SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions | Brave New World

6 October, 2021

This Brave New World series has all been about gaining a fuller perspective of the past situation, the present pandemic, and how we can avoid reverting into our old ways in order to create a better post-Covid-19 planet. In this penultimate piece, we look specifically towards what large organisations can do for humans, in a sense, in regards to peace, justice, and strong institutions. It’s not an easy thing to quantify, making it one of the few highly subjective SDGs.


First of all, as the Sustainable Development Goals come from the UN… 


What does the UN say about SDG16?

They make a lot of great points, here are some I’ve picked out:

  • “Human rights are key in shaping the pandemic response” – Absolutely, there need to be respectful and inclusive processes to handle the root of the problem, the cure, and the recovery
  • “Human rights put people centre-stage” – Humans are going to design the new world, so if we want a better reality and healthier planet, we must listen to one another
  • “The best response is one that responds proportionately to immediate threats while protecting human rights and the rule of law” – these words from the UN Secretary General urges transparency and accountability, making sure the Covid-19 response does not discriminate
  • A global ceasefire has been called, asking warring parties to lay down their weapons and fight the pandemic
  • The UN Peacekeeping Missions continue to operate and fulfil their four objectives:
    • Protect UN personnel
    • Contain and mitigate the virus’ spread, ensuring that UN personnel are not a contagion vector
    • Support national authorities with their Covid-19 response
    • Continue to deliver key mandates
  • The UN refugee agency has increased its health, water, santiation, and hygiene services in response to the present demand for public health, and ensuring that refugees are included in Covid-19 strategies

“Peace is the Cure”

The 2030 Agenda saw all of the UN member states make a commitment to leave no one behind, in what was due to be a decade of action. Unfortunately, this got off to a bad start. The Australia wildfires, global pandemic, and warring in Armenia and Azerbaijan only added fuel to the already distressing facts.


  • By 2030, 80% of the world is expected to be unstable and in conflict
  • None of those parts of the world will be able to achieve a single SDG
  • Progress is not being made fast enough, as global development in fragile states is constantly held back by conflict, displacement, climate change, resource scarcity, and corruption


Peace, justice, and strong institutions. These are just pipedreams in some of the world’s most unstable countries, where Covid-19 has only exacerbated their problems. Economies are brittle and corrupt elites make it seemingly impossible for change to occur. Healthcare is non-existent or less than basic in some areas, and in others, it is too expensive for the general population. These facts leave the emerging world more vulnerable than ever, as it is the poor, marginalised, and discriminated who seem to catch and spread the coronavirus the most, through overcrowded housing and poor sanitation. 


If the prediction is that by 2030 more than 80% of the world will be in conflict, then SDG 16 needs to be applied now and seen as a pivotal aspect of solving many of the world’s issues. Avoiding more conflict, poverty, and famine should be a top agenda, as it means there are fewer issues to balance later.


What do the experts say?

In April 2021, the SDG 16 Data Initiative brought together some of the world’s best experts on the topic to share insights and analysis. Discussing the global situation and comparing indicators, gaps, and opportunities, much of which was in relation to the pandemic, created a wealth of opinion that I want to share below. 


At the opening of the event, the host, Massimo Tommasoli, began by saying “the main aim of the SDG 16 Data Initiative is to integrate official indicators together with non-official indicators”, this was with the production of a Global Report in mind. Tommasoli knew that this task would be difficult, but if successful, could make a lot of useful analysis available to policymakers and stakeholders working on SDG16 ad the 2030 Agenda globally. He also chose to use three words that are key to what we are pursuing, in that we can “build back better”. 


In the report, mentioned above, this quote stood out to me: “In the face of declining trust in public institutions, exacerbated by the pandemic—reliable data may constitute a robust mechanism for restoring trust and enhancing accountability”.


Here are some words from experts:

Toby Mendel, Executive Direct of the Centre for Law and Democracy is quoted as saying “The right to information and the right to freedom of expression are the enablers of the SDG 16”. This is because they build trust with the public and make governments accountable. 


Jaco Du Toit, Chief of Universal Access to Information Section at UNESCO, added that information laws globally need greater adoption, especially as Covid-19 has impact information access and reliability due to massive misinformation campaigns.


Roberto Martinez B. Kukutschka, from Transparency International, stated “It is crucial to fight corruption and have check and balances in effect, so that during a crisis we maintain transparency of governing and institutions, and valuable aid is channelled effectively, instead of falling into the wrong hands”. I couldn’t agree more. Kukutschka later added, “Covid-19 served as a reminder that we need reliable data to inform policymaking”.


Alberto Fernandez, Senior Programme Officer at International IDEA, said that “democracy is multidimensional and looks different around the world”, later adding “More than half of the countries have imposed restrictions on freedom of expression or Media Integrity”, challenging democratic institutions as we know them.


Quality resources

Before I leave you to ponder the contents of this article, I want to provide you with some great links below. These links give more perspective and context about what is going on around the world of SDG 16. 

SDG16: Pathfinders

The words of the high commissioner

The effects on crime

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