The sustainable development goals— our future in peace and security

ARDD-Legal Aid

Despite the enormity and complexity of challenges our world has recently faced, the sentiments of world leaders and influential celebrities remain optimistic and ambitious. Their sentiments are focused on the idea that nations need to tackle 17 goals, including the eradication of poverty and controlling climate change to sustain a strong future for our world and its inhabitants. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises to transform our world. This Agenda is a plan of action for our planet, people and future prosperity – at a cost of $3 trillion and with a 2030 deadline. 

The scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda translates to 17 sustainable development goals. The Agenda builds on the Millennium Development Goals to achieve what was not completed, which encompasses gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. 

In spite of the Agenda’s promise to leave no being behind, and recognize the contribution of migrants to sustainable development, their human rights and rights of return, it is non-inclusive when it comes to refugees and the internally displaced – one of the biggest crises of our contemporary world. Conflicts worldwide are creating a progressively critical and spiraling refugee crisis that is affecting around 60 million individuals globally today. An average of 42,500 individuals are forced to flee their homes each day as a result of ongoing war and violence – more than half of which are children under the tender age of 18. In fact, this global community of refugees could technically make the 24th most populous nation in the world, according to the Carnegie Endowment Fund. 

We do not have the ability to eradicate poverty and propel sustainable development without confronting global conflicts and insecurities. To achieve such peace and security, the Agenda must be interconnected with goals relating to poverty, education, and health; in addition, it is important that partnerships are developed to fully recognize the need to provide refugees and IDP's with access to justice and their basic human rights. 

One of the keys to ensuring the success of the Agenda is through the achievement of goal number 16 - which is arguably the most significant goal of the Agenda. Without achieving goal 16, none of the other goals can be effectively sustained. 

Goal 16 aims to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. The idea is that violence undermines development, whereby inequality and underdevelopment are drivers of conflict and promote the emergence of terrorism. Accordingly, the emphasis of this goal is on peace, security and inclusivity. Establishing strong linkages between peace, security, development and human rights is of great importance. Regions with the lowest human development indicators experience the majority of conflict, which can be hindered through economic and social progress. 

One of the clearest examples of this is evident in Syria, where 80% of the population now lives below the poverty line. There is an obvious massive damage to the economic and physical infrastructure in Syria, and accordingly people's livelihoods. It is evident that we must address the root causes of violence, including political and socio-economic exclusion and inequities. Conflict, unrest and tension should not be perceived in a fragmented way; marginalization led to the tolerance of extremism, and as a result highlights the importance of including vulnerable groups such as women, immigrants and disabled persons. Refugees should not be viewed as a burden but as active members of society, and given access to opportunities to actively contribute to their host countries. 

Entire ethnic and religious communities are also fleeing lands they have lived on for centuries, in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Central African Republic. As a result, many European countries are in the midst of chaos attempting to tackle the refugees that have been flooding there due to shortage in humanitarian support and reduced funding.

In the end, goal 16's focus on the inclusion of millions of refugees, internally displaced individuals and communities is neither obvious nor straightforward. We must ensure that displaced persons and stateless individuals are included in any listing or definition of vulnerable groups across goals and targets. The plight of these groups of people needs to be perceived as an indicator of development, and not just as a humanitarian cause. In reality SDG may seem like a daunting goal, but with guidance on inclusion and measurement, it can be achieved. Failure is not an option, and will hinder our ability to achieve other essential goals of this Agenda. 

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