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The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 is Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. As we recently commemorated Freedom Day on 27 April and 27 years of our constitutional democracy, we recognise that while there is always more that can be done, there is also much to celebrate.
As one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the “global goals for sustainable development”, the objective of SDG 16 is to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
SDG 16 is about finding ways to make sure everyone lives in a peaceful society, where they can have access to justice without living in fear. The targets which underpin this goal are centred around three key themes: eliminating physical acts of violence and abuse, including child trafficking, while enforcing non-discriminatory laws and policies; building accountable, effective, transparent organisations and institutions free from bribery and corruption; and substantially reducing illicit financial and arms flows, strengthening the recovery of stolen assets and combating all forms of organized crime.
At least one in five people live in countries experiencing significant violence, political conflict and insecurity.
Staggering statistics show how at least one in five people live in countries experiencing significant violence, political conflict and insecurity. Furthermore, corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion cost around $1.26 trillion for developing countries each year. This equates to the amount of money it would take to raise those who are living on less than $1.25 a day to above that level, for at least six years.
It is important to remember that South Africa ranks above many well established democracies with regards to press freedom, which means we have more open and honest reporting and access to more information.
At a personal level, active citizenship is perhaps the single most important thing each of us can contribute to the achievement of SDG 16. To call out wrong doings when they are seen, enact your right to vote, electing the leaders of your country and community, be a voice for those who don’t have their own and to be active in the communities in which we live. As the saying so aptly goes “bad things happen when good people keep quiet”.
This Freedom Day was a celebration of SDG 16 in practice. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, and then on 27 April 1994 was elected as the President of South Africa following the first democratic, post-apartheid national elections where anyone could vote regardless of race. In 2021, we celebrate 27 years since the birth of our democracy. ‘27’ is also South Africa’s international dialling code and perhaps is also a reference to our Constitution, of which Section 27 enshrines the right to health care, food, water and social security.
We are 27 years into a journey of being a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society. It is up to each one of us to hold the pillars of our society up through doing the right thing, ensuring that wrongdoings are not tolerated and to be just, fair and kind in all our actions towards others.
Sometimes this may seem daunting, considering the overwhelming amount of information and somewhat negative stories published within South Africa and globally. However, it is important to remember that South Africa ranks above many well established democracies with regards to press freedom, which means we have more open and honest reporting and access to more information.
The organisation Reporters without Borders recently published the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, a barometer of the state of media freedom across the globe. While overall, a decline in public access to information and increase in obstacles to news coverage in many countries was noted, South Africa ranked 32nd out of 180 countries.
Ensuring your business has implemented business practices and upholds governance frameworks that focus on ethical and sustainable business reduces the risk of corruption and anti-competitive behaviour.
With that great freedom comes an equal amount of responsibility. As active citizens with access to a myriad of information, we may be better equipped to play our part in speaking up and making our voice heard. An easy way to play a more active role is to attend your local municipal council meetings, get in touch with your ward councillor and raise awareness around a particular issue impacting your community.
Being an active citizen extends into business activities too. Businesses and economies do well in predictable and stable working environments. Ensuring your business has implemented business practices and upholds governance frameworks that focus on ethical and sustainable business reduces the risk of corruption and anti-competitive behaviour.
Active citizenship and playing our part means being proactive and actively seeking to be part of the solution. It is not always about big, bold action, but rather consistent action and behaviour that ensures we use the constitutional right afforded to us as part of our democracy.
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Responsible Investing and Sustainability at Investec Wealth & Investment
As Sustainability is core to our fundamental investment approach, we have integrated ESG considerations into our investment decision making and broader investment process.