International Development Law Organization

SDG 16 Conference 2021 | Program





Day 1 - Opening of the Conference 

  • Ms. Marina Sereni, Vice Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy
  • Mr. Volkan Bozkır, President of the United Nations General Assembly (video message) 
  • Mr. Munir Akram, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (video message)
  • Message from Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations  
  • Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations  
  • Ms. Jan Beagle, Director-General, IDLO


Day 1 - Theme: Our shared fragility: The impact of COVID-19 on SDG 16: This theme will generate a preliminary multi-stakeholder assessment of the pandemic's impact on SDG 16 with a focus on those most at risk of being left behind including women and girls, youth, people with disabilities and those who might be in marginalized and vulnerable situations. It will examine ways in which issues of peace, justice and inclusion have been both exacerbated and magnified by the impact of the pandemic. The session will explore how challenges related to transparency, accountability and institutional capacity have hampered effective crisis response at both national and international levels. The discussions will also examine how aspects of SDG 16 have been drawn upon by governments, national stakeholders as well as international institutions to orient response and recovery actions, focusing on measures to address inequality and vulnerability in societies and increase the resilience of national institutions.

  • Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO
  • Mr. Yamauchi Yoshimitsu, Assistant Vice-Minister of Justice, Japan
  • Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, Under-Secretary-General, UN-OHRLLS
  • Ms. Birgitta Tazelaar, Deputy Director-General for International Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands  
  • Mr. Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights 
  • Mr. Harold Hongju Koh, Senior Advisor, Office of the Legal Advisor, U.S. Department of State
  • Ms. Hanna Tetteh, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union
  • Ms. Annika Ben David, Ambassador-at-large for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sweden
  • Mr. Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas, DPPA/DPO 
  • Mr. Máximo Torero Cullen, Chief Economist, FAO  
  • Ms. Asako Okai, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Crisis Bureau, UNDP  
  • Mr. Diego García-Sayán, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
  • Ms. Lynrose Jane D. Genon, Executive Council of Young Women+ Leaders for Peace, Philippines


Day 2 - Theme: Renewing the social contract to build trust between people and state: Rebuilding peoples’ confidence in government was highlighted as a major challenge by global leaders in the UN 75th Anniversary Declaration. Discussions under this theme will address some of the root causes of lack of trust in public institutions. They will encompass policies and measures at the national level, sustained by international cooperation, to ensure equity in distribution of public goods and delivery of services, with a focus on those most at risk of being left behind; to strengthen transparency, accountability and oversight; to open space for participation and stakeholder engagement; to support adherence to constitutional frameworks and the independence of judicial institutions; and to reinforce action to fight corruption. 

  • Ms. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 
  • Mr. Hector Leonel Ayala, Minister of Governance and Decentralization, Honduras 
  • Mr. Martin Chungong, Secretary-General, Inter-Parliamentary Union 
  • Mr. Kevin Casas-Zamora, Secretary-General, International IDEA 
  • Mr. Xing Qu, Deputy Director General, UNESCO
  • Ms. Liv Tørres, Director, Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies
  • Ms. Elizabeth Andersen, Executive Director, World Justice Project
  • Ms. Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director, UNODC
  • Mr. Alfredo Durante Mangoni, Chair, G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Italy 
  • Ms. Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Values and Transparency, European Commission 
  • Mr. Federico Cafiero De Raho, Anti-Mafia and Anti-terrorism National Prosecutor, Italy
  • Ms. Margit Kraker, Secretary-General, International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions 
  • Ms. Marta Acosta Zuniga, Comptroller General, Costa Rica 
  • Ms. Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of International Board of Directors, Transparency International


Day 3 - Theme: Turning challenges into opportunities: Rethinking governance with SDG16 at its center: This workstream will build on discussions under Themes 1 and 2 and will address the governance, institutional and policy innovations at local, national, regional and international levels that can accelerate the implementation of SDG 16 and promote integrated,  “whole of society, whole of government” approaches needed to tackle complex, interrelated challenges such as entrenched conflict, increasing inequalities, gender inequality, social and economic insecurity, climate change and rapid technological disruption. Framing this discussion will be the transformative actions at all levels, rooted in multilateralism and global solidarity, that the COVID-19 crisis is compelling governments to take, and the opportunities they offer to bring about renewed, sustained progress in achieving the 2030 Agenda.

  • Ms. Helen Clark, Co-Chair, The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response
  • Ms. Marie Chatardová, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations 
  • Ms. Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive Director, UNGC
  • Ms. Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women 
  • Mr. Giulio Lo Iacono, General Coordinator, ASviS 
  • Ms. Antonia Marie De Meo, Director, UNICRI
  • Ms. Ariunzaya Ayush, Minister for Labour and Social Protection of Mongolia
  • Ms. Mary Robinson, Chair, The Elders
  • Mr. Stefano Stefanile, Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations in New York
  • Mr. Thomas Guerber, Director, DCAF - Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance 
  • Mr. Silvio Gonzato, Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations
  • Mr. Gerald Abila, Founder, Barefoot Law, Uganda
  • Mr. Michael Zammit Cutajar, former Head of UNFCCC secretariat and climate change negotiator, Malta 

Day 3 - Closing

  • Mr. Giorgio Marrapodi, DG for Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy  
  • Ms. Maria Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, UNDESA  
  • Ms. Jan Beagle, Director-General, IDLO  




Day 1 - April 28 - Theme 1: Our shared fragility: The impact of COVID-19 on SDG16

  • 14:00 – 14:30 CEST  |  Opening

  • 14:30 – 15:30 CEST  |  Plenary Session 1.1 - Peaceful, just and inclusive societies in the times of COVID-19 and beyond

    Despite consensus that the symbiotic relationship between peace, justice and good governance embodied in SDG 16 is essential for achieving sustainable development, progress across SDG 16’s various dimensions has been uneven since the 2030 Agenda was adopted. The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated many of these negative trends and represents a profound challenge to humanity’s shared aspirations for a better future expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals. This session will attempt to provide a preliminary multi-stakeholder assessment of the pandemic's impact on progress on the three dimensions of SDG 16: peace and conflict, access to justice, and effective, accountable and transparent institutions. It will highlight the disproportionate impacts on those most at risk of being left behind who have borne the brunt of the crisis and will explore the implications of these trends for global progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

  • 15:45 – 17:15 CEST  |  Plenary Session 1.2 - Enhancing resilience to shocks and crises: lessons learned from the pandemic

    The pandemic has exposed structural weaknesses including lack of government preparedness to handle such society-wide shocks; it has also revealed fault lines and entrenched inequalities that have wider implications for the realization of the 2030 Agenda. The response to the crisis has illustrated how key principles of SDG 16 such as transparency, accountability, participation and engagement can strengthen the capacity of communities and societies to withstand shocks and recover. The session will explore how challenges related to good governance and institutional capacity have hampered effective crisis response at both national and international levels. The discussion will aim to distill lessons from innovative governance processes that have emerged during the pandemic in this regard, in order to inform reflections on how to address societal inequalities and vulnerabilities and enhance the resilience of societies to various shocks, as a key component of building back better and delivering the Sustainable Development Goals. 

  • 17:35 – 19:05 CEST  |  Parallel Session 1.1 - Impact of the pandemic on peace and conflict

    Conflict and fragility pose one of the most significant challenges to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. Despite initial positive responses around the Secretary General’s call for a ceasefire at the outset of the pandemic, many conflicts have continued unabated. COVID-19 is generating further grievances and exacerbating existing fault lines in societies. Misinformation, stigmatization and hate speech in many countries have contributed to a growing sense of insecurity and compounded the effects of the pandemic. Senior UN officials have warned that the crisis is hindering diplomatic action and complicated peace-making efforts and disproportionately impacting on women, youth and other marginalized groups. The session will examine how the pandemic has interacted with existing conflict dynamics, governance challenges and their implications for progress towards SDG 16 and the 2030 Agenda. It will also look at approaches that help to sustain peace by addressing both pre-existing and emerging causes of conflict and violence, leveraging the COVID-19 response as a catalyst.​​

  • 17:35 – 19:05 CEST  |  Parallel Session 1.2 - Lessons from the response of public institutions to the pandemic

    The pandemic has abruptly disrupted the regular functioning of public institutions such as parliaments and justice systems, and affected key government functions and processes, undermining the effectiveness of government action at the national and sub-national levels. The need to respond quickly and with drastic measures to manage the crisis has created an added burden of responsibility on public institutions and created additional risks for institutional processes and organizations. The capacity of public institutions to promote policy integration and policy coherence across all levels of government and engage with stakeholders in society has also been put to the test. Beyond individual institutions, the pandemic has affected whole institutional systems and the way public institutions interact with people, including by reshaping public participation and communication. Yet, public institutions and civil servants have responded forcefully to the crisis. They have adopted innovative ways of working and shown resilience and flexibility. This session will examine lessons from innovative tools and practices put in place by public institutions that have promoted people-centric solutions, services, and structures. It will examine the possibilities for building on institutional innovations during the pandemic, and enhancing capacities of public servants to foster transformative change in public administration in support of the 2030 Agenda.

  • 17:35 – 19:05 CEST  |  Parallel Session 1.3 - Assessing and mitigating the impact of the pandemic on justice systems and justice seekers

    Even before COVID-19, approximately two-thirds of the world’s population lacked the ability to meaningfully access justice. While the business case for investing in justice is clear and compelling, allocations to the justice sector have declined in both national and development assistance budgets. Justice systems have been hard hit by the pandemic, as new restrictions on physical access to courts and tribunals have coincided with a sharp rise in the need for legal protection and services. This session will look at the effect of the pandemic on the justice sector, with an emphasis on access to justice for those most at risk of being left behind. It will share experiences of innovative practices on digital innovation, preventive justice and alternative dispute resolution employed by courts and practitioners across the world that can help advance access to justice for all, and accelerate progress on other dimensions of SDG 16 and the entire 2030 Agenda.

Day 2 - April 29 - Theme 2: Renewing the social contract to build trust between people and state

  • 14:00 – 15:30 CEST  |  Plenary Session 2.1 - Implications of the pandemic for the relationship between citizens and the state

    Rebuilding peoples’ confidence in government was highlighted as a major challenge by global leaders in the UN 75th Anniversary Declaration. Discussions in this session will address some of the root causes of lack of trust in public institutions. They will encompass policies and measures at the national level, sustained by international cooperation, to ensure equity in distribution of public goods and delivery of services, with a focus on those most at risk of being left behind; to open space for participation and stakeholder engagement; to support adherence to constitutional frameworks and independence of judicial institutions; and to reinforce action to fight corruption.​​ 

  • 15:45 – 17:15 CEST  |  Plenary Session 2.2 - Strengthening transparency, accountability and engagement during and beyond the pandemic

    Restrictions on movement and assembly around the world have limited access to the political space, working methods and processes of institutions such as parliaments and courts, potentially undermining legislative oversight and law-making. Public institutions have experimented with innovative methods to overcome these challenges. Research found that COVID-19 response plans have paid “little attention to governance- and corruption related matters.” However, oversight bodies such as supreme audit institutions have innovated in order to increase the transparency and accountability of governmental emergency responses as well as of rescue and recovery packages, which can pose risks to integrity and create opportunities for fraud and corruption. Transparency at all levels, from the local to the national, has emerged as a critical condition for successful responses to the pandemic. The session will examine how national accountability systems in a post-pandemic world can benefit from insights gained during the pandemic in terms of changing dynamics among stakeholders and the opening of new opportunities for collaboration. ​

  • 17:35 – 19:05 CEST | Parallel Session 2.1 - The role of stakeholder engagement in responding to the pandemic and how to (...)

    The role of stakeholder engagement in responding to the pandemic and how to secure engagement in the future

    During the COVID-19 crisis the conduct of business of representative institutions, especially parliaments, has been challenged. Opportunities for public consultation and engagement were initially limited by the pandemic and the response measures adopted by governments to fight it. At the same time governments around the world have also experimented with new ways to collaborate with civil society, experts, the private sector and individuals to find creative solutions to challenges presented by COVID-19. In many countries, governments, civil society, citizens and the private sector are experimenting with innovative open government approaches to the pandemic. Participatory response strategies and engaging people in the co-creation of tools and solutions are some of the approaches used in different countries, both at national and local levels. Civil society around the world has mobilized and self-organized to provide a range of services and actions, with or without support from governments. This session will discuss the calls that have emerged for preserving civic space during and after the pandemic. It will take stock of successful practices in terms of engagement, collaboration and partnerships explored during the pandemic, and discuss possible ways to sustain the mobilization of individuals, communities and civil society organizations post-pandemic for delivering the SDGs.

  • 17:35 – 19:05 CEST  |  Parallel Session 2.2 - Addressing corruption during and after COVID-19

    Corruption has hindered progress towards achieving the SDGs and has affected people’s trust in government long before the pandemic. During the pandemic, health systems have proven vulnerable to COVID-19-related corruption. Emergency responses as well as measures adopted by governments to limit the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, such as stimulus packages, have increased opportunities for fraud and corruption. Corruption risks have also increased at the local level. The mismanagement of public funds and other forms of corruption, particularly related to emergency spending, may further derail implementation of the Goals. During the 2020 United Nations General Assembly, world leaders included rampant corruption among the multiple crises exposed by the pandemic. This session will examine how COVID-19 response plans have paid attention to corruption-related matters, particularly in the context of an expansion of state power without adequate checks and balances. It will discuss the strides made by oversight institutions to increase transparency and accountability to prevent and address corruption, including in public procurement. It will also examine lessons from promoting coherent anti-corruption policies and strategies that take advantage of the synergies between different actors and tools, support institutional coordination, and advance more integrated approaches to monitoring.

  • 17:35 – 19:05 CEST  |  Parallel Session 2.3 - Building trust in governance through rule of law-based policymaking

    Respect for the rule of law and policy making based in the rule of law plays a crucial role in reinforcing public trust in governance. Effective rule of law frameworks ensure that the poor and marginalized are able to enjoy equal rights and are given space to participate in planning processes. They promote accountability by ensuring that individual actors and institutions execute agreed-upon processes and actions that lead to development gains. Adherence to the rule of law requires clear, prospective and publicly available laws that serve as checks and balances to ensure that emergency powers are exercised within the remits of law and not used arbitrarily or unfairly. The emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic has often suspended constitutional frameworks, amended administrative procedures, restricted public movement, limited opportunity for public participation in decision-making processes and for government oversight, which at times contributed to lack of confidence in governance at all levels. In some countries, elections have been postponed or disrupted. This session will explore how a rule of law-based approach to crisis response and recovery can serve as the basis to building trust in government and public institutions. It will share examples of how crisis responses can be aligned with national and international legal frameworks and how effective laws and policies can guide the recovery and promote accountable transparent and participatory governance.​

Day 3 - April 30 - Theme 3: Turning challenges into opportunities: rethinking governance with SDG16 at its center

  • 14:00 – 15:30 CEST  |  Plenary Session 3.1 - Transforming govenance through inclusive processes and whole of society approaches​

    This session will address how innovations in governance can be supported by “whole of government” and “whole of society” approaches. The discussion will review governance innovations that emerged during the pandemic that have the potential to support longer-term transformations. It will review strategies to ensure the preservation and expansion of civic space and to create an enabling environment for civil society to participate freely and safely in public governance and decision-making. It will highlight the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships at local, national and international levels in enabling transformative governance to address complex, interrelated challenges such as entrenched conflict, increasing inequalities, gender inequality, social and economic insecurity, climate change and rapid technological disruption

  • 15:45 – 17:15 CEST | Plenary Session 3.2 - SDG 16 as a framework for moving the 2030 Agenda forward: Key national and (...)

    SDG 16 as a framework for moving the 2030 Agenda forward: key national and international actions needed to tackle global challenges.

    This session will build on previous sessions and will aim to identify key areas for action in coming years to ensure progress on SDG 16, while using SDG 16 as a lever to speed up recovery from the pandemic and move the 2030 Agenda forward. With regard to the national level, the discussion will address the need for inclusive social protection schemes that are key to leaving no one behind. It will examine how digital governance, which has been critical during the pandemic, can be further put at the service of inclusive societies. The discussion will also address key areas for multilateral action on issues including public health law, conflict prevention and digital cooperation, to transform governance in support of sustainable development

  • 17:15 – 17:35 CEST  |  Closing


  • 17:55 – 19:25 CEST  |  Parallel Session 3.1 - The gender dimension of the pandemic: lessons learned and implications for the future

    The pandemic has further exacerbated discrimination and increased inequalities and risks of backsliding on gender equality. Analyses show a widening of the poverty gap between women and men, pushing 47 million more women and girls into poverty by the end of the current year. This will increase the total number of women and girls living in extreme poverty to 435 million, with projections showing that this number will not revert to pre-pandemic levels until 2030. During the pandemic, women, more likely to be employed in sectors hardest hit by lockdowns, have lost their jobs at a faster rate than men. They have seen an increase in their unpaid care responsibilities, experienced increased gender-based violence, among others. This session will examine the extent to which public responses have been gender sensitive and have ensured women’s and girls’ equal enjoyment of all human rights. It will also examine lessons for more integrated gender-responsive policies hinging on social protection, provision of fair and equal wages, equitable access to public services including, health, education as well as meaningful and equal participation and leadership of women and girls in all spheres and levels of public life and decision-making related to post-pandemic recovery. The session will underscore how promoting gender equality and addressing discriminatory norms and social practices that have affected women and girls even more during the pandemic is key  is key to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.​

  • 17:55 – 19:25 CEST  |  Parallel Session 3.2 - Promoting inclusive and equitable access to public services

    Underlying all 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda is a vision that no person should be left behind, but the gap between rich and poor both within and between nations has only grown since their adoption. Growing inequality and exclusion, identified as a major source of lack of trust in government by global leaders in the Declaration of commemorate the United Nations’ 75th Anniversary, have been further exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19. There is a concern that emergency measures taken by governments during the pandemic as well as domestic and aid budgets in the short and medium term could further exacerbate inequalities. Ensuring inclusive and equitable access to public services during and after COVID-19 will be key to building greater public confidence and trust in government, as will be efforts to address discrimination towards vulnerable groups in society. The session will approach the debate through the lens of access to health and education, two sectors that have been severely impacted by the pandemic. It will draw on the experiences of policymakers at the frontlines of the pandemic response to highlight the importance of equity and inclusion in promoting more effective crisis management and building towards a sustainable recovery.

  • 17:55 – 19:25 CEST  |  Parallel Session 3.3 - Digital Governance in a post-pandemic world

    This session will take stock of the changes brought by the pandemic to the use of digital government and their implications for public institutions, public service delivery, engagement and human rights. The pandemic has witnessed expanded use of digital technologies in public service delivery. Digital government tools have kept governments and people connected during the pandemic, through information sharing and online services. They have helped governments to make rapid policy decisions based on real-time data and analytics. They have enhanced the capacity of local authorities for better coordination and deployment of needs-based services to residents. During the pandemic, whole education systems shifted to the digital format. Governments with robust digital platforms and digital tools have been better equipped to sustain public service delivery during the crisis. However, the pandemic has also highlighted the reality of digital divides, as vulnerable groups have not benefited equally from digital services. The session will discuss efforts in developing digital government strategies after the COVID-19 crisis that focus on improving data protection and digital inclusion policies as well as strengthened policy and technical capabilities of public institutions and officials, while protecting human rights. It will also look at public-private partnerships for implementing innovative technologies and emphasize the role of government’s leadership, resilient institutions, and effective public policies to tailor digital solutions to people’s needs, while avoiding to widen existing or create new inequalitie​s.​