RFSD 2024: Peer learning table on SDG 16

Lala Safarli, SARA Movement

13 Mar 2024, Geneva

Esteemed delegates,

My name is Lala Safarli, representing the Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism for the UNECE region. As a citizen of a country longing for peace amidst armed conflicts, I deeply comprehend the significance of Sustainable Development Goal 16.

In our pursuit of SDG 16, it is paramount to acknowledge the pivotal role that peaceful and inclusive societies must ensure a robust mechanism for accountability, transparency, participation, and a rights-based approach. Without them, our endeavours to achieve the SDGs will remain elusive. For that purpose, we provide the following recommendations.

Meaningful engagement of civil society needs the establishment of safe spaces conducive to genuine civil and social dialogue and collaboration which may include critical assessments. Ensuring that civil society organizations are provided opportunities to participate meaningfully in policymaking is crucial. This necessitates the implementation of enabling laws and commitments that facilitate CSO involvement while dismantling legal barriers to ensure transparency and openness in governance.

Respect for international law is non-negotiable. Investments should be contingent upon countries' adherence to human rights obligations, and international agreements must be rigorously implemented. Here, civil society assumes a pivotal role in providing independent evaluation and monitoring to ensure the inclusion of marginalized groups and the implementation of fundamental conventions.

As the militarization of the region escalates, we cannot overlook the alarming trend of escalating military spending at the expense of social protection and public services leaving more and more people behind. To genuinely prioritize peace, we must redirect resources toward peace activities and uphold international treaties on disarmament. Financing peace processes must entail participatory policymaking, particularly regarding conflict resolution and support for refugees. We also recommend appointing UN Special Rapporteurs to take into account and assess the consequences of conflicts.

We must underscore the indispensable role of women in the peace-building process. Their participation is not only a matter of gender equality but also fundamental to the sustainability of peace efforts. Women bring unique perspectives, experiences, and skills to the table, enhancing the comprehensiveness and durability of peace agreements. Therefore, empowering women and ensuring their meaningful participation in decision-making processes and peacebuilding is essential for achieving enduring peace and security.

Moreover, democracy is a robust mechanism for accountability but we see only democratic backsliding. To reverse this trend, we must safeguard safe election and voting procedures, protect political opposition and independent civil society, and rebuild trust in democratic systems through education and transparency initiatives. Combatting corruption is imperative for fostering social cohesion and trust within democratic institutions.

Additionally, we urge to eliminate the practice of political persecution for peaceful activities across the region and immediate release of political prisoners and Trade Union activists, promoting peace. We suggest that the Member States establish formal obligations for the UN and international bodies to consider the release of political prisoners as a prerequisite for investments and support.

In light of recent events, we cannot ignore the dire situation in Palestine. Since October 7, 2023, more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed. We urgently call for a sustainable ceasefire and the cessation of violence to prevent further loss of life and suffering.

Through these recommendations, civil society stands prepared to collaborate with governments to build peaceful, just, and inclusive societies that leave no one behind.

To conclude, I would like to stress again that without achieving SDG16 progress on the 2030 Agenda is not possible. Achieving SDG 16 demands collaborative efforts between governments and civil society to ensure accountability, transparency, and participation. By addressing the challenges highlighted and implementing the recommendations provided, we can construct more peaceful, just, and inclusive societies for all.

Thank you for your attention