Sustainable development for sustainable peace

Cesar Jaramillo

Efforts aimed at reducing armed violence and decreasing the international community’s reliance on military force to tackle political grievances have been—and will continue to be—central to the work of Project Ploughshares. At the same time, we have long recognized that, as important and necessary as such efforts may be, they are insufficient to achieve sustainable peace.

Published in The Ploughshares Monitor Volume 37 Issue 3 Autumn 2016 by Cesar Jaramillo

Guns are too often used to maim and kill civilians (as is currently happening in Syria), sustain autocratic regimes (as with the repressive House of Saud in Saudi Arabia), and commit human rights violations (as in South Sudan). But silencing the guns that continue to cause so much human suffering around the world is only part of the solution.

A ceasefire is often seen as “peace achieved.” But even with guns out of the picture, we cannot really believe that peace has been gained when

  • newborns are more likely to die of malnutrition than to survive past their fifth birthday;
  • gross gender inequality is rampant and women are subjected to systemic discrimination;
  • the environment—including land, air, and water—is so degraded that it fails to provide sustenance;
  • children have no access to basic education and are forced to work to survive; and
  • entirely preventable diseases cut millions of lives short because adequate health care is not accessible.

Put simply: sustainable peace is more than the mere absence of armed violence. It involves the presence of certain attributes, relationships, social systems, and institutions that enable the full realization of human potential.

These are not new concepts for Project Ploughshares. We have always identified development—understood as measures to create the kinds of economic, social, and environmental conditions that are conducive to sustainable peace and stability—as a critical element of a comprehensive package for advancing sustainable peace. Such conditions include, among others, equal opportunity, gender equality, the rule of law, access to education and health care, and inclusive power relationships.

Sustainable development is the main, though not the only, focus of the current edition of The Ploughshares Monitor. Our friends and supporters will start to notice a greater emphasis on this dimension of peacemaking—not instead of our work on disarmament and international security, but as a necessary complement to it.

The timing for this expansion of our work comes on the heels of the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals or the post-2015 global development agenda. The SDGs lay out a framework to achieve sustainable development by 2030 by incorporating economic, social, and environmental factors. In September 2015 all 193 United Nations member states agreed to advance this universal set of 17 goals.

The SDGs expand on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were established in the year 2000 with a predetermined 15-year timeline for implementation. While none of the eight MDGs was fully achieved across the globe, there was significant progress on every one of them—from efforts to eradicate extreme poverty to providing access to improved sanitation. A key conclusion from these global efforts, according to the United Nations Development program, is that “goal-setting can lift millions of people out of poverty, empower women and girls, improve health and well-being, and provide vast new opportunities for better lives.”

The SDGs are universal in scope, and broader and more ambitious than the MDGs, which were primarily targeted at developing nations. The goals are as diverse as zero hunger, climate action, reduced inequalities, and economic growth. Advancing SDGs will require collaboration, shared responsibilities, and capacity-building.

You can find the entire list of SDGs in this issue of the Monitor. Note Goal 16, which refers to peace, justice, and strong institutions. However, no goal can be understood in isolation from the others. The underlying premise is that progress on one goal will facilitate, and be tied to, efforts to achieve the others. Further, the SDGs are to be enshrined in national legislation to facilitate advancement of the objectives.

Setting lofty objectives has never been a problem for the international community. Ploughshares will be watching the level of buy-in from UN members, and aims to support, wherever possible, the sustained political will necessary to meet the 2030 targets.

The allocation of sufficient resources to see this ambitious global enterprise through will also be critical. Allocation could mean REallocation in some instances. Consider the billions of dollars (some estimates put the price tag at more than $1-trillion) slated to be spent on modernizing nuclear arsenals and related infrastructure. Consider what might happen if some of this money were diverted to satisfying the most basic needs, currently unmet, of a significant segment of the world’s population.

While implementation challenges no doubt lie ahead, Project Ploughshares is heartened by the adoption of the post-2015 Development Agenda and eager to contribute to policy discussions around their effective implementation—in Canada and beyond. Our work on disarmament and hard security matters will, of course, continue unabated.

Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. One hundred and sixty-nine concrete targets. Undertaken by 193 UN member states. Deadline: 2030. Primary aims: end poverty and hunger, improve health and education, make cities more sustainable, combat climate change, protect the environment, promote social inclusiveness.

And why is this so important? Because without sustainable development there can be no sustainable peace.

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