VNR lab — the links between SDG16+ and the Pathfinders


The Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies is a multi-stakeholder partnership that brings together UN member states, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector to accelerate delivery of the SDG targets for peace, justice and inclusion.

Goal 16 is the main goal for fostering peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. But SDG16 should not be seen in isolation. It has strong links with other goals, in line with the integrated and indivisible nature of the agenda. In all, 36 targets directly measure an aspect of peace, inclusion, or access to justice, with only a third of these found in SDG16. We call these the SDG16+ targets.

Held on Wednesday July 10 and organized by DESA/DISD, EAPD and DPIDG, David Steven spoke at the VNR Lab meeting “Leaving no one behind: Inclusive implementation and reporting”.

David’s presentation discussed:

  • Why we need to increase peace, justice, and inclusion if we’re to reach the furthest behind first.
  • How we can focus on four key challenges that will drive change for those who are left behind.
  • And what we need to accelerate ambition and action ahead of the SDG summit in fewer than 70 days’ time.

SDG16+ is why people are left behind

Peaceful societies

Half a million people die from violence each year. Half of women and a third of children are victims of violence.

People, countries, and communities will almost inevitably be left behind due to the physical, psychological, social, and economic costs of violence.

Because violence leads to more violence — trapping them in cycles that pass from one generation to the next. And because violence prevents communities from getting the services they need.

Justice for all

The Task Force on Justice — an initiative of the Pathfinders — reports that a quarter of a billion people are living in extreme conditions of injustice. There are 1.5 billion people with unsolved justice problems, and 5 billion people have no legal identity, land rights, documentation, etc.

Justice systems are configured to respond to the justice problems of the rich and privileged — not those who are left behind. Without justice, people and communities are unable to protect themselves from crime and violence — they don’t get any help to solve their justice problems.

And they are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and the denial of the rights — entrenching their disadvantage and pushing them further behind. This hits certain groups hardest — women and children, or groups that face discrimination due to ethnicity, class, geography, disability, etc.

Governance and institutions

For institutions, we need perhaps only note that at every level, poor governance hits those left behind the hardest. If countries cannot organize quality health and education systems, for example, the rich opt out — they turn to private healthcare and private schooling.

Those who are left behind do not have that luxury. Ill health and a lack of education then further entrenches their disadvantage.

The same can be said of the institutions that underpin every single one of the sustainable development goals — where our aspiration is for them to be able to meet the needs of rich and poor.

We are reminded of this with a quote from the Mayor of Bogotá: “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars, it’s where the rich use public transport.”

The corruption of institutions also benefits the rich at the expense of those who are left behind — diverting resources from sustainable development. It then destabilizes a society — reducing capacity for collective action and making it harder to promote inclusive development.

Inclusive societies

Finally, we have the question of social, economic, and political exclusion. Reaching the furthest behind first means tackling inequality and confronting entrenched patterns of discrimination.

People are not just left behind — they are pushed behind.

And this is creating a growing risk for all our futures — as grievances build and the left behind and locked out lose trust in their institutions and hope in a better future.

Four challenges to reach the furthest behind

To confront these trends, we need to tackle four challenges:

  1. Halve all forms of violence — based on a recognition that violence is one of the biggest drivers of poverty, under-development, inequality, and exclusion.
  2. Invest in people-centered justice systems that resolve and prevent justice problems, with a focus on the needs of the most vulnerable. And accelerate action to provide people with legal identity, land rights, and other forms of protection.
  3. Transform institutions so that they can meet the needs of those who are left behind — based on dramatic improvements in openness, effectiveness, and accountability. And partnerships across sectors to solve the problems that matter most to people.
  4. Tackle inequality and exclusion — through politically-feasible strategies that increase redistribution, promote recognition, and enable participation in line with the promise of the 2030 to ensure that all human beings can fulfill their potential in dignity and equality.

Acceleration Actions

Finally, we want to look forward to the SDG Summit — which will include a focus on the needs of groups who risk being left behind.

We cannot stress enough the importance of making a success of this summit — the first where Presidents and Prime Ministers will meet to discuss the SDGs.

It happens every four years and we need to make it the Olympics of the SDGs.

The President of the General Assembly has urged all countries to come to the SDG Summit prepared to announce acceleration measures and specific, targeted next steps that respond to the urgency of the challenges we face.

There is a registry for partners — both governments and those from other sectors — to register their Acceleration Commitments for the summit.

We call on all partners to register Acceleration Actions that promote peace, justice, and inclusion.

Then we can use the SDG Summit as a platform for a “decade of delivery” in which we can be much more ambitious in reaching the furthest behind first.