The 2030 agenda: reducing all forms of violence.

Author:Bellamy, Alex J.

The first target of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, which is included in the 2030 Agenda, calls for significant reductions in "all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere". Yet the "war on war"--to borrow a phrase coined by Joshua Goldstein--is not going well. After decades of progress in reducing the global burden of violent conflict, the last four years have seen a global increase of armed conflict, violence against civilians, and other forms of violence. This has been accompanied by an unprecedented crisis of global displacement and significant deterioration of human well-being in conflict-affected areas. To address the challenge, the international community must find the energy, strategy, commitment and resources needed to reduce violence in all its forms by preventing conflict, protecting vulnerable populations and rebuilding States and societies in the wake of violence. By including the reduction of all forms of violence among the SDGs, United Nations Member States have laid the groundwork for doing just that. Like the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that preceded them, the SDGs do not provide all the answers, but they do signal the world's priorities and expectations, set benchmarks against which we can judge progress, and sound the starting gun for a concerted global effort. Reducing violence is now one of those goals. The question is how to achieve this?

The relationship between economic development and violent conflict has long been vexed. On the one hand, peace and development are intrinsically linked. Not only is armed conflict perhaps the single greatest inhibitor to economic development--so much so that it is sometimes referred to as "development in reverse"--but sustained economic growth is closely associated with significantly higher chances of peace. In that context, it is hardly surprising that East Asia has performed relatively strongly in implementing the MDGs given its "long peace" stretching back to 1979, in which time it has experienced no interstate conflict and sharp declines in both civil war and one-sided violence. Equally unsurprising is the fact that the lowest performing countries vis-a-vis the MDGs are either conflict-affected States (e.g. the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan) or those experiencing endemic societal violence (Papua New Guinea). Since the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011, that country has moved from being among the better performers to being among the worst. Empirically, then, there is no doubt that in order to win the war on poverty, the international community needs to win the war on war. The reverse, however, is equally true--war will only be defeated through progress on alleviating poverty and raising living standards. Reflecting backwards, where the MDGs were achieved, this helped exert significant downward pressure on armed conflict. At the same time, reducing armed conflict significantly increased the chances of...

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