Peace, justice and inclusion at the heart of response, recovery and reset


Yesterday we came together as Pathfinders — as people committed to peace, justice and inclusion, as countries and organizations working for the achievement of the SDG16+ goals and targets.

We met at a time when the global emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic is still deepening and is causing incalculable harm in people’s lives.

We came together because we believe that we must make peace, justice and inclusion the foundation for the recovery and reset after we get this virus under control.

The event was hosted by the Permanent Missions of Costa Rica and the Netherlands to the United Nations and had an impressive line-up of speakers from around the globe.

Here are my six main takeaways from yesterday’s event:

  1. Around the world people are finding solutions

Yasmin Sooka pointed to innovative technological solutions, such as the virtual appeal hearing she attended in the Supreme Court of Appeals of South Africa last Friday. She also lauded the bold actions of civil society in Zimbabwe, the Katswe Sisterhood opened a hotline for survivors of domestic violence and trained paralegals to provide support in rural areas. South Sudanese women set up the Walk Against Rape group and have become a force to be reckoned with, as they engage policy makers on justice issues affecting women, such as property, divorce and child custody.

Wevyn Muganda spoke of her youth-led initiative called Mutual Aid Kenya, which is driven by the community and funded by the community. Their network of 100+ volunteers coordinated digitally on crowdfunding, providing relief food, education materials, medical supplies, and running errands for high risk populations. Yet it was their participation in the formulation of the pandemic response bill in Kenya that helped the government understand why it’s important for young people to participate.

2) New forms of collaboration are emerging

This is the age of the people power, Lysa John, said. People across the world have realized that without participation, we cannot expect our institutions to serve us better. Both governments and civil society organization need to be ultimately accountable to the communities they serve. And different actors need to start understanding each other. Governments need to embrace criticism and learn to work better with new social movements to co-create solutions, because the new social movements are not going away.

Business can be instrumental in ending hate, suffering and discrimination. This is not something theoretical or new, Celia Ouellette said, reminding us of the major blow that Coca Cola struck to apartheid South Africa when it announced its intention to withdraw. Corporations have that same opportunity now. This is why multi-stakeholder platforms are the best way to create change. When government, the private sector and civil society organizations join forces, they can achieve real impact.

3) Peace, justice and inclusion need to guide the reset of our societies

The pandemic made visible the fragilities and flaws in our societies: the cleavages that make it impossible for people to heal and help each other. The injustices that make some people more vulnerable than others and the inequalities that make our societies divided and polarized. Liv Tørres underlined that while the virus itself does not discriminate, we have made its impact discriminatory. Our policies and structures have made the impact unequal. It is up to us, as leaders, activists, and politicians to fix that. Peace, justice and inclusion must be at the center of the reset of our societies after we get this virus under control.

4) Women need to stand together for justice and equality

H.E. Hasina Safi stated that women from around the world need to stand together, whether they are in the US, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Afghanistan, or elsewhere. They need to coordinate and network. The gains that the women of Afghanistan have been able to make in the last 20 years, have been because of the constitution, which is based on international norms. The SDGs allow us to coordinate and share experiences. The goals are set for the betterment of humanity and actors can be empowered if they localize the goals, give them their own definition and use them to make progress.

5) International collective action is indispensable

We need international collaboration in order to learn faster and to work together to build a better and more sustainable world. H.E. Magnus Lennartsson emphasized that this is the time for collaboration, for solidarity and for building back better. We must stand up and support international principles and institutions. The pandemic presents an opportunity to tackle systemic inequalities and achieve the central promise of the 2030 agenda to leave no one behind. As Pathfinders, we can work together and take this opportunity to build a better and more sustainable world.

There’s work to do, said H.E. Yoka Brandt, emphasizing that the Netherlands is proud to be among the Pathfinder countries. Any pathway for recovery from the COVID-19 crisis must have accessible, and people-centered justice systems as a core pillar to equitably restore economies, rebuild social cohesion and heal communities. She also urged us to realize that the pandemic can give rise to new opportunities to push for collective action, and that we can use this moment to transform justice systems to respond to the changing needs of people for societies and communities.

6) The SDG16+ community is going strong

H.E. Maritza Chan, reminded us that at this critical juncture, the 2030 Agenda remains our common pathway to a response and recovery with equality and sustainability. In the context of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, 37 countries have endorsed the Pathfinders member state statement which calls for human rights, peace, justice and inclusion to be the foundation for reset and recovery efforts.

In parallel Nicholas Astier-Ibrahim, launched the new version of the SDG16 statement that has now been endorsed by over 100 organizations from more than 40 countries. This call to action was born from the SDG16+ communities collective acknowledgement of the need to make SDG16+ the foundation for reset and recovery efforts.

H.E. Maritza Chan on behalf of Costa Rica and Nicholas Astier-Ibrahim on behalf of WFUNA invited everyone to attend the 16+ Forum Annual Showcase, that Costa Rica will host, jointly with WFUNA next year. It will focus on enhancing cooperation and exchanging national experiences, good practices and lessons learned.

After this impressive line-up of speakers I felt energized and optimistic. No, we are not out of the woods, not by a long shot. The northern hemisphere is heading into a dark winter with new restrictions, the virus is still spreading in many places and the economic impact will hit home in every country of the world over the coming months.

Yet the speakers showed us what we can do together. People are creative and they are finding solutions. New forms of collaboration are emerging and young people are a powerful force for change. International collective action is becoming more effective and women are standing together across borders. Together we are able to find the paths to more peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

The Pathfinders Member States Statement issued by 37 member states committed to working together for a more peaceful, just and inclusive world in the wake of the pandemic.

The SDG16+ Statement that was developed for the HLPF in July this year, has been endorsed by over 100 organizations across 42 countries. It includes a call to action, investment and resources to make peace, justice, and inclusion the foundation for reset and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hosted Costa Rica and organized together with WFUNA, this next 16+ Forum Annual Showcase will be held in San José, from 26–29 April, 2021.



Maaike de Langen
Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies

Working for people-centered justice and a responsive rule of law, writing and thinking about a better UN, hopeful multilateralism and everything ombuds.