By: Goh Yoon Chuan, Dr. Mohd. Istajib Mokhtar
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 is focused on “Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.” While it might not seem related to environmental or development issues, prioritizing SDG 16 is crucial for the effective achievement of the other sixteen goals, especially in the context of international legal principles on war and the environment. However, SDG 16 is the foundation for the entire sustainable development.
This goal aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels. SDG 16 being identified as a Goal that is both an outcome and an enabler of sustainable development. SDG 16 is closely interlinked with other SDGs. Without peace, justice, and inclusion, achieving goals such as ending poverty, ensuring education, and promoting economic growth can be difficult or impossible. At the same time, various SDGs can help or hinder the achievement of SDG 16, for instance climate change can act as a threat multiplier, aggravating additional social, environmental, and political stressors, conditions that could lead to violence.
One of the key factors in delaying 2030 agenda is the political instability and conflict in two major locations – namely Russia-Ukraine and Palestine-Israel. Peace and stability are foundational for sustainable development. In regions affected by conflict or political instability, it is challenging to implement development projects, protect the environment, and address social and economic issues especially if nuclear weapons are being used in the conflict. SDG 16 aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, providing the necessary conditions for progress on the other goals. Armed conflicts can have severe environmental consequences, including deforestation, pollution, and damage to ecosystems.
By preventing and resolving conflicts (as targeted by SDG 16), the international community can mitigate the environmental impact of war and create conditions for sustainable development. The war in both Russia-Ukraine and Zionist-Hamas in Gaza has shown on how ecosystems of biodiversity being impacted, and we have yet to see the introduction of nuclear weapon that could bring catastrophic as seen in Chernobyl and Atomic bomb in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. Should this happen, we could be kissing goodbye to SDG involving clean water and life below water as well as on land.
Progress towards SDG 16 is a universal challenge which requires action for implementation and follow up in both developing and developed countries, albeit in separate ways. In many countries, capacity needs and gaps represent a critical barrier to meaningful SDG 16 implementation and follow-up. These capacity issues are often, though not exclusively, felt in countries that are post-conflict, transitioning out of conflict, fragile, or least developed. At the same time, in many developed and emerging countries (though again not exclusively so), violence against women and children continues to threaten their well-being and pose obstacles to realizing their full potential. Issues such as social cohesion, illicit financial flows, corruption, and many forms of discrimination remain grave challenges.
As enshrined in SDG 16, the 2030 Agenda calls for transparent, effective, inclusive, and accountable institutions to advance poverty eradication and sustainable development. It aims to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making at all levels. SDG 16 emphasizes the significant role of institutions and effective decision-making in reaching the SDGs.
In summary, SDG 16 serves as an enabler and integrator for the other SDGs, providing a foundation of peace, justice, and strong institutions necessary for achieving sustainable development, including environmental sustainability. By addressing issues related to conflict, governance, and the rule of law, SDG 16 creates an environment conducive to the successful implementation of the broader set of goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The authors are from the Department of Science and Technology Studies, Faculty of Science, Universiti Malaya, and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org