SDG 16 - Piece, justice and strong institutions

We cannot hope for sustainable development without peace, stability, human rights and effective governance, based on the rule of law. Yet, our world is increasingly divided. Some regions enjoy peace, security and prosperity, while others fall into seemingly endless cycles of conflict and violence. This is not inevitable and must be addressed (UNDP, 2019).

The facts

While homicide and trafficking cases have seen significant progress over the past decade, there are still thousands of people at greater risk of intentional murder within Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and around Asia. Children’s rights violations through aggression and sexual violence continue to plague many countries around the world, especially as under-reporting and lack of data aggravate the problem.

Some more facts by the United Nations Development Programme regarding SDG 16 (UNDP, 2019):

  • By the end of 2017, 68.5 million people had been forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations.
  • There are at least 10 million stateless people who have been denied nationality and its related rights.
  • Corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion cost developing countries US$1.26 trillion per year.
  • 49 countries lack laws protecting women from domestic violence.
  • In 46 countries, women now hold more than 30 percent of seats in at least one chamber of national parliament.
  • 1 billion people are legally ‘invisible’ because they cannot prove who they are. This includes an estimated 625 million children under 14 whose births were never registered. 

The focus of SDG 16

Sustainable development goal sixteen (SDG 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. There are ten targets set for this goal, including: reducing all forms of violence and related death rate; ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children; ensuring equal access to justice for all; providing legal identity for all, including birth registration; reducing corruption and bribery in all their forms and developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels.

Ultimately, to tackle the challenges listed earlier in the article, and to build more peaceful, inclusive societies, there needs to be more efficient and transparent regulations put in place and comprehensive, realistic government budgets. One of the first steps towards protecting individual rights is the implementation of worldwide birth registration and the creation of more independent national human rights institutions around the world (UN SDGs, 2019).

SDG 16 Progress in Australia

Australia is a relatively peaceful country, ranking 15 out of 163 in the Global Peace Index. Australia also ranks highly in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index at 13 out of 176 (although our score has dropped since 2012). Australia was a strong advocate for the inclusion of a separate goal on governance and law and justice throughout negotiations of the 2030 Agenda. SDG 16 lies at the heart of Australian values and commitment to political, economic and religious freedoms; liberal democracy; the rule of law; and good governance, transparency and accountability (Voluntary National Review on the SDGs, 2018).

That said, there remain a range of areas for improvement in this space, including for example Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights, domestic violence, and bribery and corruption (UNGCNA, 2018).  Violence, while declining, is still a major issue in Australia, following distinct gender and age-based trends. While from 2012 to 2016 the proportion of people experiencing violence declined (with men reporting a steeper decline), the proportion of men and women experiencing sexual violence/harassment increased to almost 18% of females and less than 10% of men (Transforming Australia, 2018).

Further, Australia’s prison population is at its highest recorded level, with indigenous people representing over 28% of the prison population and the female prison population increasing by 77% over the last decade. Household crime statistics indicate that the highest levels of incarceration are in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, suggesting that rising numbers may be linked to social exclusion, limited access to justice and rehabilitation (Transforming Australia, 2018).

Tackling safety and Gender-based violence at La Trobe

Student safety is a key priority for the La Trobe Business School, especially considering the findings of the 2017 report by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) into the nature, prevalence and reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities. The Universities Australia ‘Respect Now Always’ initiative has become a focus of the whole of university culture at La Trobe University, and we have acted swiftly on the recommendations from the report implementing a significant number of measures including the Speak- Up and Respect at La Trobe programs to enable a whole of organisation culture change to halt behaviour towards students that includes intimidation, harassment, discrimination, bullying and all forms of violence (LBS PRME Report, 2018).

The university also established the La Trobe Violence Against Women research Network (LAVAWN). The aim of LAVAWN is conducting research that creates a world where everyone can live free from violence.  Members of the network include researchers and higher degree students across the university from different schools and disciplines including Law, Sociology, Rural Health, Public Health, Planning, Sexual Health, Social Work.

SDG Video

The video below is created by our CR3+ partner Hanken School of Economics (Finland). In the video, Associate Professor Martin Fougere discusses the targets set for SDG 16. He particularly focuses on targets:

  • 16.4 – Combat organised crime and illicit financial and arms flows
  • 16.5 – Substantially reduce corruption and bribery
  • 16.6 – Develop effective accountable and transparent institutions

Martin talks about corruption and the Financial Secrecy Index and why we need to reframe the question of “why is your country corrupt?” to “what are the drivers and enablers of corruption?” to address the issue of corruption. He also discusses the problem of tax avoidance, particularly the problem of multinational tax avoidance and the need for greater accountability and transparency, not just in the public sector but also the private sector and civil society organisations.

The second part of the video shows an interview with Lyydia Kilpi. Lyydia is policy advisor for tax justice and corporate accountability at KEPA – the Finnish Service Centre for Development Cooperation. KEPA is the umbrella organisation for Finnish civil society organisations (CSOs) who work with development cooperation or are otherwise interested in global affairs. Lyydia talks about the importance of tax and tax avoidance issues in relation to piece, justice and strong institutions. She also discusses how tax issues can be addressed through SDG 16 and its targets, and what the benefits would be of an institutionalised tax country-by-country corporate reporting.

Please enjoy the presentation.

If you would like access to the full video to use in your teaching, please contact Dr Swati Nagpal.

This blog is part of the SDG Series, a series that focuses on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, in the lead up to the CR3+ Conference in October 2019.


More blogs in the SDG Series:
- An introduction to the Sustainable Development Goals
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 1
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 2
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 3
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 4
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 5
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 6
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 7
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 8
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 9
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 10
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 11
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 12
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 13
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 14
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 15