What is increasingly clear from our work at the SDG Fund (a UN development mechanism, multi-donor agency that brings together UN Agencies, governments, civil society and business to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals) the complexity of the SDGs converge a guiding set of principles of interest to all actors.
Paloma Duran, Director of the SDG Fund spoke at the International Peace Institute on 23 September, 2016
We see peace as a baseline for companies to invest in the SDGs. And we know that business are a vital and meaningful part of how we will continue to deliver on the SDGs, especially in the recognition that companies both large and small have the opportunity to contribute towards shared economic, social and environmental progress. As part of our inaugural work at the SDG Fund, establishing programs in 22 countries, a trend is beginning to emerge. Businesses want to be at the forefront of social change, they want to create jobs and work to direct resources where they can have an impact and make clear contributions to their mission. We remain encouraged by the fact that businesses are eager to come to the table in designing and co-creating viable programs in the areas where they work and do business. In many cases this means, companies have employees and investments that are valuable to their bottom line.
The notion of a “Universal” agenda means that the universal goals and targets include both developing and developed countries in envisioning policies and planning. For the private sector, companies can now be compelled to working to align their business and social strategies with 17 clearly defined goals and 169 targets. The short and long-term implications are tremendous in terms of allowing new actors to be change agents in alleviating poverty and honing in on the issue areas critical to where they live, work and invest. But the challenge of meeting the SDGs can be compounded by a lack of peace- especially in vulnerable areas, facing fragile government and/or weak institutions.
At the SDG Fund, we recognize the need to focus on innovative ways to integrate peace in promoting other cross-cutting goals, such as Goal 16, access to justice for all. We also see the value of working across silos to create programs that integrate more holistic policies into practice. For example, in our programs we have watched the evolution in two important new programs:
In Colombia, where long term armed conflict has damaged local production, institutions, food security, and social trust, our private partners in our Private Sector Advisory Group are contributing to peace building by creating training and job opportunities for disarmed combatants and/or by bringing affordable water services to the regions most impacted by the conflict.
In Sierra Leone, the SDG Fund is working for improving accountability and transparency in natural resource governance. This program is promoting peace in the critical mining communities in the hope of improving livelihoods and generating income that will be being reinvested in the development of the communities.
Looking forward we recognize that the process of implementing strategies that address key drivers of conflict and contribute to peace can be a difficult and complex effort that requires strong leadership and strong support from local and national partners.
And at the same time, companies are eager to minimize risk and often strive to find meaningful engagement in the communities where they invest. Businesses continue to play an important role in advancing the SDGs and in promoting peace and preventing conflict. Large or small, they can be instrumental in creating new jobs, promoting hiring practices that ensure no discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender or religion. They can also support training and apprenticeship efforts to demobilize active combatants of armed forces, and support consumer awareness by including “conflict-free labels” in their products.
These are just some examples of the links between business, the SDGs and the promotion of peace. We look forward to continuing to explore this important new thematic area and create solutions linked to stabilizing cities, supporting judicial and personal freedoms and building stronger communities.
This article is published as part of the Business and Peace Challenge, led by Indiana University and Business Fights Poverty. To find out more about the Business and Peace Challenge, and to join, click here.