This week’s guest blog is written by Julia Tallmeister, advocacy research intern in the Ottawa Office. Originally from Markham, Ontario, she recently completed a MSc in International Relations from the University of Edinburgh.
Back in September of 2000, world leaders gathered at the United Nations headquarters to commit their countries to respond to the key challenges facing the world. This led to the creation of eight objectives, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to be reached by 2015. Accompanied with specific targets, indicators, and time-frames, these goals aim to: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality rates; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.
At this point, many MDG targets have been met, or are likely to be met by 2015. To mention a few: the number of people living in conditions of extreme poverty throughout the world has been halved, over 2 billion people gained access to improved sources of drinking water, and global mortality rates from malaria decreased by over 25 per cent. More generally, there is no doubt that the MDGs succeeded in raising the international profile of development issues.
On a less positive note, only 20 fragile or conflict-affected countries have met one or more MDG goal, and only 20 per cent of fragile or conflict-affected countries were meeting the poverty target in mid-2013. The majority of fragile states have not, and will not, meet the MDG goals by 2015. On the flip side, countries that have reduced their levels of violence have been some of the quickest to produce development gains. There is an obvious gap in MDG performance between conflict-ridden states and other developing countries. This points to the fact that violence, conflict, and state fragility are huge impediments to development – and that peace is a necessary precondition to sustainable development.
This comes as no surprise. Conflict-affected states experience higher poverty and infant mortality rates, a greater amount of undernourished people, and higher numbers of children out of school than countries without violence. Sustained conflicts have detrimental economic and ecological impacts, and, as we have seen in conflict-ridden countries such as Syria, produce large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons.
At the same time, drivers of conflict are closely linked to development issues. Socio-economic inequalities, lack of access to social services, absence of employment opportunities, and harmful social and gender norms are not only possible outcomes of underdevelopment, but also drivers of conflict.
You can’t have peace without development, and you can’t have development without peace – they are intimately connected. Peace, security, and development aren’t totally separate realms, but interlinked and mutually reinforcing. What is needed, then, is a more integrated and holistic approach to the post-MDG agenda.
These sentiments were shared recently by many Member States at the 8th session of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the MDG deadline quickly approaches, the OWG is working to establish a new set of goals for the post-2015 development agenda. Earlier this month, the OWG engaged in discussions on the role of conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding, and the promotion of durable peace.
One thing that particularly stood out from these talks is the unanimous agreement that development cannot be achieved in the absence of peace. As put by the representative of the Great Lakes region, the MDG framework exposed weaknesses in its “failure to account for peace and security, including freedom from fear of violence, oppression, and injustice and the urgency for disaster risk reduction, to protect past and facilitate future development gains.”
There was, however, some discrepancy over whether or not durable peace should be a standalone goal, integrated throughout all the SDGs, or both.
Given the intimate connection between peace and development, it is crucial that the right to peace is integrated throughout all of the SDGs. Peace is both an enabler and an outcome of development, intricately connected to all its other aspects. For instance, the promotion of social equity, gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the rule of law – all topics of discussion at the OWG session – help to create and sustain peaceful and stable societies and eliminate the drivers of violence.
But is “peace” itself too complex and too multidimensional to single out as a distinct goal?
Whether or not it is decided that conflict prevention, the promotion of durable peace, and/or post-conflict peacebuilding should be standalone goals of the post-2015 development framework, it is vital that clear goals and targets are mainstreamed throughout all the SDGs to address the root causes of violent conflict rather than just the symptoms.
How would you like to see the promotion of durable peace set out in the post-2015 development framework?