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SDGs CONFERENCE 2022: PANEL SESSION 1 | Global State of Peace and Conflict Resolution

SDGs CONFERENCE 2022: In the Margins of the UNGA77
PANEL SESSION 1 Global State of Peace and Conflict Resolution

21 September 2022, Wednesday | John Jay College of Criminal Justice

SDGs Conference 2022: In the Margins of the UNGA77 was organized on 21 September 2022 at John Jay College in partnership with 36 Global Partners from 24 countries. This global platform convened 21 speakers from 15 countries, and hosted notable speakers including Ministers, UN Ambassadors, journalists, civil society leaders and academicians. 

As the SDGs Conference is back to hybrid mode, the Journalists and Writers Foundation welcomed delegations of participants from Australia, Greece, South Africa, India, Philippines, and Kenya to attend a series of side events in-person including the JWF High-Level Reception, Roundtable on Journalism and SDGs Conference. The conference live streamed was accessible both on Zoom and JWF`s YouTube channel, which received over 19,000 views from 76 countries. The diversity of the SDGs Conference`s audience and the regional representation of the panelists addressed one of the utmost important missions of this global event contributing to SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals. 

Throughout the day, in three panel sessions, high-level keynotes and expert speakers unfolded the contemporary challenges that the world leaders are also addressing at the United Nations Headquarters in New York and suggested innovative, inclusive and sustainable policy suggestions for the full, effective and timely implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Panel Session 1 focused on the “The Global State of Peace and Conflict Resolution” as the world is transitioning into a post-COVID19 era, new uprisings of crimes against humanity, the takeover of undemocratic regimes, and regional armed conflicts are occurring. Our global community is experiencing an increasing degree of militarization, while the state of peace and harmony continues to decrease due to the ongoing humanitarian crisis across the world. In response to the current global state of peace and conflict, progressive policy actions must be embraced with a dedicated political will to end devastating tensions and resolve persecutions of all forms. 

The cross-cutting relation between all the trends of sustainable development requires the existence of peace not only with the absence of armed conflicts. Positive Peace is associated with the institutions, structures, and social development trends in which all fundamental human rights are respected and promoted with a comprehensive approach regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and culture. To sustain this constructive social, political, and environmental momentum, and achieve sustainable peace, transformational civil society organizations continue to be important stakeholders. Due to their multidimensional structure, civil leaders, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions endorse advanced levels of conflict resolution strategies, facilitate constructive dialogues among the Member States as well as local and regional communities to uphold universal human rights and sustainable development. 

Mondli Makhanya, the Editor-In-Chief at City Press in South Africa, was the moderator of Panel Session 1 on “The Global State of Peace and Conflict Resolution”. He stated in his opening remarks that “Peace is not the absence of war. Peace is the presence of opportunity for people to flourish.” Mr. Makhanya cited a need to see peace more broadly and inclusively. “SDGs gave humanity an ability to measure progress to real peace,” he said. “Since the SDGs were signed by all the UN Member States, that was the beginning of progress. However, the timeline did not move that fast.” Mr. Makhanya stated, “Today we see ourselves going backward.” He continued to underline that the United Nations bodies have been calling our attention to resolve different forms of conflicts occurring throughout the world, as the state of peace is deteriorating. According to Mr. Makhanya, one of the things that took our global community back was the COVID-19 pandemic and another is the conflict in Ukraine. “These issues have diverted investment in human development,” he said and continued, “There is a chance now, in 2022, for us to recommit the next seven or eight years to progress”. 

Saša Jurečko, the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Slovenia to the UN was the Keynote Speaker of Panel 1. Her remarks highlighted the framework of Responsibility to Protect for sustainable peace and security. She stated that human rights must apply to everyone, everywhere in the same manner. Ms. Jurečko cited the need for “respect for international law, as it serves as a basis and guarantor of peace and security.” She reminded the Conference participants that “countries are expected to respect their obligations” in order to create peaceful and cohesive societies. 

Ovais Sultan Khan, an independent human rights activist from India, was the first panelist of Panel Session 1. Mr. Khan talked about the role of civil society organizations in establishing peace and security. He said in his remarks that there are many innovative ways to foster solutions. Mr. Khan said “Unfortunately, we see peace only in the context of conflict. Our responses, reflections and reactions to conflicts are mostly considered efforts for peace. As if peace is a non-entity without a conflict. Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is much deeper and beyond.” He later highlighted the transformative change that the non-governmental stakeholders embrace. 

“We will know that there are many ways to find solutions to all these complex questions and challenges of peace and security. And in this, civil society has many important roles to play. Among all these works, one has been pending for a long time, and it is needed the most today. That is the search for a vocabulary of sustainable peace. A vocabulary of diversity and plurality, inclusion and enabling,” he said, and Mr. Khan continued, “an upliftment of all humanity” is required to sustain global peace and security. 

Prof. Diana de la Rua Eugenio, the President of Answer for Peace, participated in the Conference online from Argentina. She elaborated on negotiation and mediation as a key components of conflict resolution. In her remarks, Prof. de la Rua Eugenio said that conflict resolution has allowed for the survival of social groups from ancient times. “Conflict is unavoidable; it is a part of our lives. The conflict is not the problem. The violence, which is an answer to the conflict, is the problem,” she said. Prof. de la Rua Eugenio emphasized that the conflict resolution agreements must be very clear and include specifics such as who, what, where, and when. “Conflict resolution is another skill we need to face in life,” she underlined. 

Prof. Henelito Sevilla, Jr., Ph.D. is a Professor and Dean of the Asian Center at the University of the Philippines Diliman. In his remarks as the third panelist, Prof. Sevilla focused on wars and conflicts as a threat to sustainable development. “For a fortunate few nations, we live in a world of peace. But many others are experiencing instability,” he said. “Diversity alone should not be the cost of conflict.” Prof. Sevilla stated that there is a clear connection between justices, resource allocation, gender, education, environmental protection, and sustainable development, hence the UN SDGs. In his remarks, he focused on two case studies: the Rohingyan Muslims in Rakhine, Myanmar and Muslims in Mindanao, in the southern Philippines.

The cases of Rohingya and Mindanao demonstrate the critical role of the international community in the preservation of peace and in the initiation of activities that will bring all stakeholders to various initiatives to achieve sustainable development in the affected communities. It shows that in cases where the government is unable to perform alone, other nations and countries and civil societies can come to help, to ensure that rights are protected, and basic services are delivered to the affected population.

Vonya Womack, the Executive Director of Refugees Unknown Stories Untold, spoke on the means to ensure justice and accountability for global peace and security. Transitional justice plays a preventative role, she said, and is a key component of conflict resolution. One way to combat human rights violations is to respond with transitional justice by promoting reconciliation and democracy. Transitional justice is adapted to societies that are transforming themselves. In some cases, these transformations happen suddenly and other times they can take longer. 

Ms. Womack said that restorative justice can become institutionalized and transformative justice occurs externally. She emphasized that “this is not to say other types of justice are bad.” Instead, they hold different perspectives. She mentions the description that Anthony Nocella II, Ph.D. makes to highlight the differences in justice: restorative justice implies that the system is flawed. Transformative justice looks for the good. She encouraged goal setting and taking action. She concluded her remarks with the statement, “Absence of war does not mean we are in peace.”