The Sustainable Development Goal 16 recognizes, as Robert Zuber writes in his piece in the "Global Action To Prevent War", that "there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development". The targets of SDG 16 for peaceful, just and inclusive societies were affirmed by many policy advocates, but they are also controversial because of geopolitical compromises and because of lack of dialogue between peace and security experts during the process of their defining. Although, the essence of SDG 16 is widely accepted, thus the success of the 2030 Agenda will depend on our ability to sustain stable, secure and inclusive societies governed by states that are trustworthy, responsive to constituents, free of corruption and committed to eliminating violence.
While SDG 16, as the other goals, will put many obstacles on a road of achieving drawn targets, there are at least hope in two directions. The first one is the commitment to assuring structures of governance robust enough to enforce the rule of law and ensure equal access to justice (Target 16.3), eliminate corruption and bribery and abide by the same laws that it enforces within its citizenry (Target 16.5), and restrict predatory corporate and criminal interests (Target 16.4). These targets clearly recognize that citizen trust in all aspects of government, trust that is duly earned, is the soundest basis for peaceful, just and inclusive societies. Stronger participation by developing countries in institutions of global governance (Target 16.8) is also strongly endorsed. But as we see often at the UN, having access to global governance is insufficient without the commitment to balance global structures, creating more functional and inclusive equivalences of state responsibility and authority (Target 16.7). We are convinced that as this balancing takes further shape, trust levels in the promises of global governance are likely to rise as well.
Thus, the UN Security Council seeks to achieve its purpose, to maintain peace and security, as well as to prevent climate changes and trafficking in weapons, narcotics and persons, and to ensure full participation of women in peace processes. The Council is regularly accused by non-members of spending so much time on attempting to restore peace and security and so little on actually maintaining it in the first place. However, complexity of institutions and distrust between countries, the fact that the Security Council recognizes many of the profound promises embedded in the 2030 Agenda and their potential implications for peace and security has great potential. In this regard, Security Council Resolution 2220 (2015) on small arms notes the Council’s grave concern:
"(…)that the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons in many regions of the world continue to pose threats to international peace and security, cause significant loss of life, contribute to instability and insecurity and continue to undermine the effectiveness of the Security Council in discharging its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security."
Weapons, of course, don’t have to be "illicit" to have wide ranging impacts, but that the Council is seized of at least some of these important development-security links can hopefully lead to more comprehensive (and earlier) security contributions relevant to the fulfillment of the SDGs. Unfortunately, Security Council (and other UN) resolutions tend to embody limitations of language and policy dictated by permanent members including some of the largest weapons producing states. Nevertheless, sustaining peaceful and inclusive societies, establishing state institutions worthy of constituent approval without imposing security arrangements that provoke intimidation or fear remain considerable challenges. Part of this challenge is related to people’s lingering distrust of governments and their security apparatus in countries worldwide. As the UN knows well, in many parts of the world, it is a struggle to hold police departments accountable for their mis-behaviour, as well as armed forces for bombing civilian and community targets in the name of fighting terror. In this perspective, Robert Zuber talks about necessity of civil control of state security sector:
"To promote a viable security-development linkage in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals is to acknowledge that state security sectors have the capacity to both impede and enable sustainable development. While civil society advocates must continue to address the security sector when its conduct crosses lines that intimidate populations and deny due process and other fundamental rights, they can also remind that sector of its ability to enhance implementation of the 2030 Agenda in many ways, including curtailing various forms of trafficking and armed violence that overwhelm many communities in Latin America and in other global regions. UN human rights treaty bodies also have a role to play in scrutinizing security sector conduct. But still within some states, an unaccountable security sector combined with official assertions of sovereignty and suppressions of those who would otherwise be community watchdogs create a climate which can only be interpreted as hostile to the fulfillment our 2030 development promises. We can be fair, but we must also be vigilant."
As the vast global arms trade is still as serious a problem as many of us maintain, we will need more rigorous instruments of arms restraint than at present. Since negotiation and adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which entered into force on 24 December 2014, it has been hampered by some of its member states, particularly those who as major arms exporters are reluctant to be bound by its provisions like U.S. and Russia. Besides that ATT has no actionable outcome regarding arms that have long ago left the factory, the second-hand weapons that now do so much damage every day to communities and their development aspirations in Libya, Mali, Yemen, Nigeria and elsewhere.
Once we manage to divert our attention from impractical institutions, we will realize that the SDGs are not only short term obligations accepted by states, but instead long-term goals set to ensure the survival, not only of individual states, but of humanity and the world as a whole. Total failure in achieving SDG 16 may be caused by accepting data that is selectively analyzed and promoted, funding that is unreliable and unevenly applied, policy that reaches towards the most vulnerable but never quite makes physical contact and weapons that drain public resources. In addition, policies that inhibits the safety and education of children, the political participation of women, the promotion of a free press and the fair administration of justice—all in violation of specific SDG targets - will not help to promote development so much as keep people locked in fearful, subordinated social and political contexts.
For the task of pursuing SDGs, the UN are summoning the High Level Political Forum, and creating an agencies which purpose is to secure needed funding. Moving forward, it is important to fully understand the diverse potentials of these arrangements and to minimize the more toxic aspects of their practices. Having heartily celebrated our recent policy achievements, we have woken up with a bit of a hangover and now recognize the full complexity of our new development obligations, attempting to fix a series of urgent and related problems.