Published on Development for Peace

Gender equality and peace building - moving beyond MY goal to implement the Sustainable Development Goals

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The buzz around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is changing, as reality kicks in and countries now have to figure out how to integrate the thinking of the goals into plans, set priorities and commit to targets.

Up to now global interest groups and constituencies have rallied around MY goal – one of the 17 SDGs that they supported. This is understandable, as their first achievement has been to see their goal included. With that done the hard work is starting, to implement the ambitious agenda.

ImageNo doubt this will be challenging and the crosscutting goals that have several sector “homes” are likely to face particular difficulties. Constituencies need to team up and mobilize joint resources and strategies especially around Goal 5 on gender equality and Goal 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies. This is sensible and smart: Reducing sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and increasing women’s roles in peace and statebuilding are core objectives of both constituencies. 

I recently participated in a SDG workshop in Uganda – the 2016 Biannual Workshop of the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality (IANWGE) and the OECD DAC Network on Gender Equality (Gendernet) – to discuss how Goal 5 on gender equality can boost the gender equality agenda globally and what it takes in terms of financial resources and actual work.

Gender activists, donor and government representatives spoke about the role of partnerships and coalitions. It was clear that an understanding among many goal constituencies was emerging, that a one goal approach gets us nowhere. Goals complement each other and targets cannot be met unless several related targets are clustered as development priorities and find joint institutional platforms.

Fragile and conflict affected countries among others are already lobbying to continue the peace and statebuilding agenda. Although set out so well in the New Deal for Fragile States at Busan in 2011 and piloted for four years, it has also shown weaknesses, confirming that implementation of peace and statebuilding actions is complicated, with difficulties taking root in situations where it is most needed.  

To advance their work on Goal 16, teaming up with Goal 5 constituencies is the obvious first choice of partnership. There is evidence that societies with high levels of gender equality are more peaceful than others; women are strong and active peacebuilders; more equality also means less SGBV; and gender equality is an enabler for economic development.

For example, new statistical and case study analysis suggests that where women are actively involved in peace negotiations, agreements are significantly more likely to be reached and implemented. Similarly, in cross-country analysis conflict-affected communities that experienced the most rapid economic recovery and poverty reduction were found to be those where more women reported higher levels of empowerment. We also know that violence against women rises both during and after conflict.

Joining forces amounts to more than doubling strengths – the gender advocacy community is strong – it includes women’s rights organizations; progressive governments and donors. Finding the common trigger points with the peaceful societies agenda of Goal 16 could see a powerful implementation coalition making inroads on the poverty challenge.

With almost half of the world’s extreme poor projected to live in fragile and conflict affected situations by 2030 – it is our joint responsibility to reach the targets set by the Sustainable Development Goals.


Anne-Lise Klausen

Senior Operations Officer at the World Bank’s Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group (FCV)

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