Global progress report on Sustainable Development Goal 16 indicators: A wake-up call for action on peace, justice and inclusion. © UNODC/David Gerstl, Suzanne Kunnen, Katja Zöhre - Photo: 2023

A New UN Report Warns of Slow Progress Towards SDG16

By Reinhard Jacobsen

VIENNA. 23 September 2023 (IDN) — A first-of-its-kind report jointly produced by three United Nations organizations, shows that progress towards achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 is worryingly slow, with limited information to drive evidence-informed policies. The report calls for urgent action and substantial investment on Goal 16 to expand data coverage that can help accelerate progress across all SDGs.

The significance of the report—produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the United Nations Human Rights Office—lies in the fact that there are just seven years to go until 2030, the deadline to achieve the goals decided by the international community in 2015.

Launched on 19 September, at the helm of the SDG Summit and the 78th UN General Assembly, the report reflects that human rights commitments are not being met, violence is increasing, inequality is hindering inclusive decision-making and corruption is eroding the social contract.

The report finds that significant progress has been made on developing global methodologies and tools on governance, justice, and human rights-related indicators. But it reveals that there are glaring data gaps. With SDG 16 being one of the goals with the least amount of data available, there is a pressing need to invest in high-quality, disaggregated data to leave no one behind.

Such data will not only enable the achievement of the global targets for peace, justice, and inclusion but will also be crucial to achieving targets across all the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

“To achieve the targets under Goal 16 by 2030,” UNDP Associate Administrator Mr. Haoliang Xu said, “we need to rethink, recalibrate and redouble our efforts”. That is why, he added, we are pleased to launch a brand-new UN report that exposes the success and failures of our collective effort to reach Goal 16 and provides us with the latest data to guide our future actions.

Ms. Ghada Waly, Executive Director of UNODC, noted: “Peace and prosperity for people and the planet—the promise the international community made when adopting the SDGs—will only be possible with decisive and innovative action on SDG 16”. He added: “We must act now to strengthen the rule of law, make justice accessible to all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions around the world. I encourage the international community to use this report to develop practical solutions to create a peaceful, just, and inclusive global society.” 

The new report is based on internationally agreed SDG 16 indicators encompassing a wide range of civil, political, economic and social rights, all anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose 75th anniversary we celebrate this year.

“Human rights are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda and SDG 16 is the lever to effect transformative change for the rest of the Goals,” said UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ms. Ilze Brands Kehris.

“That is why this important report urges all States to accelerate progress towards achieving SDG 16, while also calling for new partnerships to stimulate the compilation and use of human rights statistics. Harnessing data on the protection of human rights defenders who denounce environmental, social or political rights abuses—as well on all people against discrimination, violence and lack of access to justice or participation – is crucial to delivering on our commitments to leave no one behind”.

Key Findings of the Report

  • Violence is on the rise: Intentional homicides peaked in 2021 and armed conflicts claimed the lives of nearly 17,000 civilians, marking a 53 per cent increase from the previous year.
  • Increase in child trafficking: The percentage of detected child victims has risen from 28 per cent in 2014 to 35 per cent in 2021. 
  • Access to justice remains limited: Less than half the population report crimes to authorities and the number of detainees continues to grow, with a rising share of unsentenced detainees. 
  • Corruption affects individuals and businesses: Corruption is prevalent, with a higher prevalence in low- and middle-income countries. 
  • Gender inequality: Women remain underrepresented in senior decision-making roles, facing glass ceilings in public service and the judiciary. 
  • Increased risks for human rights defenders and journalists: Killings and enforced disappearances of defenders and journalists rose significantly in 2022. 
  • Widespread discrimination: One in six people has experienced discrimination in the last year, with women, persons with disabilities, and racial minorities disproportionately affected. 

With the world on track to achieving only 15 per cent of the SDGs, this report sounds a clear wake up call for urgent action to recalibrate our efforts in order to achieve more peaceful, just, and inclusive societies. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Image: Global progress report on Sustainable Development Goal 16 indicators: A wake-up call for action on peace, justice and inclusion. © UNODC/David Gerstl, Suzanne Kunnen, Katja Zöhre

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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