Sustainable Development Goal # 16

SDG number 16 has ten sections targeting inclusively all areas of criminal justice system

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By Masud Khabeki

 In 2014, following a decision taken at the Rio+20 Conference and after more than a year of intergovernmental work of what was called an Open Working Group, UN Member States proposed a set of Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. The SDGs have succeeded the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as reference goals for the international community for the period 2015-2030. The development of the new set of goals was widely seen as an ambitious challenge, as these goals cover a much broader range of issues than their predecessors, aim to be universal – that is, applicable to all countries and not only developing countries, and have to serve as guideposts for a difficult transition to sustainable development, which has eluded the international community since the Earth Summit in 1992.

Peace, stability, human rights and effective governance based on the rule of law are considered important conduits for sustainable development across the world. But, developing countries are faced with many problems as there institutions particularly responsible for providing justice and law & order, remained unable to deliver due to many reasons including corruption. In other words, they are considered more corrupt than the remaining institutions. Among the institutions most affected by corruption are the judiciary and police. Corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion cost some US $1.26 trillion for developing countries per year. This huge amount of money could be used to lift those who are living on less than $1.25 a day. This scenario clearly depicts that advances in promoting the rule of law and access to justice are uneven especially in the underdeveloped countries across the world. However, progress is being made in regulations to promote public access to information, albeit slowly, and in strengthening institutions upholding human rights at the national level.

The rule of law and development have a significant interrelation and are mutually reinforcing, making it essential for sustainable development at the national and international level. Unfortunately, the proportion of prisoners held in detention without sentencing has remained almost constant in the last decade, at 31% of all prisoners. While, violence against children remined a biggest threat as it has affected more than 1 billion children around the world and costs societies up to US$ 7 trillion a year. It is pertinent to mention that almost 50% of the world’s children experience violence every year. The situation is so pathetic that every 5 minutes, somewhere in the world, a child is killed by violence, while 1 in 10 children is sexually abused before the age of 18. Even in the new millennium and in an age of information, 9 in 10 children live in countries where corporal punishment is not fully prohibited, leaving 732 million children without legal protection. 246 million children worldwide affected by school-related violence each year. 1 in 3 students has been bullied by their peers at school and at least 1 in 10 children have experienced cyberbullying. Human trafficking remained on increase in the last decade as the majority of detected trafficking victims were women and girls (71 per cent), and about 28 per cent were children (20 per cent girls and 8 per cent boys). Over 90 per cent of victims detected were trafficked for sexual exploitation or forced labor. At least 1,019 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists have been killed in 61 countries since 2015. This is equivalent to one person killed every day while working to inform the public and build a world free from fear and want. Freedom-of-information laws and policies have been adopted by 116 countries, with at least 25 countries doing so over the last five years. However, implementation remains a challenge.

The figures depict a picture that we are living in a divided world as in some regions people enjoy sustained levels of peace, security and prosperity while others fall into seemingly endless cycles of conflict and violence. This is by no means inevitable and must be addressed.

Promoting peace and justice is one of 17 Global Goals that make up the 2030 United Nations’ agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda requires a greater involvement among governments, civil society, private sector and international organizations to build more peaceful and inclusive just societies. Peace is the only solutions to bring new business opportunities by increasing stability, improving economic prospects and by building social and economic fabric in a community. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) number 16 aim to significantly reduce all forms of violence, and work with governments and communities to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity. Strengthening the rule of law and promoting human rights is key to this process, as is reducing the flow of illicit arms and strengthening the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance.

SDG number 16 has ten sections targeting inclusively all areas of criminal justice system like, 16.1 aims to significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere, 16.2 to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children, 16.3 is to promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all, 16.4 aims that by 2030, to significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime, 16.5 is aiming to substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms, 16.6 is targeted to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels, 16.7 is to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels, 16.8 is for broadening and strengthening the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance, 16.9 is aiming for providing legal identity for all, including birth registration, 16.10 is to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements. While two more clauses, the 16.A is to strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime, while 16.B is aiming for the promotion and enforcement of non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development

Goal 16 is such a broad agenda that there are numerous opportunities to be involved, a gap analysis has to be taken to find which Goal 16 targets are not being addressed. In the process we would find that who is already working to address the issues and what is their approach? This would help the government departments to stretch to their capacity in trying to implement it properly. The constructive and positive engagement with government departments would help in building trust and a much-needed rapport, allowing their impact to maximize when opportunities present themselves.

Masud Khabeki is Adjunct Faculty, Criminology at Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi