- Devon McGinley
UN Sustainable Development Goals: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
UN SDG #16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) are a series of 17 targets involving human rights issues set to be reached by 2030. The sixteenth goal is titled Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions and highlights the need to address violence, instability, unsafe living environments, and reform institutions plagued by corruption.
SDG #16 and Water
Water is intrinsically tied to all facets of the sixteenth SDG. Low-income communities across the world suffer from polluted Water sources, exploitation of Water reservoirs, and conflicts over the growing scarcity of drinking Water. Peace, justice, and strong institutions are all threatened by the worldwide Water crisis; Water represents power, freedom, and health. Recently, the Ukraine-Russian war has documented numerous Russian-led attacks on Water sources with the most recent assault being the destruction of a Ukrainian dam (Pacific Institute 2022). In war-stricken areas, lack of clean Water access is the greatest threat to safety, especially for children. Due to sanitation concerns, UNICEF called for a ceasefire to protect Water and to ensure children are safeguarded from the devastation of war (United Nations 2021).
Water has always been a symbol of power and a clear marker of injustice. Crisis after crisis has left marginalized groups without usable Water. Climate change coupled with corrupt institutions leaves vulnerable populations at risk of virtually zero Water access. Flint, Michigan was undoubtedly one of the most prominent red flags that the U.S. is crippled with inequality. The lead poisoning of drinking Water in the town where the majority of residents are POC, in addition to the government’s neglect to return safe Water to the area for years, lead to thousands of people falling ill (Britannica 2021). Outside of the country, U.S. corporations are allowed to exploit vulnerable communities without any repercussions. In Mexico, the Coca-Cola Company bought a local Water reservoir and drove the price of aWater to the point that buying the company’s soda is more affordable than clean Water (COHA 2019). Health complications as an effect of the company’s exploitation of freshwater continue to plague the community with high diabetes rates, dehydration risks, and other diseases.
In west Texas, an ongoing drought teeters on catastrophe. With unprecedented summer heat looming, wildfires could spread fast and wipe out vital ecosystems, homes, and food crops. Additionally, increased bacterial blooms in Water aquifers due to heat waves and poisoning of fragile Water systems bring instability, conflict, and unethical Water privatization (Puig-Williams 2022). The issue is only growing exponentially larger as nearly half of the U.S. is considered a wildfire risk zone. Private companies try to profit from wildfires by buying precious aquifers and controlling the Water supply leaving the vulnerable even more at risk.
Water& is a force to propel communities and lawmakers alike to advocate and support SDG 16. We will help to bring awareness to the direct ties Water has with peace, justice, and strong institutions and ensure progress is made. Our organization must amplify the voices of the Water justice movement and assist with cleaning, protecting, and maintaining local, national, and international Water systems. We also aim to catalyze legislation that protects the vulnerable and fights Water privatization. At Water&, we believe that Water is a human right and not a tool to utilize as power; it is our responsibility to help confront Water injustice and educate people about Water equity.
Britannica, inc. (2021). Flint water crisis. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/event/Flint-water-crisis
COHA. (2019, November 21). Coca-Cola's corporate greed is leaving Mexicans thirsty. COHA. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.coha.org/coca-colas-corporate-greed-is-leaving-mexicans-thirsty/
Pacific Institute (2022) Water Conflict Chronology. Pacific Institute, Oakland, CA. https://www.worldwater.org/water-conflict/. Accessed: 06/01/2022.
Puig-Williams, V. (2022, January 7). 2021 began with a Texas-sized water crisis. in 2022, Texas needs solutions.: Growing returns. Growing Returns | Building resilient land and water systems that allow people and nature to prosper in a changing climate. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://blogs.edf.org/growingreturns/2022/01/06/texas-sized-water-crisis-needs-solutions/
United Nations. (2021, May 24). Lack of clean water far deadlier than violence in war-torn countries, says UNICEF report | | UN news. United Nations. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/05/1092652