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Thinking critically about SDG 16

Prof Gillian Wylie and Dr Dong Jin Kim talk about the problems associated with SDG 16.

In this video we are bringing our discussions about SDG 16 to a close. This week we have seen that violence undoubtedly poses a threat to sustainable development. It is clear why a goal that focuses on peace, just institutions, and accountability is an essential part of the SDGs.

The articles on eliminating violence, tackling the threat organised crime poses to peace in Kosovo, and creating just institutions in post-conflict Colombia, all underline why the targets listed in SDG 16 matter for peace and sustainable development.

Yet, SDG 16 is not without its critics. Some people question whether the targets in SDG 16 are really a recipe for the “positive peace” we spoke of at the start of this section. Others point to the many political obstacles which make realising SDG 16 difficult.

Jin and Jude talk about some of the criticisms of SDG 16 which include the following:

  • It is a political goal which can run against some of the aims of development aid.
  • It is hard to monitor and get data from governments. How can we show whether the goal is having an impact?
  • It does not take into account cultural and political aspects of peace, and the context of the conflict.
  • It is too top down and doesn’t look at how peace building also has to come from the local level.
It is interesting that Jin and Jude stress different things in their criticisms of SDG 16. For example:
  • Jin on the one hand talks about the importance of the local level rather than a focus on top-down peacebuilding.

  • However, Jude stresses that the institutional and political changes are vital.

What we can see is that context is important for peace and development. What may work in South Korea may not work in Sri Lanka.


  • Pick one of Jin or Jude’s criticisms above
  • Do you agree or disagree with this criticism? Why?
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