Doubling Peace Requires Doubling Down on Knowledge and Practice

Doubling Peace Requires Doubling Down on Knowledge and Practice

By Rachel Locke

At Geneva Peace Week, the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies made a call for a vision of halving violence by 2030. The call requires more robust partnerships, a deepening of knowledge, and greater commitment to action. 

On November 7, as part of the Peace Week, the Pathfinders hosted Twice the Peace by 2030: Linking Knowledge to Practice, a panel discussion organized together with the International Peace Institute. The event, which took place at Geneva’s Palais de Nations, showcased emerging data and evidence about “what works” to promote peace, with a focus on Latin America.

The conversation

SDG16.1 promises to “significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere.”

For the first time, a quantified target for violence prevention has been placed at the heart of the global development agenda. Unfortunately, the world is not on target to achieve this goal. With business-as-usual trends, deaths from violence will increase by 10 percent by 2030 and could grow by 46 percent under a more negative scenario.

Latin America is home to 16 of the 20 countries with the highest homicide rates in the world, and 19 of the 20 highest rates at city level, according to Katherine Aguirre Tobón, Senior Researcher at the Igarapé Institute.

Tobón presented examples of violence reduction efforts, including a range of tested strategies around police reform, investing in education, and focusing on “hot spots” and “hot people”.

She cautioned against the increasing popularity of heavy-handed approaches. These efforts, which have included military policing, extra-judicial action and “sweeping” arrests, have no evidence of effectiveness and raise significant human rights concerns.

Luis Valles, State Director of the Trust for Competitiveness in Citizen Security (FICOSEC), discussed how government action alone is insufficient for halving violence.

In 2010, the city of Ciudad Juarez recorded the highest homicide rate in the world. Violence had permeated the whole society, threatening the lives and safety of workers and business leaders alike while also lowering profits and harming the economy. In response, business leaders established FICOSEC and created a corporate tax that would be invested in programs directed at reducing violence.

Valles’ presentation was a reminder of the power of the private sector, particularly in contexts where government action is either insufficient or made ineffective by corruption. 

FICOSEC is also a direct example of the links between SDG16 and other targets (SDG16+) that relate to action being taken as a result of a lack of safe public and work spaces (SDG11), corruption and bribery (SDG16.5), and economic growth (SDG8).

Sara Sekkenes, Conflict Prevention Adviser at UNDP in Geneva, reinforced the relationship between the two presentations and governance, and emphasized the need to broaden the way we think about governance beyond the national level.

She stressed the value of integrating knowledge, such as that generated by FICOSEC and the Igarapé Institute, with processes such as the Praia City Group on Governance Statistics, which is working to help governments produce accurate statistical measures.

Concluding the event, Rachel Locke, Lead Researcher on SDG16.1 for the Pathfinders, observed that these lessons from Latin America are also highly relevant to other regional contexts.

In Africa, rapid rates of urbanization are upending the social structures that have historically governed interactions and a sense of belonging. New groups are forming in contexts that, like Latin America, demonstrate high rates of inequality and histories of violent contestations with the state.

Locke also noted that violence – in whatever manifestation – tends to be directed at the most marginalized, whether by society as a whole, in communities or in the home. Violence prevention will require a mix of institutional strengthening and reinforcing social, economic, and political inclusion.


Civic and private sector leaders can benefit enormously from drawing on the lessons from successful existing strategies around violence prevention and reduction.

Geneva Peace Week marked an important step forward in that process, one that the Pathfinders will build on as we move towards the High-level Political Forum in July 2019, which will review progress on SDG16, and the Heads of State SDGs Summit in September 2019.

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Nov 26, 2018