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SDG16 in the Pacific: Strengthening and legitimising institutions to achieve sustainable development

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Strengthening and increasing the legitimacy of institutions and the rule of law is fundamental for development outcomes in the Pacific region. This is especially true with significant changes projected relating to the environment, demographics and socio-economics. Strong institutions are essential to respond to these changes. However, institution building can be slow and challenging and resources are limited. Measurement of progress will help guide decision making and prioritisation. There are challenges to measurement in the region including vast geographic spreads, high cultural and linguistic diversity, small and sometimes remote populations and relatively low internal capacity. This necessitates innovative approaches to measurement. One such approach is the development of a regional index based on expert interviews.

The Pacific region faces both unique structural and societal challenges. The pace of change is expected to increase through shifts in demographics, urbanisation, migration and socio-economics.. This is on top of shifts in the international order, increasing transnational organised crime, cyberattacks and changes in the environment including climate change. Accordingly, Pacific Island leaders have adopted an expanded concept of security reflecting the diverse threats the Pacific faces today and will face tomorrow.

This report outlines challenges and recommendations for Pacific Island countries and territories in measuring Sustainable Development Goal 16 addressing peace, justice and strong institutions. It is part of a larger research project by the Institute for Economics and Peace supported by the Australian Government and builds on previous work presented in Measuring Peace in the Pacific - Addressing SDG16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions.

Building on the expertise from The Institute for Economics and Peace in understanding the drivers of peace, as well as data measurements relevant to Sustainable Development Goal 16, this report aims to be a resource for the Pacific community. This report hopes to contribute to the development of evidence-based policy as it relates to the Sustainable Development Goals by outlining the need for further institution strengthening and potential opportunities for innovation given current data availability. The Sustainable Development Goals outline goals, targets and indicators which have been agreed upon by all countries to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. Access to quality and timely information, whilst obviously no panacea, can help inform, direct and inform policymaking and communal action towards a common goal.

This report is not a conclusive document outlining the next steps in order to implement the Sustainable Development Goals across the incredibly diverse Pacific region. The Sustainable Development Goals are designed to be locally contextualised and realised with support from partners and the international community. This report looks at an important complementary issue: the availability and access to relevant data to help inform and influence policy decisions in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in the Pacific.

The World Bank and the United Nations state in their joint publication Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict that the best way to prevent societies from descending into crisis is to ensure that they are resilient, through investment in inclusive and sustainable development. Sustainable Development Goal 16 aims to achieve this through strengthening institutions and governance, while addressing the drivers of peace.
Its inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals reflects international consensus that development cannot occur without inclusive institutions, peace and justice.

Variations in geography, population density and urbanisation present enormous challenges in the Pacific region. Combined with the increased pace of change, there is immense pressure on institutions across the Pacific. Institutional development is very difficult and can take a long time. There can often be significant delays between improvements in economic and human development indicators and institutional development.
Sustainable Development Goal 16 provides opportunities to prioritise and plan human security responses as well as highlighting where further investments and institutional building is necessary to achieve other development goals.

An assessment of progress across the Sustainable Development Goals, and especially Sustainable Development Goal 16 given its cross-cutting perspective, requires an innovative approach. This report proposes that using innovative data collection and analysis tools will enable the Pacific region to have a greater evidence base for responding to challenges.

Outlined within this report is an explanation of why Sustainable Development Goal 16 is important and relevant to the Pacific, what data is currently available, what opportunities the Pacific has to measure progress and how countries and territories in the region can be supported in localising, measuring and actioning progress towards the targets.

The report features four sections:

• I – Achieving SDG16 in the Pacific examines why Sustainable Development Goal 16 has particular importance across the Pacific with current and emerging challenges to human security;

• II – Data availability across the Pacific outlines some of the difficulties that need to be overcome for measuring Sustainable Development Goal 16 in the Pacific, as well as across the world;

• III – Opportunities for the Pacific discusses how the region can continue being proactive in contextualising international measures for the Pacific context as well as engage in innovative data collections. The Pacific region has advocated for localised measures and can continue to do this through regional measures;

• IV – Applications of data in the Pacific discusses the benefits of a regional measure, which could be used to determine progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 16. This includes a guide for how a regional measure could be developed and provides examples using available data.