Peace, Street Art

Reflecting on the State of Peacebuilding Debate at the 2021 HLPF

Another year of the High-Level Political Forum (#2021HLPF) – the global platform for mobilising action on sustainable development – concluded on the 15th of July. For ten days, the global community gathered in virtual spaces to build partnerships and strategise around ways to advance pandemic recovery and boost the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the pursuit of sustainable development and lasting peace.

We learned, reflected and shared GPPAC’s experiences with the SDGs in order to contribute innovative approaches to strengthen the implementation of SDG16 (on peaceful, just and inclusive society), and associated goals (known as SDG16+).

Here is a quick overview of our experience at the High-Level Political Forum and what we have learned. 

COVID-19 is undeniably one of the biggest challenges to sustainable development and, subsequently, sustainable peace. Well over a year into the pandemic, the participants of the Forum highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated existing inequalities, driving over 1 billion people into poverty by 2030 and risking opportunities for sustainable peace. 

Global solidarity through effective and coordinated responses is vital to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic does not impede on the progress of the 2030 Agenda and sustaining peace. In support of this solidarity, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres launched the UN Comprehensive Response to COVID-19 to guide governments as they address the multifaceted crises of the pandemic. 

Local civil society did not remain on the sidelines of decision-making. Together with TAP Network, Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, Peace Direct, World Vision, Namati, and Life & Peace Institute, GPPAC worked to showcase how local communities contribute to the resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by working on SDG16+ at the 2021 Voices of SDG16+: Stories for Global Action video campaign. GPPAC member Women in Alternative Action - WAA Cameroon shared about the impact of inclusion on sustaining peace and successful recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The participation of local civil society in the HLPF creates opportunities to strengthen partnerships towards collective action.  For example, during the HLPF of 2019 and 2020, GPPAC member Justine of Women in Alternative Action - WAA Cameroon, shared findings from research she conducted tracking progress on SDG16+ in Cameroon. Following the HLPF, Justine connected with the UN Peace and Development Advisor in Cameroon and their partnership continues to this day. 

We also hosted, together with DCAF and the Costa Rican Permanent Mission, an event on the role that civil society organisations (CSOs) can play in implementing SDG16+ and holding governments accountable for their commitments to the 2030 Agenda. This highlighted their important role in developing civil society reviews on the national progress towards SDG16+, collecting data from which public policy changes can be made, generating the participation of marginalised groups in peacebuilding and pushing governments to accelerate their progress towards the 2030 Agenda.

Together with Platforma CIPÓ, Centro de Colaboración Cívica (CCC), Equipo Pueblo, and the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), we hosted an informal dialogue on the Escazú Agreement, a regional framework that tackles climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Together with representatives of the UN, civil society (including our colleague Daniel of CCC Mexico), and Member States, we discussed the linkage between SDG 16 and SDG 13 (on climate action) while presenting The Escazú Agreement as an opportunity to protect and support the safety and experiences of human rights defenders in Mexico and regionally throughout LAC. 

The need to learn more and work with local communities has been further reiterated in the 2021 Civil Society Rome Declaration as a reminder for the global community that the delivery of SDG16+ targets are vital for a just and equitable COVID-19 recovery. The Declaration calls upon all actors - especially Member States and international agencies - to step up their actions in support of SDG16 through intentional and meaningful partnerships with civil society. 

As articulated through the GPPAC network, the Local Peacebuilders’ Roadmap to achieving SDGs by 2030 and overcoming the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic includes: 

  • Quality financing to support the work of local peacebuilders and the communities they serve in order to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Transformative changes are needed to ensure accessible, flexible and sustained financing for peacebuilding. This includes collaboration between actors to strengthen the interesting innovative financing tools which are already being explored in the peacebuilding space. Stakeholders in the funding system should also develop authentic partnerships and embrace adaptive learning as part of working towards quality financing for local peacebuilders.
  • Systematic engagement of local peacebuilders and community actors. Governments alone cannot meet the 2030 Agenda - this requires the engagement of everyone; Member States, civil society, and the entire UN system. To support systematic citizen engagement in implementing the SDGs, partnerships must be strengthened with civil society which support collective action in achieving shared goals. By designing comprehensive processes of evaluations, governments can foster evidence-based policymaking and embed SDGs into national agendas. Climate change is also an effective entry point for creating and strengthening partnerships between CSOs, governments, private companies and banks.
  • Local ownership over action to advance sustaining peace and sustainable development. The discussions throughout the HLPF highlighted that governments must prioritise the localisation of the SDGs and ensure that local actors are involved in decision-making, can meaningfully engage with development processes at all levels, and receive support for their work. India has been successful in implementing district and state-level planning to work on the SDGs at the local level. Local voluntary national reviews (VNRs) were also underlined as catalysts for national SDG implementation and, moving forward, actors should collaborate to develop participatory VNRs so as to accelerate the progress towards the 2030 Agenda.
  • Peacebuilding action inclusive of everyone: women, young people, indigenous groups and everyone else. In order to achieve the SDGs, we need new types of diverse leaderships which build trust, are empathetic and persuasive - when inclusivity is realised, this contributes to sustaining peace and development in the long term. Costa Rica is one example of a country that has reduced violence, facilitated the delivery of public services and increased access to justice by encouraging the open participation of civil society in decision making. Going forward, all actors should prioritise reducing barriers to the meaningful participation of marginalised groups in peacebuilding, and governments should create action plans to address violence against indigenous peoples and ensure they have a role in civic participation.

After ten days of deep discussion, honest reflection and profound learning, we all have reasons to be hopeful about the future of the global community if we build on existing good practices, learn from each other and engage in meaningful dialogue and action where everyone works towards a common goal of sustainable development and peace

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