Accelerating implementation of the SDGs through Peace and Democracy
September 21, 2023
By James Monibah Head of Governance and Stanley Kamara National Economist UNDP Liberia
The world celebrates International Day of Peace on the 21st of September 2023 under the theme: Actions for Peace: Our Ambition for the #GlobalGoals. A recent assessment of the progress made in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) revealed significant delays and challenges that put most countries off track. The SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
Liberia is no exception to the challenges including the devastating impact of COVID-19, global shocks, and tight fiscal space which have impeded the progress toward achieving the SDGs. While these challenges continue to persist and impede progress, this year’s theme gives the world hope and makes a clarion call for action that engenders our individual and collective responsibility to forge and foster peace. Fostering peace is not only imperative to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but will create just societies and a culture of peace for all.
However, in the past two decades, the world has seen a dramatic increase in the number of conflicts, which is undermining concerted efforts that have been made towards creating more peaceful and just societies and achieving the SDGs. There is no doubt that there is a strong correlation between peacebuilding and achieving SDGs.
A recognition of this relationship has been amplified by national and international policymakers and advocates including the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Guterres who in 2017 highlighted the importance of recognizing the links between sustainable development and sustaining peace amid such intertwined global challenges as rising inequality, protracted conflicts, and climate change. The SG wrote: “We need a global response that addresses the root causes of conflict, and integrates peace, sustainable development, and human rights in a holistic way – from conception to execution.”
Liberia is amongst countries that have submitted a National SDGs acceleration and transformation roadmap presented as part of the global SDGs rescue efforts focusing on peace and integral areas for SDGs transformation and acceleration. This entails investing in human security so that people live a prosperous life, have freedoms from fear, want, and indignity, and have impacts on people, the planet, peace, partnership, and prosperity.
Liberians can relate to how the loss of peace could undermine all development gains and stray the country from the path of inclusive and sustainable development for the shared prosperity that all Liberians yearn for. Against this backdrop, it is therefore imperative to continue to invest in the consolidation of peace, strengthening social cohesion, and addressing binding constraints and root causes of social vices that can undermine peace.
Why this matters most for Liberia
This year, Liberia celebrated twenty years of peace since the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord-(CPA) was signed in 2003 and has since conducted three successful and peaceful presidential and legislative elections. This is highly remarkable and commendablethat every Liberian must celebrate and be proud of. It is therefore a common logic that the progress that Liberia has made towards achieving some of the SDG’s targets has only been possible due to the sustained peace grounded with hard work and best efforts. The year’s International Day of Peace comes at another defining moment for Liberians as they go to the polls on 10 October 2023.
Liberia’s upcoming election is a national process managed and owned by the government and Liberians under the leadership of the National Elections Commission and with technical support from development partners. This is again very commendable and in addition, it is very refreshing to note that the partisans of the political parties through their standard bearers have signed the Farmington River Declaration, a demonstrable commitment to championing peaceful and violence-free elections.
SDG 16 is the embodiment of peace, justice, and strong institutions and as such, this year’s elections should continue to engender the key tenets of Democracy- equal participation in free, fair, transparent, inclusive, and credible elections. Free, in a democratic process requires an opportunity for every citizen of the required age as prescribed by law to participate in a process that accommodates all, particularly the most marginalized including women and people living with disabilities.
Special efforts should be made through the deployment of needed resources. like in many countries, women have historically been marginalized politically, consequently, their representation in elected and appointed positions in Liberia remains very marginal. At the same time, they have been the kingpins in the substance of peace in Liberia.
Transparency must be demonstrated through individual and collective actions-information about the process must be proactively made available, and accessible to all. The lack of information usually breeds a fertile ground for mis and dis information which may result in tensions.
A Call to Action
As the theme for this year’s International Day of Peace depicts, accelerating the achievement of the SDGs largely depends on a peaceful environment that allows progress and achievement of global targets. Liberia’s SDGs ‘Rescue Plan for People and Planet’ can only be implemented when peace is guaranteed, and the SDG transformation process is inclusive and sustainable.
In the absence of peace, achieving any of the SDGs becomes impossible, and will derail the progress the country has made and impede investments in infrastructure, roads, energy, access to good health care, access to justice, empowerment of women, addressing climate change and the associated environmental challenges, access to basic social services including safe drinking water, quality education, and others.
10 October is another national process to consolidate democracy and sustain peace. Democracy spurs peace, and a peaceful environment provides an opportunity to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainability Development Goals. On this day the UNDP in Liberia wishes everyone a happy International Peace Day.