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SDG 16 CONFERENCE 2023 Opening remarks

Statement by the Director-General, Ms Jan Beagle

Opening remarks

Rome, 30 May 2023

Vice Minister Cirielli,
Ambassador Stoeva,
Assistant Secretary-General Spatolisano,
Distinguished Guests,
Friends and Colleagues,

On behalf of IDLO, it is a pleasure to welcome you to the Conference.

I would like to thank our co-organizers, Italy and UNDESA, for their partnership and commitment to SDG 16.

I am also grateful to those joining us in person, particularly representatives of IDLO member parties and guests who have travelled from around the world to be here with us today.

We are meeting at a critical time.

Halfway to 2030, we seem to be moving further away from sustainable development as the world struggles to deal with a perfect storm of crises.

The past year alone has reversed three decades of progress in poverty reduction.

Conflicts are at their highest level since the Second World War, exacting an immense toll in lives and human suffering.

Temperatures and sea levels rise ever higher, even as trust in institutions and governments is at its lowest ebb.

We have seen a sustained global decline in the rule of law, as justice systems come under tremendous pressure from insecurity, attacks on the independence of the judiciary, and corruption.

There is a very real risk that, in the words of the Secretary General, the SDGs are turning into a “mirage of what might have been”.

SDG 16 is critical in ensuring that this does not come to pass.

It is a critical enabler and accelerator for all other SDGs, and it is at the heart of what makes the 2030 Agenda transformative.

The theme of our Conference this year reflects the fact that both the causes, and the solutions, to global crises, are deeply interconnected, and rooted in issues of human rights, justice, equity, and good governance.

IDLO’s experience has taught us that SDG 16 must be a priority at such times. For instance, investing in measures to address inequality, impunity and breakdowns in the rule of law, which are the most common drivers of conflict, can help resolve disputes before they can escalate into full-blown crises.

This approach also makes economic sense.

According to estimates by the United Nations and the World Bank, for every dollar spent on conflict prevention, we can save 16 dollars down the road, by avoiding costly emergency response measures, and in the growth potential that would otherwise be lost.

SDG 16 can help build a future where conflicts are prevented rather than managed, and where resources are invested in development rather than destruction.

Restoring confidence in governance and public institutions is essential and requires time, commitment, and genuine efforts to address people’s concerns and aspirations.

The rule of law can provide a framework for renewing trust and legitimacy.

People-centred approaches to governance and justice can arm individuals with the knowledge and tools they need to claim their rights, and participate in decision-making.

They also enable institutions to better understand and meet people’s needs, tackle the corrosive influence of corruption, and promote greater openness and transparency.

By engaging with civil society, the private sector, and other stakeholders as partners, governments can foster "whole of society" approaches that prioritize shared goals, collective problem-solving, and mutual accountability.

SDG 16 is also essential in addressing the generational challenge of climate change.

Better resolution of land disputes can help farmers obtain tenure and enhance their livelihoods, leading to increased food security.

Empowering historically excluded groups, including women, youth, and indigenous people, can help prevent environmental degradation and catalyze transformative climate action.

Delivering climate commitments will require new laws and mechanisms and strengthened institutional capacity.

The creation of a climate loss and damage fund at COP27 last year was one such step towards climate justice.

Achieving this change will not be easy.

The challenges we face are too complex, entrenched, and interlinked to offer simple answers.

Despite this, I am hopeful.

We know that the road to peaceful, just and inclusive societies has never been an easy one.

And the champions of SDG 16 do not shy away from challenges.

The very idea of including a goal dealing with issues of peace and good governance in the 2030 Agenda was controversial from the start.

IDLO was proud to be a member of the coalition that overcame that resistance and successfully campaigned for the inclusion of Goal 16.

Since then, we have intensified our work to promote peace and sustainable development, through the rule of law, in every region of the world.

The High-Level Political Forum, and the SDG Summit, will be important opportunities to showcase SDG16 and generate greater political will and financial support.

I am inspired by the tremendous energy, enthusiasm and commitment I see in this room.

Our discussions over the next three days will help us to take stock of progress, share evidence and experiences, find solutions, and plan joint action.

I am confident that, working together in partnership, we can tackle our shared challenges, change the trajectory of SDG 16, and the entire 2030 Agenda, and make a more peaceful, just and sustainable future a reality.