Report of the SDG 16 Conference

Resource Date:
Content Type: Publication
Region: Global
Thematic Area: Governance and Public Institutions
Contributor: UN DESA/DPIDG
Resource Language: English

The 2021 global SDG 16 Conference – Transforming Governance for a more Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Future: SDG 16 as the roadmap to respond to COVID-19 and build back better – came to a successful conclusion on Friday, 30 April 2021, following six high-level plenary sessions and nine parallel thematic sessions, all held in a virtual format.

Co-organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), and the Government of Italy, the SDG 16 Conference provided a timely global platform to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the transformative contribution SDG 16 can make in promoting inclusive and sustainable recovery and in accelerating progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

One hundred and one high-level speakers, including ministers, officials, judges, human rights scholars and advocates, youth leaders, representatives of supreme audit institutions, as well as experts on gender, public institutions, anticorruption, and governance, among others, engaged in broad-ranging discussions on how to address our shared fragility, renew the social contract to build trust between people and the state, and turn challenges into opportunities to rebuild and transform governance with SDG 16 at its center. Several executive heads of UN entities led discussions, and more were represented through their deputies at Assistant Secretary-General level.

The Conference was attended by over 500 participants from government, civil society, the UN system, stakeholder groups, academia, and intergovernmental organizations.

Day 1 – There was overwhelming consensus that SDG 16 is a key objective of sustainable development and also plays an essential enabling role in achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).COVID-19 has negatively impacted many dimensions of SDG 16, threatening to derail progress on the 2030 Agenda more broadly. It has impacted most those who were already at risk of being left behind, including women and girls, older people, youth, people with disabilities, and groups in marginalized and vulnerable situations. Pre-existing challenges to peace, justice and inclusion have been both exposed and magnified by the impact of the pandemic. The functioning of public institutions at all levels has been hampered. Yet, governments, citizens, civil society, and other actors have joined forces to design and implement effective and innovative practices to enhance governance during the pandemic. These practices provide invaluable lessons not only for the next phase of recovery, but also for building more resilient societies, addressing inequalities and vulnerabilities, and supporting the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development agreed by world leaders in 2019.

Day 2 – Renewing the social contract and re-building trust between people and governments has emerged as a major challenge and is key to making progress on all of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Conference explored some of the root causes of lack of trust in public institutions. The discussions emphasized the importance of policies and measures at the national level, sustained by international cooperation, to ensure equity in distribution of public goods and delivery of services, with a focus on those most at risk of being left behind; to strengthen transparency, accountability and oversight; to open space for participation and stakeholder engagement; to support adherence to constitutional frameworks and the independence of judicial institutions; and to reinforce action to fight corruption.

Day 3 – While the pandemic has created major challenges, it also provides an opportunity to rethink governance, with SDG 16 as a central pillar and lever for transformation. The transformative actions that the COVID-19 crisis is compelling governments to take, if rooted in multilateralism and global solidarity, can bring about renewed, sustained progress in achieving the 2030 Agenda. Governance, institutional, and policy innovations at local, national, regional, and international levels can accelerate the implementation of SDG 16 and promote integrated, “whole-of-society” approaches needed to tackle complex, interrelated challenges such as entrenched conflict, increasing inequalities, gender inequality, social and economic insecurity, climate change and rapid technological disruption.

The report covers the key messages that resonated during the three days and key recommendations.

File added date: 27 August 2021

Download the report: English