Science and Peace
The committee undertook its work in the context of war in Ukraine and increasing violence in conflict, criminal, and interpersonal settings around the world. In the first months of 2022, more than 100 million individuals were “forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations” (UNCHR, 2022). Conflict undermines achievement of all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); conversely, climate change and other environmental changes implicit or explicit in the other SDGs affect conflict and social upheaval. Many crises have roots in economic and power inequalities, overexploitation of natural resources and people, and the struggle to control access to resources (e.g., fossil fuels, water, rare metals, land). The average prevalence of bribery is five times higher in low-income countries (37.6 percent) than in high-income countries (7.2 percent), which affects citizens interacting with essential public services such as health care, education, water, electricity, judiciary, and police (UNDOC, 2021). The war in Ukraine, as well as increasing conflicts and tensions in other world areas, highlight the need to reinvigorate the international institutional order that was established after World War II to ensure peace.
As the committee learned during a workshop session, SDG 16—Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions—was not a given on the global sustainable development agenda (Lilja, 2022). Some of the countries most affected by violence and conflict demanded inclusion of this goal among the set of SDGs. A search for indicators and targets that made sense across states led to consideration of both “negative” (absence of violence) and “positive” (access to justice and inclusive decision-making) peace-related targets.
Peace and lack of violence have been sadly elusive in the 21st century, as reflected in the challenges to meet this goal and its targets. Challenges include ownership to implement and monitor the goal, with a disconnect between global and national levels. Many of the people who are charged with meeting the goal were not part of the process to develop it (Lilja, 2022). Another challenge is the multisectoral nature of the goal. Although all of the SDGs are necessarily crosscutting, SDG 16 has a particularly diverse constituency that encompasses child rights organizations, peace-building organizations, police, military, democracy groups, judiciary, and many others. SDG 16 covers a lot of ground, including the reduction of all forms of violence, equal access to justice for all, increased accountability and transparency, and the protection of fundamental freedoms.
SDG 16 is one of the weakest in terms of data availability and monitoring (Lilja, 2022). The diversity of activities and stakeholders results in poor or outdated data, as well as lack of geo-localized and subnational-level data (Basnyat, 2022). An SDG 16 hub on data collaboration was created, driven by a few experts, but is no longer active (Lilja, 2022). Data and information access that is closely connected with education access is important for facilitating independent thinking among citizens (Campbell, 2006). Many authoritarian regimes and dictatorships all over the world change school programs, restrict the freedom of press, control the media and the internet, and persecute opposition leaders. Attention tends to be focused on conflict between nations or regions, but SDG 16 also refers to more common yet still devastating forms of criminal and interpersonal violence (Locke, 2022). More knowledge is needed about individual and group trauma and its influence on individual and group behavior violence, today and for future generations (Locke, 2022).
CASE STUDIES AND SYNERGIES
Although SDG 16 involves a richness of targets and indicators, the committee’s information-gathering workshop focused on its reducing violence aspects, especially on science and peace. The lack of data emerged from almost every workshop session, but seemed particularly salient during this session. To underscore this challenge, SDG 16 has 24 indicators; many were established despite the absence of globally agreed-upon methodology or data, although some improvements in methodology, even with limited data, have been noted (Basnyat, 2022). The availability of data at both the national and subnational levels can influence national policymaking. Having a global framework helps to prioritize collecting, unpacking, and analyzing data. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute is hosting a consortium of data programs to use the best data on conflict to track violent deaths, in collaboration with several partners, and to demonstrate how to combine datasets from multiple sources (Lilja, 2022). The United Nations (UN) Development Programme is also working with countries to achieve the
SDGs (Box 8-1). The literature on “fragile and conflict afflicted states” is extensive (Watkins, 2018). Another collective effort to generate data relevant to SDG 16 targets and indicators is the World Justice Project (World Justice Project, 2022). This multisector collaboration around the SDG 16+ agenda provides a roadmap for peaceful, just, and inclusive societies (NYU, 2022).
In each geographic context, an ecosystem of actors is involved in peacebuilding. Each actor experiences different levels of credibility, leverage, and trust. Ideally, these levels should be reflected in who gets funding. When this does not happen—for example, because the local stakeholders may be unknown in multilateral headquarters or donor capitals—intermediary groups can provide the bridge, again highlighting the value of localization as discussed in Chapter 5. The global scientific community can play an important role in peacebuilding efforts. As a concrete example, the Polish Academy of Sciences has been helping Ukrainian scientists who are refugees or remained within their country (Slowinski, 2022). Other examples include global efforts of the World Academy of Sciences (UNESCO-TWAS), the InterAcademy Partnership, and the International Science Council to advocate for displaced scientists worldwide (IAP, 2022); National Academies efforts to support the resettlement of scientists and engineers from Afghanistan (NASEM, 2022c); and the Breakthrough Prize Foundation’s and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ efforts to support displaced Ukrainian scientists (NASEM, 2022a).
KEY RESEARCH PRIORITIES FOR SCIENCE AND PEACE
The committee proposes the following key priorities for research to operationalize sustainable development in the area of science and peace:
- Strengthen SDG data hubs, partnerships, and data for SDG monitoring and enforcement relating to science and peace and other relevant issues. The data are collected not for the sake of data but to determine how they can effect change at the local and national levels.
- Explore survey instruments on SDG 16 and the interlinkages between different variables while supporting countries to collect data on access to justice, corruption, discrimination, and trafficking. UN agencies are working on survey instruments that cover most of the SDG 16 indicators (UNDP, 2022a). Another good example of practice in this context is the Praia Group on Governance Statistics, which is led by statistical offices but invites participation by many different experts. The Praia Handbook was launched in 2020 (Basnyat, 2022).
- Examine how to deal with post-conflict trauma because global conflicts will influence future generations, including the war in Ukraine.
- Prevent and mitigate the effects of child soldiers and gender-based violence that occurs within conflicts (Stohl, 2018; UNICEF, 2021).
POSSIBLE ACTIONABLE STEPS FOR SCIENCE AND PEACE
Science, technology, and medical communities could contribute to world peace now more than ever. The committee proposes the following possible actionable steps to operationalize sustainable development in the areas of science and peace:
- Governments and nongovernmental organizations across the globe could be brought together, perhaps as part of the effort to negotiate the initiative that follows the SDGs beyond 2030, to design a new global social compact that emphasizes peace building and can promote a global system that builds on care, sharing, sufficiency, and respect for human and non-human living beings.
- Leaders and practitioners in governments, academia, nongovernmental organizations, and international organizations could create peer groups for implementing and monitoring the SDGs (e.g., cities learn best from other cities), dealing with crisis situations, and facilitating exchange among justice actors, peace builders, and inequality experts (Locke, 2022).
- The scientific community could promote positive examples for supporting Ukrainian scientists, and additional efforts and funds are needed to support science, engineering, and medical professionals in other nations including Afghanistan, Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Mexico, and Nicaragua (https://scienceinexile.org). Although the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund supports fellowships for threatened and displaced scholars worldwide (IIE, 2022), additional efforts to protect people and the planet are needed.
- The U.S. government could be reoriented as the champion of SDGs through participation in a Voluntary National Review (see Chapter 3). It is essential to advocate for the importance of peace and justice (Locke, 2022).
- Funding agencies and philanthropic organizations could invest in organizations between state and society that can contribute to solutions that address the increasing number of wars, conflicts, and migration of displaced people. It is essential to support scientific communities in long-term sustainable development, including rebuilding efforts.
- Scientific societies and academies could conduct studies and dialogues that help to advance control of new and emerging weapon systems as has been the case with nuclear weapons.
- Nongovernmental organizations could support humanitarian efforts in conflict areas. A positive example is the World Central Kitchen, which delivers food and provides shelter to children and families in Ukraine (World Central Kitchen, 2022).
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