From ambition to action

Mobilizing the international community to achieve SDG16+


“Building Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies Amid a World on Fire” explored the challenge of mobilizing the international community to implement the SDG16+ targets.

David Steven, from the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, joined a panel moderated by Nancy Lindborg, the President of the United States Institute for Peace. Laura Bailey, from the World Bank, Sarah Mendelson and Daniel Nagin from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, and USIP’s Maria Stephan also spoke.

This is an edited version of David’s overview of SDG16+, the Roadmap on Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, and key messages for this year’s High-level Political Forum and SDG Summit.

What are the elements of SDG16+?

The 2030 Agenda has a goal for peaceful, just and inclusive societies — SDG16, with its 12 targets. But negotiators placed a further 24 targets for peace, justice and inclusion in other Sustainable Development Goals. This is what we call SDG16+.

Broadly we are looking at four clusters of targets:

  1. Targets for preventing all forms of violence everywhere — across a spectrum that includes conflict, criminal and urban violence, interpersonal violence (especially against women and children), human rights abuses and mass atrocities, and violent extremism. And also for creating communities and societies that are safe for people to live in.
  2. Targets for providing access to justice for all and for tackling injustices such as corruption that blight our societies. In this cluster, we also have targets for protecting human rights and for promoting gender equality and empowerment, providing a comprehensive sense of what the 2030 Agenda means by a just society.
  3. Then we have targets for governance — for building effective, accountable, transparent institutions at all levels. But this is not governance in isolation or in the abstract, but as the platform for delivering the 2030 Agenda’s aspirations for people, planet, prosperity, and peace.
  4. And finally, we have targets for increasing social, economic, and political inclusion, with the Agenda calling for action to tackle rising inequalities and “enormous disparities of opportunity, wealth and power.”

SDG16+ captures some of the great challenges of our age:

  • Unacceptable levels of violence, insecurity, and conflict block the path to sustainable development for large numbers of people, communities, and countries.
  • Rampant injustice and widespread corruption are destroying trust within societies and between citizens and their governments.
  • Our institutions are failing to meet people’s aspirations and they are certainly not fit for the purpose of delivering the transformational ambitions of the 2030 Agenda.
  • Exclusion, and the grievances that exclusion feeds, is driving populism and division when the 2030 Agenda calls for “common action and endeavor” and the “win-win cooperation which can bring huge gains to all countries and all parts of the world.”
David Steven at a discussion on “Building Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies Amid a World on Fire” at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP).

You help lead the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies which has released a roadmap for reaching SDG16+. Can you describe the key elements of the roadmap?

The Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies is a multi-stakeholder platform, with member states at its heart, that aims to accelerate delivery of the SDG16+ targets.

We are working to make the SDG16+ targets as tangible and “actionable” as possible. Early on, a Minister of Finance said to us, “we fought harder than any other country in the negotiations for SDG16, but now we’ve got it, we’ve got no idea what to do with it.”

The Roadmap for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, published at the UN General Assembly in September 2017, was a first attempt to answer that question. Briefly, it sets out:

  • Cross-cutting and transformative strategies for prevention in its broadest and most positive sense, for renewing our institutions, and for promoting inclusion and empowerment.
  • A series of catalytic actions provide governments and other actors with the frameworks, tools, and evidence to begin implementation in areas such as violence against women and against children, or in reducing corruption and illicit flows.
  • The enablers of effective implementation: data and evidence, financing peace, justice and inclusion, learning and exchange between countries and between sectors, and communication, advocacy, and movement-building.

Based on the roadmap, we’re taking forward three objectives. First, we’re directly supporting national delivery, using the roadmap to help countries explore how they can strengthen their commitments to implement SDG16+ within their development strategies and plans. Second, we’re working with regional and international partners to promote more coherent and integrated support for SDG16+ implementation.

And, third we are pursuing a series of “grand challenges” where we see greatest potential to increase ambition and create strategies that will boost SDG16+:

  • The Task Force on Justice is chaired by ministers from Argentina, the Netherlands, and Sierra Leone, and by the Elders and supported by the world’s leading justice partners. It is creating a new vision for how to deliver justice for all.
  • A group of countries, thought leaders, and international organizations are building a bridge from inequality in SDG10 to exclusion in SDG16. They are developing evidence-based solutions and exploring political pathways towards more inclusive and equal societies.
  • And we’re beginning to build a coalition around SDG16.1 which promises to “significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere.” This target has transformative potential, but is yet to receive the attention it deserves.

What needs to happen between now and the High-level Political Forum and SDG Summit?

The High-level Political Forum is an annual ministerial review of the 2030 Agenda. This year it takes place from 9 to 18 July, with SDG16 and SDG10 coming up for review for the first time. The theme is: “empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.”

The first four-yearly SDG Summit will be held 24 to 25 September, with Presidents and Prime Ministers asked to come to New York to “mobilize further actions to accelerate implementation” of all 17 SDGs. That phrase is our mantra for what the SDG16+ community needs to achieve in 2019.

  • Action — we need as many governments and other partners to come to New York with tangible commitments to implement one or more aspects of SDG16+.
  • Acceleration — the breadth and depth of these commitments should demonstrate a significant increase in ambition.
  • Mobilization — we need to bring together a growing number of partners and champions, and tap in to the global yearning for greater peace, justice, and inclusion.

We have a briefing on the HLPF and SDG Summit. In early April, there will be a “big call” for the SDG16+ community to make sure we make the most of these opportunities.

If we are successful, we will enter the 2020s with a platform for scaling up implementation, setting a course to the second SDG summit in 2023 when we need to begin demonstrating measurable progress against the targets.



David Steven
Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies

International relations, global risks, & resilience. Also Pakistan, Nigeria. Find me at: Center on International Cooperation, NYU; River Path; Global Dashboard.