The session started off with the host, Treasure Okure, enlisting guest speaker Nicholas Garvenchy to provide a brief introduction to SDG 16. Nicholas replied that SDG 16 sought to promote a peaceful inclusive society for all, justice regardless of age, gender and race, and strong, accountable institutions. When asked how the need for SDG 16 had been apparent in his life, Nicholas talked about living in the US during these times, with the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, a lack of trust between the government and the people, among other issues. From a Nigerian perspective, Treasure mentioned the Boko Haram insurgency, the despised judiciary, and a corruption riddled system. She told the rather ironic story of the acting EFCC chairman’s arrest for the diversion of funds.
Moving on, they discussed the interrelationship between SDG 16 and other SDGs. Nicholas linked SDG 17 on Global Partnership to leaders working hand in hand to create stronger institutions, and SDG 4 on Quality Education, with developing countries and how the lack of access to education had left them incapable of eradicating institutional corruption and societal vices. Treasure mentioned Female Genital Mutilation, a gender-specific violence that cuts across SDG 16, SDG 5 on Gender Equality and SDG 3, on Good health and Wellbeing.
On the role of peace and justice in global advancement, Nicholas said they were foundational to the cause, and revealed the keywords for strong institutions as transparency and accountability. To build stronger institutions in developing countries, Nicholas felt education was the answer. He voiced his concerns on the failure of the school system to incorporate SDGs in the curriculum. “The older generation has been leading us in the wrong direction so the upcoming one needs to be educated with all the necessary tools for empowerment,” he said.
When asked about the role of the Government, Nicholas replied that their duties are to keep peace, promote unity, listen to constituents and create systematic change. “The Government needs to listen to the people on issues that matter to them. If they can’t, they should hire independent resources like social workers, counselors and psychologists that would understand and fulfill such needs.” Thereafter, Treasure inquired on what could be done from an individual level to promote SDG 16. In her words, “since we can only direct the government on what to do, and their action is not guaranteed, what can we do as members of the society?” In response, Nicholas emphasized the importance of voting in the right people, and having difficult but necessary conversations with different groups.
A viewer then asked: how can the youths remain motivated to pursue the best results in a society that appears to be against us? To this, Nicholas gave a brutally honest remark: “Nobody is coming to save us,” he said. “We won’t have another Malcolm X or MLK. We should read about these people and implement what we learn from them in our lives.” He lamented on how easily people give up when seeking change, and emphasized on the need to be relentless in our pursuit of peace, justice and strong institutions. Treasure agreed, and advised patience and consistency in the fight for a brighter future.
Hereinafter, Treasure raised the issue of economic gaps in Africa and how different realities have contributed to the lack of cooperation in our communities. She used the coronavirus pandemic as an example, on how a group of people could afford to stay home and observe lockdown measures while another group had to risk going out to work because they knew dying of hunger was a worse alternative to contacting the virus. In response, Nicholas urged the audience to be more charitable. “More than just donating, we should use our resources to empower the less fortunate, for empathy is key.”
Finally, Treasure was curious as to Nicholas’s opinion on why justice is often not implemented even when existing systems are in place. Nicholas summarised the crux of the issue as “no integrity.” He talked about how people get into positions of power for selfish reasons and fail to realise that they are meant to serve. He used the police institution as an example, and emphasized the importance of pumping the systems in place with good people, as very few good people within a system would be ineffective and are likely to get corrupted due to their inability to access power and resources.
The session ended on a good note, with an exchange of pleasantries between both speakers and the viewers.