2.0. Opening Panel: The Sustainable Development Goals and Security: The Challenge of Implementation

Chair: Amb. Thomas Guerber

Panellists: Prof. Mely Anthony-Caballero, Prof. Keith Krause, Mr Seth Nikhil

Rapporteur: Fairlie Chappuis, DCAF

The SDGs are the clearest articulation yet of the known links between security and development. They offer ground breaking potential for improving peace, justice and safety if we can overcome the challenges of implementation. With this objective in view, the SDG Hub at the Maison de la paix was established in 2015 to pool the vast expertise of the partner organizations in the service of implementation. This opening panel sponsored by two founding organizations addressed two key themes in SDG implementation: making and measuring progress on peace, justice and safety, and international approaches to supporting security in the context of the SDGs.

Theme 1: Implementing the SDGs and measuring progress

Inclusive security is in fact the focus of the SDGs, despite the apparent laundry list of issues the agenda addresses. Because inclusive security can only mean local security as experienced by people, national and international security threats must be filtered through this lens. Moreover, inclusive security underscores how real threats to security that have so far only fallen on the side of development in fact cause conflict and fragility. Implementing the SDGs will thus require we  look beyond conventional framing of threats and response: the fact that today more people die violent deaths in non-conflict settings than in political conflicts underscores that the SDG agenda for peace, justice and safety also concerns wealthy and middle-income countries. Moreover, the fact that state strength does not necessarily correlate with a willingness to deliver public security challenges assumptions the international community makes in increasing state security capacities.

Making and measuring progress on inclusive security will mean collecting reliable timely disaggregated statistics so that specific security needs at the individual level can be translated into viable national plans. National statistical capacity for this type of data collection is especially weak but there is also a lack of capacity for analysis and thus evidence-based policy-making. These gaps can be partially overcome by building capacity among national statistical agencies as well as independent third-parties such as civil society and academia. Independent public oversight of data collection at the national level together with international oversight through global frameworks will add credibility to the data.

Yet the SDGs above all represent a political agreement of unparalleled significance and the technical shortcomings of the agreement should thus be overlooked in an effort to honor the spirit of the agreement as an indivisible and integrated agenda for sustainable development. Implementing the peace, justice and safety aspects of the SDGs should now focus on context-specific capacity-building, because every country requires governance-driven SSR, but each in different ways in order to meet different needs. Stronger wealthier countries have different needs but they still have needs. Progress will be made by focusing on home-grown solutions that make use of productive partnerships based on country-specific, demand-driven reform assistance; south-south cooperation among an inclusive range of actors; and non-threatening, non-accusatory approaches to support.

Theme 2: Do we need new approaches to promoting security?

The SDGs must address new global security trends. Lesson from the past experience applied to the future show that no state can handle emergent transnational security challenges alone. Yet existing concepts and legal frameworks do not provide for regional and global responses that go beyond conventional definitions of state security. Moreover, experience shows that security training alone does not improve public security and we can hope that the SDGs will help to reframe security assistance as governance-driven SSR. Recalling the complete exclusion of security and governance from the Millennium Development Goals shows the progress the SDGs represent.

Ensuring the indivisibility of the SDGs is respected in their implementation is essential to building on the links between peace, justice and wealth that the agenda articulates. Cherry-picking amongst the SDGs will allow for the exclusion of crucial but controversial issues that go to the heart of state power, and in particular the ambitions of goal 16. Public awareness, capacity building, education will be necessary to overcoming obstacles and building a broader understanding of why the indivisibility of the agenda really matters.

In closing the panel recalled that safety and security don’t just happen – they are the result of public consensus and investment. Protecting the delicate political consensus that created the SDGs will require ongoing investment even as implementation remains a moving policy target. Preserving the integrity of the SDGs as a indivisible agenda for sustainable development will mean resisting the temptation to focus implementation exclusively on any particular goal, while deepening existing networks and learning from past experiences. The High Level Political Forum meeting in New York will present a first opportunity to take stock of progress towards implementation made so far. The SDG Hub at the Maison de la paix will become a platform for continuing shared dialogue on this subject.