16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

How business leadership can advance Goal 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Progress in promoting peace and justice - together with fostering effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions - is a decisive challenge across the globe. Violence cost 12.6 percent of world GDP in 2016. While homicides have declined and more citizens around the world have better access to justice, violent conflicts have increased in recent years. A few high-intensity armed conflicts are causing a large number of displaced persons and threatening rule of law. In 2016 IMF estimated the annual cost of bribery alone at about $1.5 to $2 trillion. Bribery and corruption impede business growth, raise transaction costs, and create an unlevel playing field. This ultimately creates social instability, fuels mistrust in public officials and institutions, and undermines the rule of law. Indeed, an estimated 4 billion people world-wide continue to live outside the protection of the law. There is also still a gulf between quality of governance globally, including government effectiveness, regulatory quality, and, pertinent to the private sector in particular, control of corruption. Corruption and bribery scandals can cause major societal instabilities.

Businesses have a vitally important role to play in respecting and supporting peace, justice, and strong institutions, both globally and in the countries in which they operate. Now more than ever, a growing number of business leaders are recognizing they have a crucial role to play in advancing anti-bribery and corruption, peace and rule of law efforts, as a complement to, not substitute for, government action. In a society that is based on the rule of law, all actors - including Governments, businesses, and individuals - are accountable to clear, fair, and predictable laws, regulations and impartial institutions. As such, businesses should respect the rule of law, and, wherever possible, work with all relevant stakeholders including Governments, civil society, and non-governmental organizations to strengthen institutions and the rule of law, working as a complement to Governments. Businesses can also strive to achieve zero violence, abuse, exploitation, and corruption across their own operations and supply chain while businesses operating in areas of conflict should regularly consult with international bodies and, where possible, relevant Governments and embassies to ensure that their activities contribute to advancing peace, justice, and strong institutions. At the same time, businesses should respect the lines of separation that are critical for well-functioning Governments taking care that their involvement in Goal 16 does not cross into domains that are exclusively the remit of government.

Business leadership on Goal 16 is about respecting and supporting Governments in efforts to advance peace, justice, and the proper functioning of effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions. Leading businesses will critically examine the direct and indirect consequences of their end-to-end operations to ensure that they are respecting and supporting the rule of law, including strengthening efforts to combat corruption, protect human rights, and reduce violent conflict. To this end business can implement such measures that ensure robust supply chain management and transparency of financial flows. Businesses can also be leaders through support of accountable and inclusive institutions and peace-building efforts by building organizational capacity in the public sector and the provision of technologies, skills, and logistical solutions in areas of conflict and humanitarian crises.

There is a strong interdependence between business success and the sustainability of the societies in which they operate. An operating environment which is governed by the rule of law provides the basis for commercial certainty and long-term investment, growth, and sustainable development for all. Women and minority-owned businesses may face particular obstacles from laws that are inconsistent with universal norms and standards.

Do your actions satisfy the Leadership Qualities?

Guiding Questions to apply to the Leadership Qualities to your business






  • Is your company committed to supporting the achievement of Goal 16? Have you developed a holistic strategy that reflects this commitment, covering end-to-end operation and the wider community?
  • Are you committed to learn from your actions and do you have processes in place to improve them accordingly?
  • Is your strategy supported by the highest levels of management, including the Board of Directors?

Key Considerations

Intentionality and successful implementation of action on Goal 16 is crucial, as a lack of commitment can delay and hamper other action and lead to serious infringement of human rights.

  • Do your actions achieve long-term outcomes that greatly exceed those resulting from current industry practice?
  • Are your actions aligned with what is needed to achieve Goal 16?

Key Considerations

Leadership on Goal 16 requires far-reaching, innovative solutions and committed action that goes beyond changes in the context of own operations. It can inspire peers and other actors to take similar leading action.

  • Is support for Goal 16 embedded across all organizational functions?
  • Are staff and board incentives aligned with achieving Goal 16?

Key Considerations

Goal 16, particularly where it relates to just behavior in workplaces, requires action to be consistently applied across all organizational functions and incentives to be aligned to create a supportive corporate culture.

  • Do you proactively look for opportunities to partner with Governments, UN agencies, suppliers, civil society organizations, industry peers and other stakeholders to inform how to advance Goal 16?

Key Considerations

All action on Goal 16 must be collaborative, as outcomes will, with few exceptions, depend significantly on efforts from other stakeholders. This, critically, includes Governments, alongside other stakeholders.

  • Do you publicly express your commitment to advance Goal 16?
  • Do you identify, monitor, and report on impacts, including potentially adverse impacts?
  • Do you mitigate risks associated with your action?
  • Do you remediate negative impacts associated with this action?
  • Do you engage stakeholders in a meaningful way?

Key Considerations

Accountable action does not cross into domains that are exclusively the remit of government, and meaningfully engages all affected stakeholders to understand areas of need and enable management of the risks of negative impacts, particularly for human rights.

Business Actions


Take action against corruption


Strengthen institutions for rule of law


Work with governments for peace

How taking action on Goal 16 is interconnected with other Goals

The Global Goals are inherently interconnected. Action taken toward one Goal can support or hinder the achievement of others. Identifying and addressing these interconnections will help business to build holistic and systemic solutions that amplify progress and minimize negative impacts. To help build a greater understanding, we have illustrated some of the ways in which the Goals connect. These are not exhaustive, and we encourage business to consider how they apply in their own operations.

Maximise likelihood of positive impact on:

Action on Goal 16 can positively contribute to all Goals. Salient positive impacts include those that are related to reducing inequalities (Goals 5 and 10) by building inclusive institutions, fostering partnerships (Goal 17) by encouraging collaboration on respecting and supporting the rule of law and, reducing poverty and creating economic growth (Goals 1 and 8) by creating a stable and predictable business environment.

Minimise risk of negative impact on:

Businesses should take care to ensure that their actions on Goal 16 do not cross into domains that are exclusively the remit of government. They should maintain the lines of separation between the private and public sector that are essential for retaining well-functioning democracies and effective partnerships (Goal 17).

Goal 16 Targets

Targets of Goal 16

  1. Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere
  2. End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all form of violence against and torture of children
  3. Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all
  4. Reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms or organised crime 16.6 Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
  5. Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
  6. Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
  7. Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
  8. Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
  9. A. Strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels
  10. B. Promote and enforce nondiscriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development