Peace and justice are crucial to development

Sustainable and long-term development can only be achieved when societies are peaceful and when no groups are discriminated against. Therefore, it is a great victory that the UN's new global sustainability goal contains a goal of peace and justice, writes Pernilla Bergström at the UN.

A couple of weeks ago, world leaders adopted global goals for sustainable development. Agenda 2030, as the new global sustainability goals are also called, is taking over now that the era of the Millennium Development Goals is coming to an end.

No one can accuse the new targets of not being ambitious. The new agenda will ensure sustainable development and the 17 goals will unite the world in the work for, among other things, increased gender equality, eradicated poverty and stopping climate change. It is one goal in particular that sets the new agenda apart from the Millennium Development Goals: Goal 16, which focuses on peaceful and just societies.

Missing in the Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals have contributed to positive changes and a higher standard of living for millions of people. The Millennium Development Goals, on the other hand, were not universal and one of the biggest weaknesses was that they did not reach people in conflict-affected or post-conflict countries. Today, just over 1,4 billion people, every fifth person on the planet, live in conflict-affected or so-called failing states. More than half of those living in extreme poverty live in conflict-affected or violent societies, and of the countries that are unlikely to achieve a single millennium goal, all have been in, or are in, conflict.

The fact that communities are violent can mean that families do not have access to clean water or medicine or that parents do not dare to let their children go to school. It can be far from obvious that there is food on the table or a roof over your head as the evening approaches. Most often, women and children, who in many societies are already discriminated against on the grounds of gender and age, are a particularly vulnerable group, not least through sexual violence in conflict. Despite this, women are often underrepresented in peace processes.

In short: sustainable or long-term development cannot be achieved when societies are not peaceful or when certain groups are discriminated against. Although the Millennium Declaration emphasizes the importance of peace and security for development, this was not reflected when the Millennium Development Goals were formulated.

Great victory in the new goals

The fact that the new global goals include peaceful societies can therefore be considered a great victory. Sweden is one of the UN members that has pushed the issue hard within the UN. The process of developing the global goals included governments as well as experts, civil society organizations and individuals who had the chance to be involved and influence what the new goals would look like. It has contributed to greater ownership than before.

Goal 16 is one of the most debated and controversial issues in the new agenda and it was, despite great pressure and clear messages from both civil society and experts, far from obvious that the goal would remain when the agenda was adopted in September. Several Member States argued that a goal of peaceful societies had nothing to do with an agenda for development, and referred to other UN security platforms. Other states were afraid that the focus would shift from the more traditional development issues and others argued that the global goals, formerly called the sustainability goals, were already too numerous in number and that, for example, goal 16 should therefore be removed. Many of us saw it as a strong and not least important victory that goal 16 remained, even if sharper writing in the sub-goals could have been desired.

The work has just begun

Despite the victory and the fact that Agenda 2030 provides the conditions to address the underlying factors of poverty and conflict, the hard work has only just begun. The renewed work on peaceful and just societies in Agenda 2030 gives us the opportunity to also strengthen the work of involving women in peace processes to a greater extent in order to ensure a lasting peace. We also need to secure funding to be able to work with the issues on both a local and national basis, and it is not until implementation has begun that we can see how actively governments intend to work with and follow up on the goal.

There is now a direction for global development work, but political will is required to achieve the 17 goals. With Agenda 2030, we have a unique opportunity to ensure that all people can live in freedom from violence, have their rights protected and their standard of living raised. We owe it to the millions of people we failed to reach during the Millennium Development Goals.

Pernilla Bergström

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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