Sustainable Development Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions


Having strong institutions in place is essential to the success of all of the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. Working towards a society where people are free from the threat of violence and able to focus on other issues is a vital component of a sustainable future. Over 70 million people fled war, persecution, or conflict in 2018. In the past decade, the proportion of prisoners held in detention without sentencing has remained nearly constant, at 31% of all prisoners. In order to address these problems, the United Nations created Sustainable Development Goal 16.

The Goal 

SDG 16 aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and to build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Targets and Indicators 

SDG 16 has ten targets, or subgoals, which are measured using indicators that show how much progress countries have made so far. 

For example, Target 16.1 is to significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere. Some of the indicators of this goal are the number of conflict-related deaths and the proportion of the country’s population that feels safe walking alone in the area in which they live. 

Target 16.2, aims to protect children from abuse and violence while ending trafficking. Its indicator is the proportion of children from 1-17 who received physical or psychological punishment or aggression from their caregivers in the last month.

What’s Already Being Done

Progress towards SDG 16 has been slow. According to a 2020 progress report released by the UN, 100 civilians lose their lives every day in armed conflicts, despite protections granted by international law. The global homicide rate is also declining too slowly. Additionally, children are exposed to many forms of violence that are underrecognized and underreported.

However, there are organizations that are helping. Veterans for Peace, for instance, seeks to increase public awareness about the real costs of war, restrain governments from intervening in the internal affairs of other nations, end the arms race, and eliminate nuclear weapons. They also seek justice for veterans and victims of war, and work to abolish war overall. With 140 chapters across the globe, the group contains military veterans and allies who use nonviolent methods to advocate for their goals. 

Applying It: How Everyone Can Help

Though governments must act, you can help meet SDG 16. You can reach out to your local representatives by phone, email, or letter, and let them know that you support policies that limit the effect money can have in politics, as well as policies that support the targets of SDG 16. You can also join an organization that promotes peace, justice, and stronger institutions. For instance, maybe your school has an anti-bullying club, or you could start one. You could also volunteer at a local organization, like a women’s shelter. Together, we can help meet SDG 16!

Think Further

  1. What impact does SDG 16 have on the other SDGs? How is it connected to goals like gender equality or clean water and sanitation?
  2. If you could make a new law to help promote the goals of SDG 16, what would it be? What specific issue would it address, and how could it be implemented?
  3. Is your community doing a good job of advocating for peace, justice, and strong institutions? If so, what are they doing? If not, what could you do to help?


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Learn More

  1. “Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.” United Nations Development Programme.,
  2. “Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions – SDG Tracker.” Our World in Data.,
  3. SDG 16 Hub.
  4. Wesley, Hannah, et al. “No Health Without Peace: Why SDG 16 Is Essential for Health.” The Lancet, vol. 388, no. 10058, Nov. 2016, pp. 2352–53.