The SDG Roundtable: SDG 16 – Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions
Sustainable Development Goal 16 sets the framework for peace, justice and strong institutions, which are fundamental for accelerating progress of all other SDGs, implying that Goal 16 is an enabler for achieving the 2030 agenda as a whole. People need to be free from all forms of violence regardless of the ethnicity, sexual orientation or any other criteria. Conflict, insecurity, weak institutions and limited access to justice remain threats to sustainable development. Institutions that do not function according to legitimate laws are prone to arbitrariness and abuse of power, and less capable of delivering public services to everyone.
Nowadays, the number of people fleeing conflicts, persecution and injustice is at a significantly high level, highlighting the importance of this goal. The targets of the goal revolve around reducing all forms of violence against children, promoting the rule of law, reducing corruption and illicit financial and arms flows, developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions, broadening and strengthening the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance and ensuring public access to information along with other similar objectives.
Progress on the world stage
Homicides, human trafficking, organized crimes as well as discriminatory laws and practices tear the fabric of our society. These challenges are not only a third world issue, but even major global powerhouses face issues of corruption, crime and human rights violations. The judiciary and police are mostly affected by bribery and corruption. Corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion cost about US $ 1.26 trillion for less developed countries per year. It is no surprise that the armed conflicts cause long-standing grievances among communities, and children and women are usually the main victims of war. Violence affects children’s health, development, well-being, and their ability to thrive. It causes trauma and weakens social inclusion. Violence against children affects more than one billion children across the world.
From 2015 to 2019, the United Nations recorded at least 1,940 killings and 106 enforced disappearances of human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists across 81 countries, with over half of killings occurring in Latin America and the Caribbean. Laws and policies must be applied without any form of discrimination. Disputes need to be resolved through functioning and justice systems. National and local institutions must be accountable and need to be in place to deliver basic services to communities equitably and without the need for bribes. Freedom to express views, in private and in public, must be guaranteed. Despite various efforts of various nations, the world is still far behind in achieving the relevant 2030 targets related to goal 16.
Progress in Sri Lanka
The establishment of the Financial Criminal Investigation Division in 2015 was a firm step in trying to combat corruption and financial fraud. Since November 2017, Sri Lanka has made a high-level political commitment to work with the Financial Action Task Force on money Laundering and Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering. Nevertheless, corruption rates are still high, indicating that around 15%- 20% of the Sri Lankans are experiencing different forms of bribery. Even though Sri Lanka has taken steps to ensure its anti-corruption framework complies with the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, more needs to be done to ensure its full compliance with the mandatory and non-mandatory provisions. Moreover, Sri Lanka has a legal framework that requires a fairly high degree of fiscal transparency. Although the budget documents are published, accessibility of documents and contribution to the budget formulation process by the public is still limited. Corrupted politics is a major issue nowadays globally, and Sri Lanka is no exception. Ultimately treacherous politics acts as a major factor hindering legal transparency as well. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka acknowledged the Right to Information as a fundamental right. Following this the Right to Information Act was passed in 2016. Sri Lanka is categorised as “partly free” in terms of media freedom. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right in the constitution that saw rapid improvement in the past couple of years, however there have been instances of online news media censorship and social media blocking and several disappearances of journalists as well.
Achievement of SDG 16 requires a collective approach from the governments as well as societies as it cannot be achieved by governments alone. Partnerships and investments will be key to accelerating progress on SDG 16.
– Rtr. Kavindi Gunawardena
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