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Words into deeds on SDG 16 in Africa

Sahra El Fassi

Words into deeds on SDG 16 in Africa

African leaders at the 70th United Nations General Assembly last September stressed the importance of good governance and indicated a realistic chance that they would integrate Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) into existing African development frameworks.

The momentum created with the SDGs adoption should go beyond declarations. For Africa, success will depend on African leaders’ ability to implement human rights and good governance reforms in their countries. Surely, Africa’s regional economic communities (RECs), as well as other regional and international partners, could play important roles in advancing good governance, peace and justice.

The UN targets of peaceful and inclusive societies by 2030 may be difficult to measure. However, having signed off to the SDGs, African leaders must now integrate such ambitions into existing continental development frameworks.

How can Africa align the SDGs with its own transformative Agenda 2063, which was endorsed by its leaders at the African Union’s summit in January 2015?  During the 2015 UN Africa Week (12-16 October) in New York, Africa’s development experts explored how to create synergies between the global SDGs and the AU’s Agenda 2063.

Besides popularising and mobilising international support for Agenda 2063 and its first 10-year implementation plan, there is need to identify how Africa’s regional organizations, particularly the RECs, could be strengthened to help achieve the global goals.     

Good governance is a highly sensitive issue, and the concept is often defined and understood differently by AU bembers. It is a challenge for the RECs as they try to support the implementation of the SDG 16 and the AU’s goals on governance.

One of the AU’s seven “aspirations” as spelt out in Agenda 2063 is “An Africa of good governance, democracy, and respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.” This and other aspirations formed the basis of the Common African Position on—and support for—the SDGs.

In light of international recognition of good governance as a central pillar of global development, which itself was canvassed by Africa during the SDGs negotiations, there is a realistic chance that African leaders will integrate SDG 16 into existing continental strategic development plans, particularly Agenda 2063.

The AU’s African Governance Architecture and the African Peace and Security Architecture also offer opportunities to advance SDG 16 through national and regional policies.  Therefore, the RECs could help ensure that countries align governance targets and results in SDG 16 and Agenda 2063 with individual national development plans.

Considering current policy interconnectedness at the global, regional and national levels, it is vital that global goals are ambitious and practical. For African leaders, the challenge is to find ways to create synergies between global and national agendas.

Effective implementation at country level requires structured planning in terms of policy, financing, stability and effective, responsible and capable institutions. Again, the RECs could provide support on the governance front, ensuring that influential countries set good examples for the small countries to follow.

By so doing, Africa would be acting on the basis of the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities, which affirms that different countries have distinct capabilities, starting points and scope of action for promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies.

Sahra El Fassi is a Policy Officer in the Africa's Change Dynamics Programme of the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). Her new paper on the capacity of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is available at