For sustainable development and prosperity to flourish, we must be able to enjoy peace, bodily integrity and the protection afforded by a sound legal system. Too many people are at the mercy of weak institutions. They lack access to justice, information and other fundamental freedoms. Violations of children’s rights through physical or sexual abuse remain a scourge in many countries around the world and are exacerbated by a lack of news coverage and data. While cases of homicide and human trafficking have fallen significantly over the past decade, thousands of people in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia are still at an elevated risk of falling victim to premeditated murder. Armed conflict as well as domestic and criminal violence not only place millions of lives in jeopardy but also erode living conditions on a long-term basis by reducing harvests and resources, impeding access to education and health care as well as blocking opportunities to participate in society.
A total of 29 armed conflicts and wars were recorded worldwide in 2020. Every day, 100 civilians die in armed conflicts. The number of people fleeing their homes is steadily increasing and exceeded 79 million in 2019 – the highest level ever recorded. According to the World Bank, there are currently some 35 countries around the world where armed groups have seized power and decide the fate of the population. Many nations are plagued by arbitrary rulings, inequality and corruption, leading to a collapse in government, administration and public services.
Germany is one of the safest countries in the world. This is something that needs to be maintained, while helping other countries achieve the same levels of security. But in Germany, too, this goal is undermined by corruption and administrative failures of the government. Transparency and accountability in state institutions and authorities are indispensable, as are their effective checks and balances ensured by politically legitimate bodies, together with a free press and reporting. This is not to say that Germany is untouched by wars and conflicts, as is evident from the Syrian refugees, for instance. By the same token, their example illustrates why both lasting peace and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals can only be achieved through a concerted global effort.
Building a more peaceful, inclusive society calls for more efficient, transparent regulations and comprehensive, realistic national budgets. One of the first steps toward protecting individual rights is the implementation of worldwide birth registration and the creation of independent national human rights institutions around the world.
Only when homicide, child abuse, human trafficking and sexual violence around the world are stamped out will it be possible to create peaceful and inclusive societies geared to sustainable development. Such societies facilitate access to justice for all and pave the way to building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.