United Nations set to adopt Sustainable Development Goals 2016-2030 today

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly is convening today in New York, where its 193 member states are expected to formally adopt the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as Global Goals, and 169 accompanying targets. This new set of goals, following in the footsteps of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), aims to end extreme poverty and hunger, address the impact of climate change and reduce inequality by 2030.

UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon stated that “The new programme… consists of (…) 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets, a section on means of implementation and renewed global partnership, all seeking to build on and expand the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”

The MDGs are a set of eight goals aimed at eradicating extreme poverty hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion – while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability – were adopted at by the UN in 2000 and are set to expire at the end of 2015.  The Global Goals and targets will be accompanied by a set of 300 indicators to measure progress towards these goals and provide data on each country’s performance in relation to these.

The SDGs’ main difference with the MDGs is that they include both developing and developed countries. The SDGs are aligned with South Africa’s own National Development Plan 2030. More importantly, they include access to justice whereas the MDGs did not.

Goal 16 of the SDG is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.

The Wits Justice Project supports this goal in particular because our primary objective is to contribute towards the improvement of the criminal justice system in South Africa and its conformity with the Constitution and international law.

Goal 16 recognises that the judiciary and the police are among the institutions most affected by corruption. It also recognises that “the rule of law and development have a significant interrelation and are mutually reinforcing, making it essential for sustainable development at the national and international level”.

Some of the targets for goal 16 are to;

  • Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere
  • Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all
  • Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
  • Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
  • Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
  • Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
  • Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development

The full list of SDGs and their targets is available here.

The inclusion of ‘access to justice’ as a goal for development reaffirms what the WJP stands for as criminal justice organisation. The South African criminal justice system is not without its flaws and challenges, mostly related to its efficiency and effectiveness.

But great strides have already been taken and plans are in motion to improve the current state of the system to make it more equitable and accessible. The National Development Plan (NDP) under the objective of “building safer communities” states that “A safe South Africa needs a strong criminal justice system”.  On a more practical level the government adopted a Seven Point Plan in 2007 which aims to modernise and transform the criminal justice system.

If the South African government adopts the SDGs, coupled with current internal processes to address weaknesses within the criminal justice system and its NDP goals, The SDGs could potentially form a step towards access to justice for all. However, the influence of these goals on the justice system remains to be seen.  The fact that access to justice has now been included in this international set of principles might provide a standard to which civil society can hold the government accountable.

The UN calls on everyone including governments, the private sector, civil society and individuals to get involved in working towards achieving these goals

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About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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