The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of goals that meet the urgent environmental, political, social and economic challenges facing our world. Utilising The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission’s SDG publication Go and Do Something, we have created easy to read focus articles looking at each SDG from an Australian, Salvation Army perspective. These articles explore how each SDG affects us locally, and include practical tips of how you can get involved. We hope this tool will be of benefit to you as you seek to partner with God in bringing about his Kingdom.
Sustainable Development Goal 16: PROMOTE PEACEFUL AND INCLUSIVE SOCIETIES FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, PROVIDE ACCESS TO JUSTICE FOR ALL AND BUILD EFFECTIVE, ACCOUNTABLE AND INCLUSIVE INSTITUTIONS AT ALL LEVELS
- Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere.
- End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.
- Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all.
- Significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime.
- Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms.
- Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels.
- Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision‐making at all levels.
- Broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance.
Australia is, by global standards, a generally peaceful society. In fact, in the 2017 Global Peace Index, it ranked 12th out of 163 countries and was categorised ‘Very High’ for its ‘State of Peace’. Successive governments at all levels have worked hard to reduce crime and the opportunity for violence in our communities. Weapons are hard to come by, extremism is generally frowned upon and organised crime is not as prevalent as it once was. Ongoing work is underway to end abusive practices in the workplace with Australia set to introduce a ‘Modern Slavery Act’ before the end of 2018. All in all, Australia is a pretty peaceful place compared to many other nations.
Yet we are not perfect – we can’t just tick off SDG 16 as ‘done & dusted’ and sit back, resting on our laurels. When we read the national news, each and every day we can see examples of where we still have work to do. Our indigenous population still experiences significant disadvantage in many areas when compared to non-indigenous counterparts; we have ongoing debates about the worth of having women in leading business positions, in our parliament, and whether or not they ‘deserve’ the same pay; and our immigration processes are based on fear, rather than welcome.
So while Australia can claim to be peaceful, we still have work to do to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, to provide access to justice for all and to ensure effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. The problem is that we live in a fallen world, and as a result, injustice, violence and oppression exist. Often, people strive to look after themselves and their own needs over and above caring and loving their neighbour. As Major Christine Volet highlights in the ISJC’s Go and Do Something, “Greed, corruption and poverty are linked in a vicious circle” and always will be unless we follow the call of scripture to act contrary.
God said to the prophet Zechariah “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.” (Zech. 7:9-10) and to Isaiah “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isa. 58:6-7).
As followers of Christ, we must act in accordance with these calls in scripture if we are to see an Australia that will truly be peaceful, inclusive and ‘fair to all’:
– only when the poor and marginalised are treated fairly and given the dignity they deserve
– only when those seeking refuge on our shores are treated humanely and their ongoing abuse ended
– only when women and girls are treated the same as boys and men and not as second class citizens
– only when our First Nations Peoples are given the voice to speak for themselves
– only when… we love God and our neighbour as ourselves (Matt. 22:36-40)
What can we do?
- Read Journey of Renewal (www.salvationarmy.org/accountability) and use the Mission Accountability Framework to help promote peace, justice and accountability. “The Accountability Movement will help us to know what ‘love one another’ looks like in practice in the 21st-century Salvation Army.”
- Be advocates for the oppressed and disadvantaged. Where governance (state governance or an organisation’s) has failed a person, speak out and stand up for them. This standing alongside the oppressed can be a great witness to the world that we seek a different way – God’s way.
- Educate yourself on how the disadvantaged and marginalised are treated within our society, and the key issues that are important to them. Continue to advocate that the government must take seriously its responsibility towards those who are doing it tough and need care. Check out the Law Council of Australia‘s ‘The Justice Project’, where they are undertaking a comprehensive, national review into the state of access to justice in Australia.
- Read The Justice Project’s progress report release, which focuses on justice barriers facing those with significant social and economic disadvantage, as well as identifying what is working to reduce those barriers. It is looking at the justice system from the people’s point of view and will culminate in a final report, following a literature review and extensive consultation process.
- Commit this SDG to prayer both individually and as a Corps
– For our authorities, nationally and internationally; for all forms of institutions, governmental, private, religious, and financial – that God guides them and reprimands them if necessary so that they are honest, that the law is applied and that justice is done.
– For those who abuse; those that manipulate the weakest; those who enrich themselves through corruption, bribery and tax evasion. May God open their eyes to the consequences of their actions and create in them a spirit of repentance.
– For those who suffer injustice and violence; the weak, children, women, the marginalised, refugees, and rejected populations – that God extends his healing and protective hand on them.
For further reading on The Salvation Army’s thoughts around SDG 16, see the International Social Justice Commission’s Go and Do Something publication.
 http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2017/06/GPI17-Report.pdf  https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/bills/Pages/bill-details.aspx?pk=3488  https://www.ft.com/content/01f8c178-4867-11e8-8ee8-cae73aab7ccb  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-04/commonwealth-bank-pay-$700-million-fine-money-laundering-breach/9831064  https://womensagenda.com.au/latest/gerry-harvey-bemoans-the-rise-of-women-on-boards/  https://accountability.salvationarmy.org/