Justice proposed for sustainable development goals

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​Source UN, 2014. The Road to Dignity by 2030: Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet

This year will see a major milestone with the adoption of sustainable development goals (SDGs) by the UN’s member states. Expanding on the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set in 2000, the currently envisioned 17 SDGs are aiming to address broader, transformative economic, environmental and social changes. For the first time, however, the centrality of justice in achieving sustainable development has been recognized in the Open Working Group’s proposed Goal 16:
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
The mention of justice, governance and peaceful societies in the SDGs is seen as an important step , but one that will pose many challenges. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has put his support behind the inclusion of justice as a central pillar for achieving sustainable development.

The UN member states are set to adopt the final SDGs agenda at the Special Summit on Sustainable Development  in New York in September, but the inclusion of Goal 16 in the final SDGs is not certain. Surprisingly broad support from a large majority of UN member countries - including a large number of developing countries - suggests that dropping this goal would be difficult at this late stage. While some influential countries are not supportive of Goal 16, others are pushing to reopen debate to set a more ambitious scope for the goal which could further jeopardize its inclusion in the final SDGs agenda. 
Events around the final Summit will also affect the final shape of the goals and their targets. The Third International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July, aims to achieve an inter-governmentally negotiated and agreed outcome for supporting the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. This could lead to a change in goals and their scope. Similarly, the UN climate conference in Paris in December, which is expected to result in a universal and meaningful climate change agreement, will likely dwarf any further financing and implementation discussions related to the post-2015 agenda, making implementation of non-climate related goals more difficult.
Throughout the Sustainable Development Goals formulation process the World Bank’s Justice, Rights and Public Security (JRPS) unit has taken an active part in justice-related discussions, including as a member of the UN Technical Support Team and coordinating an informal working group of global stakeholders focused on justice, rule of law and security. The Bank’s Justice team is now focused with the UN on proposing justice indicators to inform the tracking of Goal 16’s many targets. JRPS is presently engaged in:

  • Identifying meaningful indicators for measuring progress on Goal 16 that reflect country context, inclusiveness and limit country burden by using and refining existing indices and data collection efforts. Balancing global relevance with country specific challenges will be key and may call for a menu approach to be adopted.
  • Exploring options for the development of affordable and practical country systems to measure progress towards the Goal 16 targets chosen by each county.
  • Seeking greater collaboration with the extended development community and country counterparts in assessing justice problems, defining the financing needs and exploring and funding alternatives for Goal 16 programming.
  • Capturing lessons learned from prior Bank work to inform the development of inclusive justice mechanisms that advance the new SDG agenda.
There is general agreement that the SDGs represent a historic opportunity for justice, governance, and the rule of law to contribute to an ambitious agenda for sustainable development that ends poverty, transforms lives and protects the planet. 

However, this will require significant changes in how the development community works together, how countries engage, how progress is tracked, and in financing. The World Bank is committed to participating in the process of formulating the SDGs as well as in the long road of implementation and monitoring of Goal 16.


Nicholas Menzies

Senior Governance Specialist

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