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Special meeting of the Economic and Social Council

Statement by the Director-General, Ms Jan Beagle

Special meeting of the Economic and Social Council

“Unleashing the transformative power of SDG16 to improve governance and reduce corruption”

New York, 2 May 2023

Madam President,

Madam Executive Director,

Distinguished Delegates,


It is a pleasure to address this special meeting of ECOSOC on behalf of the International Development Law Organization.

Today’s discussion on “Unleashing the transformative power of SDG16 to improve governance and reduce corruption” is a timely one.

As we heard from the Secretary-General last week, halfway to the deadline for the 2030 Agenda, the world is lagging behind on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Major challenges, including entrenched conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, have put governance at all levels to the test.

Increased poverty and inequality, corruption, and a lack of trust in public institutions, have magnified the impact of these crises.

We are experiencing a backlash against multilateralism, and the core values of the UN Charter, just when we need them the most.

The causes and effects of these crises – and the actions needed to address them – are interconnected, and deeply rooted in issues of human rights, justice, equity, inclusion, accountability, and good governance.

Drawing on IDLO’s work to promote peace and sustainable development, through the rule of law across the world, allow me to share three ways in which SDG 16 can play a vital role in addressing these global challenges.

First, SDG 16 is key to preserving and advancing progress on the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

It incorporates the concept of justice and rule of law, including the elements of due process, equality, good governance, and respect for human rights.

SDG16 is not only an important goal in itself, but also a critical enabler and accelerator for the other SDGs.

And it is at the heart of what makes the 2030 Agenda transformative.

Many SDGs implicitly draw on the principles of inclusivity, equity and non-discrimination, and require the creation of new legal frameworks and institutional capacity for their implementation.

For example, SDG 16 can help end hunger by supporting agrarian communities in obtaining land tenure, enhancing their livelihoods, and leading to increased food security.

Rule of law can provide the clarity and predictability countries need to attract investment and promote economic development, while ensuring that it is both sustainable and inclusive.

My second point is that SDG 16 is key to tackling corruption and rebuilding trust.

Corruption is a fundamental challenge to sustaining peace and achieving sustainable development.

It has an inherently corrosive effect on societies, increasing inequality, undermining trust and fueling discontent and insecurity.

We are experiencing a crisis of trust in public institutions when we can least afford it. Rebuilding peoples’ confidence in government was highlighted as a major challenge by global leaders in the UN 75th Anniversary Declaration.

The rule of law is critical to that effort.

It can help eliminate discrimination in law and in practice and enable institutions to better understand and meet people’s needs. It can strengthen their ability to prevent, investigate, and prosecute corruption, and the resolution of grievances before they can fester into conflict. In IDLO’s experience, specialized anti-corruption bodies are also an effective way to provide timely, efficient, and effective resolution of corruption cases, while avoiding delays and back-logs.

A people-centred approach to justice can empower women, young people, and others who have been historically excluded, by arming them with the tools and knowledge to claim their rights and participate in decision-making.

Third and finally, SDG 16 is vital to addressing complex and transnational challenges that traditional instruments of governance are currently ill-equipped to handle.

Our most urgent problems do not stop at borders, and are too big and too complex for any of us to solve alone.

Tackling issues such as climate change, extreme inequality and the digital divide requires mechanisms that allow countries to cooperate fairly and equitably.

For instance, the rule of law can be a catalyst for accelerated climate action and support the transition to a greener, more climate resilient development model. It can also provide effective mechanisms to address the international dimensions of climate change, including the administration of loss and damage funds.

This is what SDG 16 and the rule of law can contribute to the 2030 Agenda and the common struggle against corruption.

Mutual understanding, solidarity, and international cooperation and whole of society approaches are needed to unleash this transformative power.

IDLO is committed to doing its part and pursuing the broadest possible partnerships, including governments, the UN system and international organizations, civil society, the private sector, youth and academia.

There is tremendous scope for us to learn from one another. This discussion today is a great opportunity.

I also hope that many of you will join us in Rome later this month, for the fourth edition of the SDG 16 Conference, hosted by Italy, DESA and IDLO, where we will build on these discussions, share experiences and expertise, and use this knowledge as a catalyst for action.

IDLO looks forward to working with you in this time of crisis, and beyond, to accelerate progress towards the 2030 Agenda by building more peaceful, just, and inclusive societies.