agenda, the world’s progress towards realizing the SDGs has not been encouraging. As highlighted in the Rome Civil Society Declaration on SDG16+ even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the international community finds itself well behind in its goals to achieve the 2030 Agenda – with SDG16 progress stagnating or even backsliding on many fronts, and in many countries around the world.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the deepening cracks that have emerged in society, only serving to magnify the profound inequalities that exist on many fronts while highlighting weaknesses in institutions that have been chronically under-funded and under-supported over past years or even decades. The pandemic’s disproportionate effects on the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries are undermining the SDGs, including SDG16+, deepening inequalities, increasing violence against women and children and potentially leading to increased social unrest and violence.
With less than a decade left to realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda, there are three priorities that all relevant actors in the SDG community should prioritize:
The 2030 Agenda calls for global partnerships and collaboration in the implementation of the SDGs. Considering that the 2030 Agenda is a universal global agenda that requires collective action, cross-collaborative initiatives function as a vehicle for cooperation and partnership to enhance coordination across global, regional, national, and local levels.
The Transparency, Accountability, and Participation (TAP) Network is a broad international coalition of civil society organizations (CSOs) working together to advance SDG16+.In addition to a variety of partnerships and initiatives, the TAP Network plays a leadership role in the Global SDG16+ Coalition - featuring some of the leading networks and organizations working on SDG16+ globally. In 2019, TAP helped lead the drafting of the Rome Civil Society Declaration on SDG16+, which outlines key messages, recommendations, and a broad call-to-action from civil society collectively around SDG16+, along with an renewed declaration in 2021: Amplified Commitments and Partnerships for Accelerated Action: Rome Civil Society Declaration on SDG16+, emphasizing this call to action within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. TAP’s work seeks to advance and address the recommendations and action plan outlined in the declaration.
Civil society networks and partnerships such as TAP and FriEnt can help in bringing diverse actors together using SDG16+ as an opportunity for learning and sharing across communities of practice. Recognizing the interconnectedness of SDG16+, civil society partners must make extra efforts in the years ahead to unpack and fully explore how and where issues like climate change, global health, gender equality and so much more are linked with issues like peacebuilding, justice, accountability and the rest of SDG16+.
To help push back on the shrinking of civic space, it is imperative to strengthen the capacity of civil society groups to engage with governments and coordinate effectively amongst each other through the provision of technical and financial support. Serving as a platform to bring together a wide range of civil society experts and activists, TAP works to help support its national and local partners by providing groundbreaking and innovative capacity building tools and programs, and also learns from and benefits from the invaluable expertise, experiences and unique perspectives of its members. Our flagship resources include the SDG16+ Civil Society Toolkit, the SDG Accountability Handbook, the Global SDG Accountability Report, and the Mainstreaming SDG16: Using the VNRs to Advance More Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies published in partnership with the Global Alliance for Reporting on SDG16+. More information on our tools and resources can be found here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical accountability relationship between a state and its citizens, with government responsiveness to its citizens more important than ever before. In many countries, the lack of political will and concrete commitments to accelerate action on SDG16+ represents one of the primary barriers to implementing and monitoring the Goal. In some cases, governments are “continuing with business as usual, exploring how existing plans can be shown to achieve SDG targets rather than taking the SDG framework as a template for a more comprehensive and holistic approach to development.”
In an effort to help hold governments accountable to SDG16+ and the 2030 Agenda, civil society has also found increasing value in the development of Spotlight Reports - independent reports that provide snapshots on progress in a given country, from the perspective of citizens and civil society groups. Seeing the need for further collaboration around these Spotlight Reports, the TAP Network’s SDG16+ Civil Society Toolkit features a dedicated chapter on SDG16+ Spotlight Reporting, offering tips, tools, guidance and templates for civil society to produce Spotlight Reports in their country or context.
What has been clear since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is that in order to fully overcome this crisis we must frame our response and recovery through the framework of SDG16+. Using SDG16+ as a road map, we can build more resilient societies that are better prepared to confront the existential global challenges. We must also demand more accountable public institutions while forging more peaceful, inclusive and just societies to break cycles of conflict in the long term. In the midst of this turning point after over a year of a worldwide public health crisis, we must double down on our commitment to SDG16+ and the 2030 Agenda, not only to salvage the SDGs and ensure no one is left behind but also to create a more resilient and sustainable future.