“Ideals are there to inspire and to be upheld. Fortunately, the ideal of a peaceful world continues to motivate many people. However, we need concrete goals in order to realize this ideal and to transform it from a utopia into a vision on clear progress in the near future,” opened Dr. Bernard R. Bot, Chairman of the Carnegie Foundation at Making SDG16 Work for the Rule of Law and Access to Justice. The event, organized by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) in The Hague on 28 September, was held to discuss progress made on realizing Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals with a special focus on conflict-affected and fragile states.
Hosted at the iconic Peace Palace, the event is the first in a series to be convened annually over next 15 years, bringing together actors to deliberate over insights and challenges on data availability, monitoring and measuring, as well as local ownership of SDG commitments. It is supported by the Knowledge Platform Security and Rule of Law, of which IDLO is a consortium partner.
Goal 16 of Agenda 2030
Two years after the adoption of the ambitious 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the international community continues to implement programs, develop indicators and monitor progress in advancing global development. While there are references to equality, inclusiveness, peace and rights for all throughout the Agenda, these aspirations are particularly enshrined in Goal 16, which 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.”
IDLO has long regarded Goal 16, as an outcome and enabler of sustainable development. The Goal positions the rule of law as a “golden thread that runs through the tapestry of the SDGs”, and a key component for sustaining peace.
IDLO’s Director of Research and Learning, Dr. Ilaria Bottigliero spoke at the event about IDLO’s contributions to advancing Goal 16 through its mandate to promote the rule of law. “IDLO has been a strong supporter of the SDGs and of SDG16, which we see as indispensable to achieve peace, justice and strong institutions, especially in fragile and conflict affected states.”
“In our daily activities, we see first-hand the challenges to SDG16 implementation,” she continued. “The questions we are trying to tackle today, such as: Have we seen progress in SDG16? What are the challenges to further progress? How can the international community address these challenges? - all these questions become very real through our programmatic work.”
IDLO programming to advance Goal 16
Through its rule of law and access to justice work, IDLO is supporting Goal 16 implementation at the country level, so that the SDGs can be advanced globally. IDLO’s programming is primarily based in post-conflict and fragile contexts, where institutions lack the organizational capacity to deliver justice and, oftentimes, the trust of the people they are meant to serve.
“While the inclusion of SDG 16 is a step towards recognizing the consequences of conflict and violence on development outcomes, there is still a long way to go to tackle this problem from a rule of law perspective,” remarked Dr. Bottigliero.
Dr. Ilaria Bottigliero, IDLO's Director of Research and Learning, gives remarks at the IEP's SDG 16 event in The Hague.
In response to these needs, IDLO works to support institution-building activities on the premise that strong, accountable institutions can engender trust and inspire confidence in the public to engage with the justice system if they know it will deliver fair and swift justice outcomes.
In Afghanistan, for example, the Justice Training and Transition Program works to strengthen the justice sector by ensuring continual professional development of justice actors through training and encouraging institutional ownership.
IDLO’s capacity-building initiatives across countries work to render justice institutions more effective by strengthening capabilities, restoring integrity and promoting the rule of law. “Our evaluations show [that] interventions of this kind can have a positive impact at the local level,” remarked Dr. Bottigliero.
The value of local context and diversity of actors
At the same time, building the capacity of institutions is not enough if interventions don’t focus on the local specificities that enable or prevent transformative change, and if access to justice through formal institutions remains out of reach for much of the population.
“If we want to support countries achieve Goal 16 targets, we must take account of the distinct nature of each situation in which we work and invest in understanding the context, including the political and social structures, gender imbalances and human rights issues,” said Dr. Bottigliero. “Our programmatic intervention and policy advocacy need to consider the political dynamics and the needs of the end-users of justice, especially women, the poor, marginalized and vulnerable groups.”
There is therefore a need for tailored, “bottom-up” responses sensitive to these risks. For example, IDLO’s work on the DREAMS program seeks to strengthen community level responses to HIV-related legal services for adolescent girls and young women in Uganda and Tanzania. The DREAMS program’s unique combination of legal empowerment strategies with social accountability strategies supports the protection of rights and targets the drivers of gender inequality.
To ensure the local context is considered, IDLO’s programs seek to involve actors beyond those directly embedded in the formal justice sector. As part of the program to strengthen the justice chain in Mali, for example, actors ranging from police officers, court administration, civil society representatives, correction officers and journalists are convened for consultation frameworks to discuss justice priorities, take ownership over the program’s implementation and lead the institutional reform activities.
Photo credit: Institute of Economics and Peace