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  • Writer's pictureJames Cox

Sustainable Development Goals and the Pacific: Let's start at 16.

Another view of the Pacific - an arc of islands just off Australia's coast. Image: Google Earth.

Peacifica has recently prepared a submission to the Australian government’s inquiry into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We called for the prioritisation of Goal 16, and a reorientation of Australia’s Pacific Islands program towards the promotion of inclusive governance and the mitigation of conflict drivers. As we argued in Peacifica’s previous submission to the Foreign Policy White Paper Consultation, a Pacific-based Peacebuilding approach is needed to create sustainable positive peace, and is a pathway to achieving Goal 16.


Peacifica recommends that the Australian Government:

  1. Prioritise SDG Goal 16 in its aid policy and programming for the Pacific region. This will require re-orientation of Australia’s Pacific Islands program around the promotion of human security, inclusive governance and the mitigation of conflict drivers, with the aim of creating sustainable, positive peace

  2. Prioritise a Pacific-based peacebuilding approach in its support for SDG Goal 16:

  3. Conduct inclusive assessments of local contexts and conflict risks to enable shared planning for peace and development

  4. Support the development of locally derived indicators of progress to establish local ownership and ensure that actions realistically respond to local understandings of peace and security.

  5. Build on RAMSI’s success in the Solomon Islands by promoting grassroots peacebuilding activities (including empowerment of women and youth, reconciliation and climate change impact mitigation) as a complement to ongoing institutional strengthening

  6. Develop a rigorous policy framework to guide efficient, effective, timely and accountable responses to protracted crises, including through multi-year funding agreements that strategically address the root causes and chronic indicators of crises.


The SDGs have set the agenda for the world’s collaboration on some of the most pressing issues. For Australia, there is nowhere more important with regard to the SDGs than our close neighbours in the South Pacific. Peacifica and coalitions like the Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women, Peace and Security recognise Goal 16 as vital, due to its transformative nature and links to realising other goals.

SDG 16: One of the foundations on which the other Goals rest.

Goal 16 recognises the need for strong institutions to support the development and longevity of social, political or ecological change. It also promotes inclusive and accessible justice systems that offer redress for grievances from past conflict, to ensure the continuation of peace. A focus on Goal 16 and hence the creation of sustainable, peaceful environments can provide a viable context for the fulfilment of a number of other Pacific regional- and country-level priorities.

Within Pacific Island countries (PICs), the prioritisation and implementation of Goal 16 - including inclusive governance and a nuanced Pacific-based peacebuilding approach - is critical, as its realisation will determine the outcomes of the development priorities of most importance to PICs. Reducing the risk of violent conflict and other crimes, strengthening governance, and fostering accountable, inclusive institutions from local to national levels will influence the effectiveness of PICs in their strategies to eliminate poverty (Goal 1), promote gender equality (Goal 5), mitigate against climate change (Goal 13) and secure marine resources for livelihoods (Goal 2, Goal 14). For example, in the Solomon Islands, unresolved issues that are legacies of the Tensions threaten to undermine the Solomon Islands government’s economic growth policies and its citizens' human security.

Accordingly, the most strategic way Australia can seek to address Goal 16 is through the prioritisation of comprehensive peacebuilding efforts that are grounded in the reality of Pacific life and informed by the perspectives of Pacific civil society and governments. Building on this, a ‘Pacific-based peacebuilding approach’ in Australia’s Pacific aid policy and programs would work to address challenges to peace and promote a context for sustainable development.

The submission was prepared by Peacifica's wonderful policy volunteer team: Mansi Bhatt, Mimosa Hill, Leona Wedderburn and Claudia Whitaker

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