SDGs and PVE – Working Towards the Same Goal?

Author: Rebecca Skellett
Head of the Strong Cities Network

During this year’s United Nations General Assembly, a huge focus was placed on the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2016 with the convening of the SDG Summit to review the roadmap to 2030.  Together, the goals are almost universal and applicable to any policy agenda, from clean water, to zero hunger all the way to promoting inclusion and preventing violence. Whilst these goals have been set multi-laterally and traditionally are seen as under the purview of national governments, the role of cities in implementing them is more crucial than ever.

During this year’s General Assembly, particular attention was paid by prevention of violent extremism (PVE) practitioners to SDG 16, which seeks to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies’ and ‘provide access to justice for all’, a goal which has significant overlap with that of PVE. This raises the vital question – are the SDGs and PVE working towards the same goal? And if so, how can we reinforce these efforts?

Firstly, SDG 16 and PVE agendas bear similar hallmarks. Both emphasise civil society, local empowerment and social cohesion as vital instigators in this task, while SDG 16.1 (to significantly reduce all forms of violence) neatly encapsulates the goal of P/CVE agendas.

Secondly, they recognise the crucial role of cities. The majority of the global population now reside in urban centres, while 82% of deadly violence occurs outside of conflict zones, with most incidents occurring in cities.

Thirdly, the barriers to both agendas are broadly identical, including heavy-handed state responses, corruption, marginalisation and injustice.

We must therefore conclude that both PVE and SDG 16 share the same goal, while recognising that cities act as a vital nexus for bringing together these disparate strands.

SDGs have indirectly been a part of our work here at Strong Cities since we launched at the UN General Assembly four years ago, but there is more we can do to better adopt, connect and borrow from good practices adopted in the SDGs to help meet P/CVE challenges. In acknowledging the goals we share with all the SDGs, especially SDG 16, we stand a good chance to mainstream counter extremism efforts into the everyday practices of local level actors where needed.

“The vocabulary around P/CVE should be expanded, couching objectives in universal terms: promoting justice, creating pathways for communities to address grievances and opportunities for expression”

There is much work to be done. However, the news is not all negative. Looking beyond SDG 16, we know of some member cities who have been creating SDG Action Plans to meet all 17 goals. Last year, New York became the first global city to release a Voluntary Local Review (VLR) of their progress on the SDGs. Furthermore, the German government and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network supported the creation of a number of outstanding resources to help others follow in New York’s footsteps.

Have you done something fantastic on the SDGs and PVE?  Would you want to?  Would you want like us to consider closely affiliation to these goals in our work? Let us know your thoughts by emailing [email protected]

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