Patricia Garcia AO, Partnership Development Manager, Institute for Economics and Peace | Australia

Patricia Garcia is the Partnership Development Manager of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). Patricia has worked for more than 20 years in some of the world’s most dangerous conflicts including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan and the Thai-Burma border. She has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2016 and was a finalist in the 2016 NSW Australian of the Year awards for her contribution and services to the international humanitarian aid and development sector over the past two decades. Patricia Garcia was a Human Rights Research Fellow at the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies from 2000–2002 and designed the Human Rights course for the Master of Peace and Conflict Studies at CPACS. Ms. Garcia is also an Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney where she is a sessional lecturer on peace and human rights with a passion to promote and advance the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda.


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Event Title: SDGs Conference 2023 Date: Sept 20, 2023


Contemporary challenges of development in the transitioning era of geopolitical complexities and conflicts

On the occasion of the International Day of Peace, I would like to call on all of the stakeholders to take action and be part of the solution to this SDGs agenda, commit to both personal and collective action that can contribute to advancing the SDGs 2030 agenda. For those who have been following the SDGs agenda, it was in 2015, seven years ago that all 193 countries formally adopted it. These are the 17 SDGs with 169 targets to transform our world for a better future. Our previous speakers have said that the SDGs have presented us with a roadmap of the 17 goals, with the signposts being these 169 targets. We have been passionate advocates of the Sustainable Development Goals and still, we have seen that over these last seven years, we have not performed well. In contrast, several countries have in many ways deteriorated the condition. So, there is a sense of urgency for us with time running out with only now at the midpoint of seven years that we have to accelerate our efforts. 

I think it is really important now that we look at how we can be able to find innovative ways and ways to collaborate to be able to address the enormous global challenges that we are facing today; whether it is the climate crisis, economic inequality, the growing societal polarization, geopolitical tensions or conflicts that we are all facing. We need to look at the SDGs as not only a roadmap but also a vision of hope for a world where we can build a peaceful, equal, and sustainable future for all. 

The SDGs for me represent the five Ps: people, at first and then the planet, peace, prosperity, and partnership. With these five, it is very important to understand that these are universal goals. They belong to all of us and because of that, it is a shared responsibility that we must take to be able to advance these goals and to be able to achieve all 17 goals. The nature of these goals when they were first developed was based on consultations all around the world. I think the importance of these goals is that they provide a common language for all of us to be able to address these global challenges in a way that we have, a common language to express how we can find solutions, how we can take action, and how we can collaborate. 

My role at the Institute for Economics and Peace is as a Partnership Development Manager. So, the word partnership is central to my work and while working with the Institute for Economics and Peace, I have been so privileged to be able to meet with many of the people we have here yesterday and at the beginning of our SDG Summit to hear all the wonderful work that many of us are doing to be able to advance the SDGs, particularly, Goal 16, the goal of peacebuilding, peaceful and inclusive societies with access to justice for all and also strong, transparent and accountable institutions at all levels. This is such an important goal because it is the goal that is cross-cutting across all 17. Many of you might know that the whole approach of the SDGs has been based on what we call “systems thinking”, where we try to shift people’s thinking from not looking at a singular cause-effect relationship of how we deal with issues but looking at issues as being a system. 

With the system, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and this system’s thinking is what also informs, the Institute for Economics and Peace in the way in which we measure and analyze peace and the economic cost of violence. I would like to start with just some explanation of the SDGs, many of you might also understand that there have been some constraints in being able to advance these SDGs and one of them has been the lack of financing. We heard earlier a speaker about the importance of having innovative financing mechanisms, whether it is increasing our overseas development assistance or looking at building public-private partnerships but we need to look at different ME financing mechanisms to support the SDGs and EEGs. The other area is often the lack of measurement. How can we measure progress on how we are going with the 17 goals? 

This is where the Institute for Economics and Peace is an independent global think tank that measures and analyzes peace and the economic cost of violence and provides metrics to measure peacefulness in 163 countries. We hope through our measurements of peace and analysis of peace, we can also provide a better understanding of the social, economic, cultural, and political factors that drive peace. So, just a little bit of an example of showing you how one of the examples of the tools that IEP has been able to develop is called the ‘Positive Peace Framework.’ 

As I mentioned earlier, the Institute for Economics and Peace was established in 2008 and we pioneered the empirical study of peace. In other words, with the organization, we were able to measure and analyze peace and the aim of the organization is to undertake research to show how peace is a positive, tangible, and achievable measure of human well-being and progress. So, think of this concept of peace as something positive, tangible, and achievable, and also a measure of human well-being and development. The ‘Global Peace Index’ was our first report and many of you might know this is the report that measures and analyzes the absence of violence or the fear of violence in 163 countries. The Index represents 99.7% of the world’s population. So, I would like to just show you how we rank the 163 countries. 

We use three domains, these domains are International and Domestic Conflict, Safety and Society, and Militarization. For those of you who want to look at understanding conflict and particularly the drivers of conflict and particularly want to know the changing nature of where we see the world going in, how we understand conflict, the Global Peace Index provides the evidence and data to show the trends of where countries are going in the issues of conflict. 

In the 2023 GPI, we saw that 70 to 84 countries had improved and 79 had deteriorated. The key highlights of this 2023 Global Peace Index showed that Iceland remains at the moment and has been for many years, the most peaceful country in the world. We have Libya and Burundi with the largest improvements, Middle East and North Africa have improved in the last three years. Also, Europe has remained the most peaceful region and recorded only a slight improvement since last year. Afghanistan remains the world’s least peaceful nation and has also recorded just in this last year. Since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, there has been some improvement only in this last year but it remains the least peaceful country in the world. You might be surprised to know that the Taliban has criticized IEP because of that ranking. This year, we got strong criticism from the Taliban government. This is the 10 most peaceful countries. 

Then, we have the 10 least peaceful countries. We have seen a decline in peacefulness over the last 13 or 15 years since IEP has been established and not very sobering news to be able to say that this deterioration has continued consecutively over the last 13 years. Unfortunately, the scenario is not looking good. Also for the future, there are 23 indicators that we use to measure – the militarization, social security and safety, and the international and domestic conflict domains of each country. 

Last year, the total number of battle deaths, as there has been an increase in conflict deaths and battle deaths since last year, primarily in Europe, Ethiopia, and Ukraine. When we people are looking at conflict and we are looking at war, we are not only looking at the actual conflict of fighting, battles, military, and security. People have to look at conflict and war as also being what we call military-industrial conflicts. It is the whole business of war. 

IEP also measures the economic cost of the violence that the world spends each year and this figure, 17.5 trillion was the cost of violence for the last year. It is a huge figure. Many of you would be not surprised to know that most of this cost is coming from military expenditure and where does the military expenditure come from? It mostly comes from governments. So, who do we need to approach when we’re talking about financing? We need to be looking at why governments are spending so much money on military expenditure that is contributing to more violence in our society. That figure of 2,200 per person is the equivalent of 17.5 trillion and I just wanted to mention that 2,200 per person is what that cost of violence is equivalent to 2,200 per person spent on violence. 

Many of you might know that that is even more than the per capita income of people in developing countries. This is quite an important figure to be able to remember and what we could do if we just took 10% of that 17, 1% of that 17.5 trillion. If we could use that money instead of spending it on violence, think of what we could do to make the world a better place, and what we could do with spending that money on doing good things. So, positive peace is what IEP has been measuring on what we call the actual peace of the state of the world today. IEP calls that negative peace because it is looking at the broken bits in a society, the dysfunctional aspects, conflict, violence, and fear of violence are what we call the dysfunctional aspects of society. However, we found that it is not enough to understand peace if you only look at the broken bits of a society. 

In other words, it is like looking at the human body. Yes, medical science and doctors have been able to discover wonderful ways to deal with our illnesses and diseases but as you know, to look at health, to make a healthy body, you also have to look at what makes a body healthy. We also know that good exercise and a regular diet make our body healthy. This is what we call now a positive piece. We not only look at what is broken, we also have to look at what are the positive elements and IEP is researching what comes up to be the most common characteristics in peaceful countries and what makes peaceful countries peaceful. We came up with what we call the set of eight interrelated factors or pillars of positive peace. 

The Global Peace Index measures the absence of violence or the fear of violence but now we also need to look at what we call positive peace. Positive peace is defined as the attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. We should look at it as two sides of a coin. You need two sides to the coin and we need negative and positive peace to be able to address peace and to be able to contribute to building peace. These eight pillars, as you can see here, are well-functioning, government, equitable distribution of resources, free flow of information, good relations with neighbors, high level of human capital, acceptance of the rights of others, low level of corruption, and sound business environment. 

These eight are all interrelated, they do not work individually because they are all interrelated. Working together and putting the information together for these eight pillars contributes to creating a peaceful society and a peaceful community. We have been able to provide that evidence and data which is so important in being able to advance the sustainable development goals so that you can show how you can contribute to the sustainable development goals by using this positive peace framework, what we call a monitoring tool or an advocacy tool. 

What are the benefits? Why would we have this and why is it important to have a positive peace framework? Well, we found that through our research, the benefits of being able to use and contribute to positive peace lead to higher per capita income, stronger resilience within the communities, better environmental outcomes, higher measures of well-being, and better performance on the sustainable development goals. So, this positive framework can actually be a practical tool for you to use in your monitoring and advocacy for the Sustainable Development Goals. This is some of the information that you can find in our report, which I brought, just to show you, this is the Global Peace Index and this is the Positive Peace Report from which I have taken the information. 

The majority of the eight pillars are correlated to the 12 targets of SDG 16. They are very strongly aligned with the positive peace framework and the pillars. What we have been able to show is that you could also use the positive peace framework as a critique of the 17 goals to show whether the goals are performing or not performing. One of the things that we have been able to show is that the issue of corruption which you would think is a serious issue is only mentioned as one of the targets out of the 169 targets in the Sustainable Development Goal. For us, this is quite surprising when you know the seriousness of corruption and the importance of how corruption can drive conflict and all sorts of tensions and also contribute to the crisis and global crisis that we are facing today. 

Yet, it is only one target out of the 169 and it is in Goal 1, so this is why IEP is focusing also on the low levels of corruption as one of its key pillars. The data that you can use from our reports could contribute to how you could address this issue of corruption which is an underlying goal and target as part of the SDGs agenda. Another example is the increasing lack of media freedoms around the world, which we already discussed in detail yesterday and this is an important area. The lack of media freedoms is a concerning issue and it is one of the issues that are part of SDG 16. This is why at EIP, we measure the issues of the free flow of information and how we need to have a society where there is a free flow of information. 

The lack of media freedom that we have been facing presents a challenge for us to see how we can address that issue. Using the positive piece framework, we can provide evidence and data to support how we can address this issue of lack of media freedom. Many of you might know, that with digitalization, the rise of what we call now misinformation and disinformation. It is presenting a huge challenge for the world now in being able to have access to freedom of information. These are some of the organizations that IEP partners with to be able to work on how we can contribute to building peace in the communities. 

Goal 17, Global Partnerships, is the glue that links all the goals. This is why Goal 17 which I just like to stress for many of us, is the actual goal that we must all be able to contribute to because it is the glue that connects all of the goals. When we are talking about partnerships, we are talking about building collaborations and connecting with the count. There is a shared responsibility for us to be able to develop partnerships, collaborations, and particularly international solidarity on so many of the issues that we are dealing with from climate, and economic inequality, to the displacement of refugees, mass migration, or governance affairs including corruption. 

We need to work in partnership as diverse thinking leads to better solutions. We need to work together in a way that we can show leadership, we can work with advocacy and influence and also we connect with communities, people, and organizations to build cultures of learning. A crucial aspect of the SDGs, especially in the context of the International Day of Peace, is the strong link between advocating for sustainable development goals and the fundamental principles of human rights. 

The Sustainable Development Goals are really rooted in human rights principles, with the “leave no one behind” principle being particularly important. Therefore, I would like to end with a poem that is based on the principle of ‘leave no one behind’, this was written by an Aboriginal woman who is a writer and poet, Oodgeroo Noonuccal and she is from my country. 

“All One Race”

Black tribe, yellow tribe, red, white or brown,

From where the sun jumps up to where it goes down,

Herrs and pukka-sahibs, demoiselles and squaws,

All one family, so why make wars?

They’re not interested in brumby runs,

We don’t hanker after Midnight Suns;

I’m for all humankind, not colour gibes;

I’m international and never mind tribes.

Black, white or brown race, yellow race or red,

From the torrid equator to the ice-fields spread,

Monsieurs and senors, lubras and fraus,

All one family, so why family rows?

We’re not interested in their igloos,

They’re not mad about kangaroos;

I’m international, never mind place;

I’m for humanity, all one race.

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