Paula Boland is an attorney specializing in environmental law and international affairs and serves as the President of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area and the Chair of the UNA-USA National Council. Ms. Boland moderated Panel Session 2 that focused on Implementing SDG #16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
Through Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG #16, member states have committed to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and being effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. When the international community look back on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), governance emerged as a critical element in explaining the uneven progress across these goals in many countries. One of the lessons from the MDGs was that democratic governance, peace and security and the rule of law, including protection of human rights, are critical to sustainable development. A human rights approach helps identify who is vulnerable or being left behind and the ways in which those who are marginalized can be empowered to overcome their vulnerability.
The 2030 Agenda presents a shift, a significant shift and radical new approach to transforming our world, focusing on the integrated pillars of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. It is universal, including issues such as inequality, access to justice, peace and security, and aims at leaving no one behind. Moreover, the SDG Agenda has an additional complexity in terms of its implementation and requires a mix of national ownership, flexibility, innovation, political acumen, high quality technical support and collective multi-stakeholder effort at all levels in order to become progressively a reality.
Ms. Boland stressed the importance of the SDG #16 that is key to achieving the transformative 2030 Agenda that focuses on seven principles of strong institutions: effective, inclusive, responsive, participative, representative, accountable and transparent as well as peaceful society are necessary for achieving all SDGs. Further, SDG #16 has the potential to catalyze profound social transformation that requires addressing the root causes and drivers that generate and reproduce economic, social, political and environmental problems and inequities, not merely the symptoms. Global Goal #16 means changing norms and institutions that shape the behavior of people and organizations in the social, economic, environmental and political spheres. Without specific attention to how SDG #16 applies in all dimensions of human life, it will be impossible to realize the transformative potential of the SDGs.
Ms. Boland concluded her opening remarks by saying: “We cannot hope for sustainable development without peace, stability, human rights and effective governance based on the rule of law. Yet our world is increasingly divided, some regions enjoying more peace, security and prosperity than others, while many are falling into seemingly endless cycles of conflict and violence. This is not inevitable and must be addressed.”