Accepting that all 17 goals are interconnected, I chose to offer a workshop on number Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 as the most comprehensive and crucial to implementation. In order to give a short presentation some coherence, I selected most of the material from the UN women web page for the goal, with instances of how that UN agency -often in partnership with other bodies was making a positive difference to women’s lives at local level. http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/women-and-the-sdgs/sdg-16-peace-justice-strong-institutions Arguably this duplicated the workshop on SDG5 (Gender Equality) but the focus was not on equality per se; rather on the necessity for women worldwide to play their part in public life if we are ever to achieve “peaceful and inclusive societies”.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Statistics for women in national parliaments (Lower Houses) are interesting: 4 states at the bottom of the list have no women MPs; Rwanda is at the top with 61.3%; the UK 21st of 190 with 30% and the USA 101st with 19.3%. http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm
The government of Brazil passed legislation in 2015 to criminalise “Femicide” as part of a campaign to confront impunity for extremes of domestic violence. Brazil is also the first to pilot a Model Protocol for the investigation of gender-related killings of women, written or edited by UN Women and the OHCHR (Human Rights Commission).
The Mehwar Centre in Palestine, a project for Women Living Under Muslim Laws, was founded in 2007 with Italian funding http://www.wluml.org/node/5385. It is the first Palestinian centre to offer sanctuary to physically and sexually abused women whom they seek “to empower” to play a defining role in society. DfID funded a three-year project there which trained 20 women prosecutors to specialise in cases of violence against women and girls, with reference to the application of laws including international women’s rights conventions. The UN Women site includes a touching personal story.
In Syria, a Women’s Advisory Board was established in 2016 to bring together people of diverse and opposing backgrounds to build consensus based on their common agenda for peace. For example, the issue of the kidnapped and imprisoned is contentious among the WAB delegations but all agreed to demand a general release.They know the only way forward is through a political process and that women must be able to influence the decisions.
A cash-for-work scheme in Syrian refugee camps allows single mothers to feed and educate their children and a cooperative in Lebanon brings economic independence and friendships to refugees and women in the host community. The UN Women website has a moving video with the stories of 10 women breadwinners helped by a programme funded by the Japanese government to promote economic empowerment across the Arab region. So far this programme has supported ten community centres in three refugee camps and non-camp settings in Egypt and Lebanon. Across the region, 29,500 families have benefitted from UN Women’s programme to empower Syrian refugees. (“New Beginnings…”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhthFbBRgBo&feature=youtu.be) It is encouraging to hear some good news stories but positive and lasting change comes very slowly while many remain “left behind”. SC1325 recognised the important role women should play in peace-making in 2000 but in the conflicts 1992-2011 only 9% of the negotiators were women.
The examples above indicate what is being done to achieve SDG16 at international, national and local levels. Our group discussion noted “access to justice” reflected in Brazil’s femicide law, Palestine’s women prosecutors and the economic empowerment of the Lebanese cooperative. We agreed that integration must be an important element in peaceful and inclusive societies and that this requires problem-solving skills of a high order. And we agreed that with abusive governments resolutely ignoring the appeals of the UN, Amnesty International and others while propagating distorted versions of their national history, goal SDG16 presents us all with enormous challenges.