Each month, a group of DC-based NGOs and academic institutions organizes a forum on some aspect of peacebuilding. This month, it explored these goals that were recently adopted by the United Nations and included peacebuilding for the first time. The document has been widely discussed, but this was one of the first times that a distinguished group of experts explored how (and if) its peacebuilding goals could be met. Panelists Andrew Tomlinson, Cynthia Clapp-Wincek, and Lynn Wagner cast a broad net that honed in a number of conclusions about the agreements and their implementation, four of which struck me as fundamental for us all.
First, the very fact that they were accepted is a remarkable accomplishment. For the first time, the UN’s member states committed themselves to “The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to significantly reduce all forms of violence, and work with governments and communities to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity. Strengthening the rule of law and promoting human rights is key to this process, as is reducing the flow of illicit arms and strengthening the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance.”
Second, the goals were adopted as the result of an unusual and promising political practice for the international community. Unlike earlier UN policy documents, there was considerable grass roots involvement in the negotiations that led up to their adopting earlier this year, including the participation of all three panelists.
Third, as is the case with just about every UN declaration, it is one thing to announce a policy. It is quite another to see that it is implemented. Here, too, the panelists agreed that it is up to civil society, including NGOs, the corporate world, and the media, to hold the UN and its member states accountable.
Finally, the SDGs are not just about development “out there.” Unlike the Millennium Challenge Goals they replace, the SDGs are global in scope, which means that all countries are expected to make progress toward them. As moderator Liz Hume asked the panelists, “what does this mean for us here in Washington?” Although the panel could not deal with Liz’s question in any depth, it was clear that we in the United States fall far short of having a “just, peaceful, and inclusive society.”
In other words, the panel reminded us all that we have plenty of work to do.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Alliance for Peacebuilding or its members.