SDGs and violence prevention in South Africa: Strengthening the case for a holistic, urban approach

SDGs and violence prevention in South Africa: Strengthening the case for a holistic, urban approach – Blog

As the new global development framework, the SDGs may support South Africa in focusing on a holistic, urban approach towards violence prevention.

As the new global development framework, the SDGs may support South Africa in focusing on a holistic, urban approach towards violence prevention.

In September 2015, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide the global development agenda into 2030, replacing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The 17 SDGs and their 169 associated targets build on the 8 MDGs, which had focused primarily on poverty alleviation, hunger, disease, gender equality, and access to water and sanitation between 2000-2015. While there is general consensus that the MDGs were successful in a number of areas, the absence of peace, justice and security goals have been identified as a major weakness within the global development agenda.

In this regard, the SDGs take a broader and more holistic approach towards sustainable development by addressing the root causes of poverty and illustrating the clear link between peace, security, justice and sustainable development.

Additionally, issues that have been historically isolated from development agendas, such as rule of law, governance and justice, are now formally recognised as critical components of sustainable development.

Peace and security as developmental issues

Recognising peace, justice and security as developmental issues marks a critical shift in the global discussion on sustainable development, and brings forth new opportunities to transform crime and violence prevention initiatives across Africa.

Of the 17 SDGs, Goals 11 and 16 are most relevant to crime and violence prevention in South Africa.

Goal 11

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  • Target 11.1: safe and affordable housing
  • Target 11.2: safe and reliable public transport
  • Target 11.3: urban planning
  • Target 11.7: access to safe public spaces
  • Target 11.A: strengthened development planning
  • Target 11.B: disaster risk management

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

  • Target 16.1: significantly reduce all forms of violence and related deaths everywhere
  • Target 16.2: end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against, and torture of, children
  • Target 16.3: promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all
  • Target 16.4: by 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flow, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organised crime.
  • Target 16.5: substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all forms
  • Target 16.A: strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime

By highlighting the importance of urban welfare and safety, Goal 11 recognises the central role cities play in creating the conditions to allow for sustainable development for countries, as a whole, which resonates with the approach espoused in South Africa’s Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) that was recently adopted in 2016.

Further, by taking an integrated and holistic approach towards sustainable development, Goal 16 highlights the impact crime and violence on the development of a country, and emphasizes the need to address the underlying factors that compromise peoples’ safety and security, which is consistent with the integrated and holistic approach promoted in the 2016 White Paper on Safety and Security.

Despite the development of various targets to achieve the vision of Goals 11 and 16, genuine transformation will require concerted efforts at the national, regional and global levels to thoroughly understand how justice and security relates to sustainable development, and how these goals and targets will need to be framed, implemented, and measured in light of the SDGs.

Reporting on implementation of the SDGs: Follow-Up and Review (FUR)

The 2030 Development Agenda outlines a 3-levelled reporting architecture, known as Follow-Up and Review (FUR), which is structured at the national, regional and international levels:

  • National Level – involves regular and inclusive reviews of progress towards the SDGs with contributions from various stakeholders
  • Regional Level – encourages States to undertake voluntary reviews of national implementation the SDGs, and to identify a forum for peer learning and exchange of best practices at the regional level
  • Global Level – involves a High Level Political Forum (HLPF) mandated to: meet annually to track global progress on SDG implementation; provide political leadership and guidance to regional and national bodies, and address emerging issues in implementation

The overall purpose of FUR mechanisms is to track progress in implementing the SDGs to ensure that no country, or region, is left behind. Accordingly, the 2030 Agenda specifies that FUR should:

  • Promote accountability to citizens
  • Support effective international cooperation
  • Foster the exchange of best practices

Further, FUR mechanisms ultimately aim to strengthen accountability of the States by:

  • Placing national ownership as the foundation for regional and global reviews;
  • Tracking progress in a multi-dimensional, comprehensive manner;
  • Engaging in long-term consultation and review processes that will help identify regional trends and strategies;
  • Mobilising resources and strengthening partnerships to enhance implementation; and
  • Building capacity specifically for data collection and evaluation.

Measuring implementation of the SDGs in South Africa

Success of the SDGs ultimately depends upon the extent to which nations take ownership over domestic implementation of the 17 goals and their associated targets.

Accordingly, it is recommended that, on a national level, South Africa should:

  • Build on existing sustainable development programmes to take into account SDG Goals and Targets
  • Develop national indicators to complement global indicators
  • National indicators need to be context-specific, and should consider the social, political and economic dynamics of the country, and take into consideration the situation(s) of specific rights-holders, specifically those of vulnerable groups.
  • Indicator frameworks should include benchmarks, milestones, and process indicators to monitor States’ commitment to drive progress towards achievement of the SDGs

Given South Africa’s recent developments in crime and violence prevention policy and community safety, the country is well-positioned to measure the connections between peace, security and sustainable development, and to measure the country’s progress in achieving Goals 11 and 16.