The UN Sustainable Development Goal number 16 aims 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'. It remains a crude fact that the threats of homicide, violence against children, human trafficking and sexual violence are prevalent in all countries of the world. It is important to address these in order to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. SDG 16 can pave the way for the provision of access to justice for all and for building effective, accountable institutions at all levels. According to United Nations policy papers, there has been an improvement in the rate of homicide and trafficking cases as these numbers have gradually declined over the past decade. However, there are still thousands of people at greater risk of intentional murder within Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and around Asia. Children's rights violations through aggression and sexual violence continue to plague many countries around the world, especially as under-reporting and lack of data aggravate the problem.
To tackle these challenges and build more peaceful, inclusive societies, there needs to be more efficient and transparent regulations put in place and comprehensive, realistic government budgets. One of the first steps towards protecting individual rights is the implementation of worldwide birth registration and the creation of more independent national human rights institutions around the world.
People everywhere need to be free of fear from all forms of violence and feel safe as they go about their lives whatever their ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation may be. In order to advance in the SDGs, effective and inclusive public institutions are needed that can deliver quality education and healthcare, fair economic policies and inclusive environmental protection.
On the same ground, it is also important that governments, civil society and communities work together to implement lasting solutions to reduce violence, deliver justice, combat corruption and ensure inclusive participation at all times. Freedom to express views, in private and in public, must be guaranteed. People must be able to contribute to decisions that affect their lives.
There should be none to deny the circumstances under which laws and policies are to be applied without any form of discrimination. Disputes need to be resolved through functioning political and justice systems. National and local institutions must be accountable and need to be in place to deliver basic services to families and communities equitably and without the need for bribes. Crimes that threaten the foundation of peaceful societies, including homicides, trafficking and organised crimes, as well as discriminatory laws or practices, affect all countries. Even the world's greatest democracies face major challenges in addressing corruption, crime and human rights violations for everyone at home. Armed violence and insecurity have a destructive impact on a country's development, affecting economic growth and often resulting in long-standing grievances among communities. Violence, in all its forms, has a pervasive impact on societies. Violence affects children's health, development and well-being, and their ability to thrive. It causes trauma and weakens social inclusion. Lack of access to justice means that conflicts remain unresolved and people cannot obtain protection and redress. Institutions that do not function according to legitimate laws are prone to arbitrariness and abuse of power, and less capable of delivering public services to everyone. To exclude and to discriminate not only violates human rights, but also causes resentment and animosity, and could give rise to violence.
Justifying the adoption of SDG 16 in 2015, the UN endorsed that corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion cost some US $1.26 trillion for developing countries per year. This amount of money could be used to lift those who are living on less than $1.25 a day above $1.25 for at least six years. Birth registration has occurred for 73 per cent of children under 5, but only 46 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africa has had their births registered. Approximately 28.5 million children, who should be going to primary schools but are out of them, live in conflict-affected areas. 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 and the proportion of prisoners held in detention without sentencing has remained almost constant in the last decade, at 31 per cent of all prisoners.
Progress of Goal 16 in 2018: The Report from the Secretary-General titled 'The Sustainable Development Goals 16 Report 2018' had the following observations:
n Many regions of the world continue to suffer untold horrors as a result of armed conflict or other forms of violence that occur within societies and at the domestic level. Advances in promoting the rule of law and access to justice are uneven. 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.
n Nearly eight in 10 children aged 1 to 14 years were subjected to some form of psychological aggression and/or physical punishment on a regular basis at home in 81 countries (primarily developing), according to available data from 2005 to 2017. In all but seven of these countries, more than half of children, experienced violent forms of discipline.
n More than 570 different flows involving trafficking in persons were detected between 2012 and 2014, affecting all regions; many involved movement from lower-income to higher-income countries.
n In 2014, 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 labour.
n The proportion of prisoners held in detention without being sentenced for a crime remained almost constant in the last decade: from 32 per cent in 2003-2005 to 31 per cent in 2014-2016.
n Almost one in five firms worldwide report receiving at least one bribery payment request when engaged in regulatory or utility transactions.
n Globally, 73 per cent of children under 5 have had their births registered; the proportion is less than half (46 per cent) in sub-Saharan Africa.
n 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.
n 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.
n Since 1998, more than half of the countries (116 of 197) have established a national human rights institution that has been peer reviewed for compliance with internationally agreed standards (the Paris Principles). However, only 75 of these countries have institutions that are fully compliant.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Mazid is former Secretary to the Government and former chairman of NBR.
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