So What: Sustaining Peace & Sustainable Development
The SDG Lab’s “So What” series usually focuses on the linkages between two goals of the 2030 Agenda and aims at showing the indivisibility of the 17 SDGs in practice. Iteration number 5, which took place at the Palais des Nations on April 1, deviated slightly from this format to explore the interlinkages between two global agendas: Sustainable Development and Sustaining Peace.
The Lab invited five practitioners from the worlds of peacebuilding, gender, labour, conservation and diplomacy to discuss the connections and correlations between both agendas and find ways to increase the exchange of ideas and collaboration.
Although a two-hour panel discussion is a tight timeframe to take forward such broad topics in detail, common themes quickly emerged. An overarching point that the speakers and audience members agreed upon was the correlation between inequalities and conflicts. This baseline understanding, in turn, helped reinforce the notion that the SDGs play an instrumental role in sustaining peace and preventing conflict.
The panellists raised several other points that they viewed as central to elevating greater awareness of the interlinkages between the peace and sustainable development agendas from their viewpoints:
Gender – peacebuilding goes beyond eliminating war. True peace is when violence is prevented in the home, workplace and so forth. Building systems that fundamentally shift how women are included and valued is key to a peaceful future.
Conservation – many conflicts stem from illegal use of or inequitable access to natural resources. In some cases, the environment is used as an instrument of war, such as scorched-earth practices. However, communities can become more resilient through the protection and conservation of biodiversity.
Water – this precious resource is a first entry point to inclusion and equality. Because of the unequal distribution of water on the planet, managing it across countries, communities and groups can promote peacebuilding.
Work – lack of access to decent job opportunities is often a driver of conflict. Providing decent work for all (particularly for displaced populations) gives strong livelihoods and a sense of purpose, thereby fostering peaceful societies.
A common message that was emphasized throughout was ensuring the voices of all stakeholders, especially those who are marginalized, are represented in policymaking, including civil society and the private sector, and the importance of identifying inequalities and tackling the issue at source. These two points taken together, panellists noted, could serve as one of the most effective conflict prevention approaches.
The So What also prompted a discussion on the 2030 Agenda and its promise of more peaceful and inclusive societies. Panellists underscored that the agenda has activated greater incentives to partner, a shared commitment to measuring impact and a united push from civil society, particularly women and youth, to see the 17 SDGs delivered.
Speaking on the panel were: Henk-Jan Brinkman, Chief, Peacebuilding Strategy and Partnerships, Peacebuilding Support Office; Ambassador Saja Majali, Permanent Mission of Jordan to UN Geneva; Maria Butler, Director of Global Programmes, Women's International League for Peace & Freedom; Federico Negro, Coordinator, Coordination Support Unit for Peace and Resilience, International Labour Organization; and Oli Brown, Associate Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources Programme, Chatham House. SDG Lab Director Nadia Isler moderated the discussion.
“There are strong parallels between sustaining the peace agenda and the sustainable development agenda: leaving no one behind, people-centric, strong interlinkages between objectives, and it’s seen as the state’s primary responsibility.”
Mr Henk-Jan Brinkman, Chief, Peacebuilding Support Office
“Water is one of the entry points to inclusion and equality.”
Ambassador Saja Majali, Permanent Mission of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva
“Studies have shown that where there is more equality, there is more peace.”
Ms Maria Butler, Director of Global Programmes, Women's International League for Peace & Freedom
“A crucial consideration when it comes to work and peace is access to labour markets for displaced populations.”
Mr Federico Negro, Coordinator, Coordination Support Unit for Peace and Resilience, International Labour Organization
“The illegal use of natural resources directly fuels and funds conflict.”
Mr Oli Brown, Associate Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources Programme, Chatham House