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“Goal 16 being held back by measurement is like trying to cancel the French Revolution because liberté, égalité, fraternité couldn’t be exactly measured!”
In the wake of continuous global crisis, all the members of the United Nations adopted a shared proposal, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, to be followed by the nations in order to achieve peace and prosperity for all individuals globally and to give a better future to the coming generations. At the heart of this elaborate Agenda lies the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which require global cooperation by stakeholders to tackle the challenges faced by the citizens of the Earth.  The Sustainable Development Goal 16 reads as a goal 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”. The Goal 16 focusses on an institutional renewal to underpin sustainable development, with an affirmative action to increase social, political and economic inclusion. In the international sphere, the understanding and application of SDG-16 have become imperative in the current times when a new order is expected to flourish in the nations after the pandemic of COVID19 comes to a stable stand. It is imperative now, more than ever to build robust institutions and societies that are inclusive, peaceful, accountable and effective, which is the basic premise of the goal. However various hindrances exist in the effective implementation of the Goal and therefore it requires attention by the domestic lawmakers.  
Need And Implication SDG 16
SDG16 takes into account the institutional violence of unaccountable and judicial systems, that deprive the people the virtue of justice and their basic fundamental and human rights. The key themes include anti-corruption, public access to information, physical and economic restoration and inclusive decision making. It is a reflection of international instruments like the UN Charter, ICCPR, UDHR, ICESCR, etc. Scholars also argue that it forms a part of the customary international law.
It also aims to reduce all forms of violence and relies on government and communities to work together and final lasting and permanent solution to conflicts and insecurity. The high level of armed violence, sexual violence, crime, exploitation and torture in the countries affect the prevalence and authority of the rule of law and human rights. The rule of law and sustainable development have mutual interrelation and are reinforcing that makes it important to see them both on the same plane.
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The goal contains a provision which is dedicated to providing access to justice to all the people at all levels and building institutions that are effective, accountable and exclusive. Another part is regarding peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. The trends in conflicts around the world can be studied under these two heads.
  1. Access to justice
Access to justice not only includes access to courts but also includes institutions which are responsive, inclusive, participatory, accountable and transparent and system that equip people with access to information ensuring legal identity for all.
The recognition of transgender identity in Nepal by providing Monica Shahi with a passport recognising her gender identity as unconnected to her biological sex is an example of the same.
The right to legal aid for Egypt’s vulnerable communities can also be seen as an implication of the SDG-16. The poor and the illiterate women and men are the most vulnerable when it comes to providing access to justice to the labyrinthine procedures of Egypt’s family courts. It is a major obstacle and drawback in the search for justice. The help of the UNDP under SDG-16 has been providing for legal aid for dispute settlements.
In Guatemala, armed conflict and violence had a devasting impact on the development, sustainable growth and is a cause of unaccounted crimes of sexual violence, torture and exploitation that is suppressed at the expense of reaching a political solution leaving the victims vulnerable. In this critical situation, victims are receiving legal and psychosocial support under SDG-16. In order to strengthen the justice delivery system, the project supports prosecutors and judges with specialized experts and training courses on international law. The goal aims to support state institutions and civil society to exercise the right to truth and justice and reparations for victims.
  1. Promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies
Justice comes along with peaceful, inclusive and sustainable development of a society and peaceful societies are a platform for providing justice. Peace and justice are complementary attributes providing for an inclusive and sustainable society.
The armed conflict in Colombia has socially fragmented the social life along with the weakening of the organizational structure led to the production process in a fractured form. The project under the goal works towards strengthening the local capacity for participation along with gender-sensitive inclusive economic development. There exists the same situation in Sierra Leone where SDG-16 is striving to achieve and enable sustainable livelihoods through improved natural resources governance and economic diversification.
The situation in Kosovo involves the direct question of peace, building inclusive societies and strengthening institutions of justice. The question to be focussed in the context of SDG-16 in Kosovo is that when the police force is the most trusted institution in Kosovo, then why do people still think they need a weapon for protection. There needs to be an urgent reduction in gun crime and violence in the country which is still recovering from a brutal war in the 1990s. In a situation where almost 50% of the household possess an illegal firearm, there has been an effort from the international community as a part of SDG-16 to provide the Kosovo Police with advanced technical equipment to help them fight crime and maintain peace. The help includes providing a bullet recovery system, a shooting lab, where police can test weapons, and a tracing database
Building bridges in Afghanistan as a means for regional cooperation and border management for peace and development again comes under the purview of SDG-16. The critical connections have been established to build strong and peaceful infrastructure for a strong and peaceful Afghanistan. The main aim remains to improve cross- border cooperation and to reduce crime and increase legal trade. This will improve and contribute to mutual trust, regional development, conflict prevention and resolution, strengthen human security, enhance and expand economic development.
On a close study of all these jurisdictions, we can reasonably conclude that SDG-16 is a comprehensive goal covering the issues that every state is facing and there must be a mechanism to enforce this goal in the national jurisdictions.
Much work has been done but it is important to look at the challenges underlying it. To achieve these goals, the funds spent by governments on developing justice providing institutions must be comprehensive and transparent and realistic as well. Since there is no enforcement mechanism, the national jurisdiction must try and incorporate the principles of SDG-16 as a part of their national framework of laws. However, 57% of the countries failed to develop and nurture institutions that comply with the internationally agreed standards. The countries, on average, have 10% of the national budgets dedicated to this purpose. This problem is coupled with opaque, burdensome and inefficient regulations that promote corruption and hampers the individual and social rights to grow. Independent institutions that protect national rights and increase access to justice are very crucial as they ensure that no individual is left behind.
The Goal completely neglects the concept of political violence. Also, the absence of any centralised or authoritative agency is a difficulty in getting current methodologies for estimating the number of people killed in various forms of violence. With such a degree of uncertainty that there exists no means of ascertaining numbers in different kinds of homicide, there has no suggestion that the international community for estimating homicides. The problem is when the flawed data sometimes becomes the norm for the SDG indicators.
The goal requires the promotion of multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary research across different sectors, which can be a tedious task, particularly when the local government fail to do so. Moreover, the high cost of achieving the SDG seems like a fantasy. The countries in Africa and Asia cannot afford spending $2- $3 trillion USD per year that too for the next 15 years.
It is an accepted fact that in the absence of peace, stability, human rights, effective governance and justice providing institutions, sustainable development is a far dream. This makes the need for a strong international institution like the United Nations to intervene as come up a goal as strong as SDG-16.
No doubt, goal 16 is a comprehensive transformative goal but there is a need for the national and global institutions to be more effective, efficient and transparent at the same time. The global picture has changed a lot and it demands a revamp in the lines of SDG-16. The municipal and global governance and judicial system are also crucial to guarantee and develop the human rights, law and order as well as security. The restriction created because of the threat of the use of force and the institutional restriction to justice.  The end result of the goal can be summed as the achievement of effective, accountable and transparent governance with compliance with laws and regulations.





Aditi Tripathi is a law student at National Law University, Nagpur.


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