25-07-2019

Accelerating joined-up implementation of SDG 16, gender and land related goals

Impuls 07/2019 by Marc Baxmann and Caroline Kruckow, FriEnt

For the first time since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, governments and stakeholders have conducted an in-depth review of SDG 16 on peaceful societies, access to justice and effective and inclusive institutions at this year’s UN High Level Political Forum. The panelists and speakers painted a bleak picture: currently there is no substantial reduction of violence or increase in access to justice and inclusion around the world. Progress on SDG 16 – and all related SDG targets that drive peace, just and inclusive societies (SDG 16+) – is not only slow and uneven, but also declines in some areas.

Presented data proved that major indicators have developed negatively: for example, the number of those killed worldwide has increased, the number of refugees and forcibly displaced persons has hiked to 70 million, i.e. the highest in more than 70 years, and gender-based violence and trafficking has risen as well.

However, we have learnt from the thematic review that – while it is easy to be fatalistic about the implementation of SDG 16 – a range of actors is working on the local level to realize SDG 16 with tangible results. To overcome barriers and obstacles regarding the implementation of SDG 16, these bottom-up and people-centered approaches need to be accelerated.

What we have also learnt from the thematic review is that SDG 16 cannot be isolated; instead, integrated action is key. Many speakers in the thematic review session at the HLPF highlighted that SDG 16 underpins all the other goals. It is not enough to focus on a specific SDG or target without looking to the left or right. Implementing the universal 2030 Agenda is a complex process that requires an integrated and coherent approach offering new opportunities to work across different sectors. The interlinkages between and the integrated nature of the SDGs necessitate a closer look at underexposed interactions and synergies.

Linking SDG 16 with land and gender related goals

The link between land, gender, justice and peace related SDGs is among these underexposed interlinkages. According to the joint UN/World Bank report “Pathways for Peace”, access to land, water and extractives is among the key risk areas for violent conflict – which is coming under more stress with the effects of climate change, population growth, urbanization, and the expansion of large-scale agriculture. However, conflicts over land and resources do not necessarily have to lead to violence. Struggles can be a positive force for catalytic change – for example, if the demands of previously landless poor are heard and, as a result, land is re-distributed peacefully.

The intention to reduce and prevent violence at all levels (SDG 16.1) needs to be cross-sectoral and linked to the access to land and natural resources as highly relevant factors. Embracing the indivisibility of the SDGs means to recognize these interlinkages and encourage the identification of synergies and the development of integrated approaches and coherent policies.

The problem is that we often lack information on very practical solutions by local actors, which link SDG 16 with other land and gender related SDGs. A number of key dilemmas surround this important challenge: how to deal with such complexity? How to support Member States in their implementation of the SDGs? How to ensure that interlinkages and synergies between SDGs and countries are taken into account?

To help fill this gap, FriEnt has compiled a collection of 16 “snapshots” from the practice of our members and their partner organizations. It contains case studies from 22 countries, demonstrating how progress on SDG 16 enables progress on gender and land related SDGs and vice versa. They highlight success factors, which have contributed to the prevention of violent conflicts over land and natural resources.

The case studies in the recent FriEnt publication demonstrate how cross-sectoral, integrated and inclusive approaches can help to advance SDG 16, gender and land-related goals. We have asked the authors to share inspiring success stories with repeatable results and a real impact. The findings provide key lessons to better link land, conflict prevention and related SDGs in the future.

Potential ways forward

In the light of increasing struggles over land and other land related natural resources, conflict prevention becomes more and more complex. Effective conflict prevention requires more sustained interventions on land throughout the conflict cycle and a better alignment of national strategies with the interconnected nature of the SDGs.

Based on the manifold contributions in the FriEnt dossier, we have identified seven potential ways forward for linking land and conflict prevention on the national and international level:

  • It is crucial to focus on change agents and context specific areas, where political will exists or can be created, so that land policies can be influenced and elaborated in an inclusive manner that leaves no one behind and secures equal benefits for marginalized and uprooted people.
  • Effective, accountable and inclusive institutions are key for gender-just and sustainable land administration and management, which leaves no one behind. If old patronage systems cannot be overcome, peacebuilding and the prevention of violence in the land sector are hardly achievable.
  • Land administration and investments have to be regulated with respect to human rights obligations. Good governance and anti-corruption in the land sector are intertwined with the prevention of violence and displacement and the support of peaceful, just and inclusive societies. As long as corruption persists and political leaders and businesses are able to overrun local communities, grab their land and do not respect, protect and secure the land rights of local communities and marginalized groups, preventing violent conflicts is hard to achieve.
  • In times of shrinking civic spaces, the protection and support of civic actors and advocates of local people must be continuously enhanced. The prevention of violence and the creation of peaceful societies depends on inclusive decision-making, the possibility to speak out and the necessity to listen to the opponent without using violent measures against him or her.
  • Further international support is needed to include the UN-Voluntary Guidelines for the responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) in national land policies and to give them a binding character for all stakeholders; i.e. governments, private actors and civil society actors as watchdogs and monitors.
  • To enhance the international awareness of the Land-Conflict-Nexus, the recent UN Secretary Generals Guidance Note on Land and Conflict (March 2019) should be taken up. The note points out the guiding principles as well as conflict and gender-sensitive approaches – ensuring context-specific interventions and inclusive stakeholder participation at all levels.
  • Linking gender-just land policies to programs that support women and girls to be equally prepared and involved in political decision-making and peacebuilding processes, will help to prevent violence at different levels. UN-Conventions against Discrimination of Women like CEDAW and the UN-SC Resolution 1325 must be applied in order to achieve gender-just land policies and SDG 16.

To achieve all this, a proper institutional home is to be created, with a specific focus on land and prevention, which could offer support, advice and knowledge transfer on how to systematically address the nexus of SDG 16, land and gender related goals and targets. Existing global networks and multi-stakeholder partnerships on land as well as on peacebuilding must unite their efforts to achieve the SDGs and increase integrated efforts for the prevention of violence and sustaining peace.

Links and literature:

Land and Conflict Prevention.How integrated solutions can help achieve the SDGs
FriEnt-Study | 2019

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