A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 16

A Brief Look at the SDGs and the Circular Economy (in India): Goal 16

Sixteenth in Bare Necessities- Zero Waste India’s series on SDGs in relation to zero waste, circular economy methodology and sustainability is Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions.


Goal 16, unlike many of the other goals discussed throughout this series thus far is one that does not fit within a neat environmental spectrum where a discussion on waste is easily approached. When the goal was introduced “Goal 16 was seen as truly transformative, formally linking, for the first time at the United Nations, development, peace, justice and good governance” (source). Notably, there were disagreements about the inclusion of this goal by some countries while others suggested that having such a framework was vital to them achieving the other goals (source). However, what has been found to date is that there has been a lack of progress globally based on insufficient data, particularly in locations that are prone to war and violence (source). This though is not exclusive there have been factors preventing progress for this goal in a wide variety of nations from places such as Canada to locations in Asia and on the African continent, which has been caused due to failures in supporting these aims at multiple levels of governance and thereby society (source).


Focusing solely on data collection as a key point from the opening paragraph one can draw parallels with the need for accurate data collection in a circular economy. If for example, we were to look at many countries within Asia starting with China but more recently Malaysia and Indonesia who have banned the importation of waste to their shores from other countries (source) as one section of a system. If this situation becomes an area that destabilises the goals of the UN’s aims for Goal 16, the “promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels” (source), then using the guidelines and frameworks of it and the methodology behind the circular economy can be a way to stabilise the situation. By this suggestion, if governments who are attempting to export these goods to the aforementioned countries in this example, choose to instead value them as an integral part of the system universal equality between institutions and governments has the opportunity to blossom together, which could create solutions to this situation.


As noted at the outset there is less environmental areas of focus within this goal however the value in it is that it promotes a collection of data and respect to all stakeholders. Without that respect and ability to value every part of a circular system that, for example, focuses on waste management a zero-waste world cannot be achieved. Looking at India for a moment if the focus of institutions turns away from the growing waste crisis within its states to a polarising situation in the north-west region (source), or any other for that matter, then dealing with an ineffective waste system that is damaging the environment and people’s livelihoods, will take second place in the focus of governments and institutions. Yet, if things stabilise, then all areas of society are in a position to be valued no matter where people are from, or what crops are grown or any other factors, especially if stakeholders listen and learn off one another. If this positive situation did develop then areas such as waste management can be tackled with a concerted effort that values and understands the data being recorded because it values all actors within the system, no matter whether they are a small part or a large part in the overall functionality. 


An effective circular economy values all parts of a system. For instance, if stakeholders in each part of the system undervalue or deem other people or areas as invaluable then the aims of goal 16 are a long way from being achieved, yet if partnerships, cooperation and the promotion of learning off one another is endorsed then globally we are one step closer to this grand and ambitious achievement.