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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

SDG16 plus, and the Future We Want: Commitments

16 July 2019

Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

16 July 2019

Distinguished panellists,
My dear Mary,
Colleagues and friends,

The 2030 Agenda is a once in a lifetime opportunity to advance human dignity and rights across the world. I am pleased that this event highlights the importance of SDG16 plus – a concept that captures the interlinkages between SDG16 and all other SDGs, the role of SDG16 in enabling the entire 2030 Agenda and the key importance of partnerships for the achievement of the goals. This is integral to the acceleration of our progress in the second cycle of the SDGs and to leaving no one behind.

Let me give you two examples of people who have previously been unseen or neglected and how a human rights approach made them visible.

In Sierra Leone, the justice authorities are piloting an innovative digital case management application which ensures that women and children, victims of sexual and gender violence, in remote areas, can access justice. Information processed through “Justice App5” is being used to strengthen evidence for effective prosecution and when referring survivors to other social services.

In Kenya, the National Human Rights Institution and the National Statistical Office worked together and our office supported the efforts to identify groups at risk of being left behind and included persons of albinism for the first time in the upcoming 2019 census. Because of this, persons with albinism will be able to access life-saving medical treatment and having this data will allow the government to create better policy protecting them. In the same census, members of indigenous groups will be counted in a way that complies with human rights standards.

The construction of peaceful and just societies, with effective, accountable and inclusive institutions, ensures human rights. It drives development that is sustainable because it is deep, broad, and self-regenerating. It is also key to ensuring relationships and partnerships – not only within countries, but also between countries.

I’d like to pull two numbers from a recent report by the Task Force on Justice, as they speak to the scale and the complexity of the issues we are dealing with.

First, an estimated quarter of a billion people are living in extreme conditions of injustice, deprived of any meaningful protection of the law. This includes the stateless, people living in conflict zones, modern day slaves.

Second, the report estimates that 4.5 billion people – 60 percent of the people on this planet – are excluded from social, economic, and political protections and opportunities which the law should provide. They may lack land tenure, residency papers, housing documentation or may be employed without contracts in the informal sector.

As a result, they are deprived of adequate access to healthcare, education, bank loans and specific types of jobs, and may have limited access to institutions, which should represent, express, protect and enforce rights – such as political processes, the courts and the police. The most vulnerable are the most likely to fall into the trap of disempowerment.


Development is a comprehensive and complex economic, social and political process. And this process is about human rights: about the right to development; about economic, social and cultural rights; and also about the civil and political rights which uphold people’s capacity and right to raise their voices, and participate in decisions.

The multiple and overlapping structural impediments that prevent justice from being done, express the relevance of indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights. As the 2030 Agenda recognizes, freedom from fear and freedom from want cannot be achieved in isolation from each other.

This is why the concept of SDG16 plus is so persuasive. Because the multifaceted disempowerment of those who are left behind will not be adequately addressed if we adopt fragmented approaches, designed in silos and applied as band-aids.

We need integrated approaches, grounded in broad participation, which build on the mutually reinforcing work of many communities. And it is this integrated, indivisible approach to promoting and protecting all rights which drives the work done by my Office around the world – in close partnership with States, stakeholders and civil society groups of all kinds.

I want to emphasize the need for partnership. Progress towards the SDGs is lagging. The Secretary-General has called for a turbocharge in efforts towards the 2030 Agenda. And we have the key that can unlock that acceleration. Multi-stakeholders networks, such as the Global Alliance, the SDG 16 plus, and Pathfinders, that address the SDG 16 issues are examples of broad-based partnerships, which can garner the momentum to accelerate progress on the Agenda 2030. Their work and reports are important to the global policy discussions. 

The work being done by States and all other partners to achieve each of the SDGs needs to be stronger, smarter and more far-reaching. It must include justice, equality, inclusion, and empowerment – or, in other words, human rights.

Thank you.