Civil society needs SDG 16 and SDG 16 needs civil society. Key aspects of SDG 16 such as access to justice and information, fundamental freedoms and accountable institutions are critical for civil society to operate freely and for people to participate in public affairs and express themselves on issues that affect them.
In turn, one can argue that targets on peaceful, just and inclusive societies (or any other SDG target for that matter) will only be implemented and monitored effectively if civil society is engaged. This is because people themselves are often best placed to identify what they need for a dignified life and to check which policies work and which do not. Civil society also has the ability to influence local and national governments to work towards progress on SDG 16.
There are different ways for civil society to engage in advancing SDG 16 in their countries. For instance, when governments are taking stock of where they are on SDG 16, civil society actors can reach out to key government entities such as the Ministry of the Interior or Justice or the National Statistical Office to propose which national targets and indicators for SDG 16 should be set, or offer data to establish a national baseline.
Civil society can also provide input and feedback when a government prepares a Voluntary National Review (VNR) at the global High-Level Political Forum. Some civil society networks have taken to writing alternative reports on SDG progress in their countries. This engagement ensures that VNRs provide independent and accurate assessments of progress within states, and provides a mechanism for government accountability. These processes also ensure that reporting and monitoring processes do not occur from the top down but engage all segments of society.