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The world after the Millennium Development Goals – a message of hope from the UN

“Without peace, there can be no development. Without development, there can be no enduring peace. Peace and justice are prerequisites for progress.”

“Without peace, there can be no development. Without development, there can be no enduring peace. Peace and justice are prerequisites for progress.”

Action on Armed Violence welcomes a new report released this week by the United Nations panel of experts on the Millennium Development Goals. In it the experts propose some fundamental shifts in the way the development agenda on armed violence could be addressed in the future.

One important shift is the panel’s view on peace, freedom of fear, conflict and violence. It identifies them as fundamental human rights essential upon which to build a foundation for peaceful and prosperous societies. “We are calling for a fundamental shift – to recognize peace and good governance as core elements of wellbeing, not optional extras,” the report states.

This marks a refreshing change from past discussions on development. It seems obvious to say that “without peace, children cannot go to school or access health clinics. Adults cannot go to their workplaces, to markets or out to cultivate their fields”, but this is new territory for the UN and others.  Hitherto, the development community has often considered peace and security as issues that someone else should be dealing with. This is clearly changing.

Whilst recognising peace is an issue that needs to be addressed, along with other development issues such as job creation, the panel also proposes a specific goal to ‘Ensure Stable and Peaceful Societies’.

It’s another step forward. This goal has four main targets: to reduce violent deaths and eliminate all forms of violence against children; to strengthen justice institutions; to stem external factors that lead to conflict, such as organised crime; and to strengthen security forces, police and judiciary.

The expert panel also recognises that “the character of violence has shifted dramatically in the past few decades (…) Violence, drugs and arms spill rapidly across borders in our increasingly connected world. Stability has become a universal concern.”This too, is an important shift in position to make.

But to turn words into action, it will require increased local, national, regional and international cooperation and support.

Overall, civil society, international organisations and states should vocally support this call for the inclusion of peace and freedom from violence in the new development agenda. They have a chance to do so in their statements during the next meetings of the General Assembly of the United Nations and by advocating for this throughout the negotiations of the new development agenda.

The panel concludes by believing that the shifts they propose can ‘at long last, bring together social, economic and environmental issues in a coherent, effective, and sustainable way. Above all, we hope they can inspire a new generation to believe that a better world is within its reach, and act accordingly.’

We hope so too.