A comprehensive list of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) makes up the United Nations’ 17-part agenda for sustainable development in the world by 2030. Covering all aspects of development, these goals include everything from access to quality education and clean water to changing the pattern of human consumption and acting on climate change.
Specifically, SDG 16 calls for Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. This SDG involves promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development and providing access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Practically speaking this means reducing corruption in all forms, ending abuse, exploitation and violence, and promoting the rule of law to ensure equal access to justice.
Other SDGs may leave us feeling a little bit more hopeful and secure, because they are all things we can agree on. Of course we all want to work for more peace in our world, but this development goal faces more pressure and holdups than say, SDG 4 for quality education or SDG 11 for making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
SDG 16, plainly, seems the most daunting. Perhaps this is because it relies on our hearts to be at peace in order to make peace with one another. To me, any lasting peace can sound like a fantasy, because it first appears that peace relies on so many other things coming into place – quality education, gender equality, health, socioeconomic opportunity. But without efforts for peace, these issues only worsen.
So what if we started with peace? Peace creates an opportunity for conversation.
Anyone who looks at ongoing racial tensions in the United States, the ever changing political dynamics of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, or longstanding exploitation of women and girls in South Asia can see that our ideas of peace are often wrapped up in every other goal. For many, peace is achieved when our deepest needs for equality, access to health and education, and freedom are realized. These are the things we fight for, and justly so. But what if we started with peace, a stand against violence, a heart open to dialogue – even if every other issue was not yet resolved? What problems then, could we actually solve together?
Peace can start with open conversations and transparency between individuals, up through the highest levels of government, and further on to international diplomatic efforts. It can also mean resolving not to act in violence even when we are violated. It can even mean putting down weapons in order to to improve our own communities, as Martin Luther King, Jr. saw “war as an enemy of the poor” as long as we continued to “expend ourselves, our talents, and money into the demonic, destructive suction tube” of war.
As young women we are fierce, we are passionate, but our youth can lead us to either fervent places of anger or places of waging peace. We can fight with one another or we can participate in active peacemaking to make peace a concrete reality. Some warlords have even rejected UN peacemaking efforts involving women because they were “worried the women would compromise.” Yet isn’t this the benefit we as women offer? I am challenged to wage peace, even as injustices still carry on. How will you be stretched to act out peace to bring sustainable change?
The women in the middle are marginalized, invisible…they are the bravest…they stand up without weapons. They are the best their countries offer. We must start not only recognizing them, but also relying on them to fight these battles.
– Sanam Anderlini, co-founder of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)
Cover Photo Credit: Lauren Finkel, Flickr Creative Commons