Two experts aim to make policymakers want greater social change

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Wed Feb 17 2021

Author: Guest contributor

In honor of the World Day of Social Justice (February 20), we are excited to launch our new SDG 16 hub, dedicated to peace, justice, and strong institutions. As part of the launch, we spoke with Springer Nature experts about their work related to SDG16, as well as their experience working to make societal impact in this SDG area beyond their scholarly circles.

In this interview we hear from, Helmut Kury and Slawomir Redo, Co-Editors of Crime Prevention and Justice in 2030.

How have you and/or do you work directly to address SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions? 

In the 75-year existence of the United Nations there had been numerous global challenges. Our book addresses the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice aspects of these challenges spanning from 1945 until 2030, taking on board a cross-cutting Sustainable Development Goal 16 of the United Nations 2030 Agenda which recommends reforming the world for “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”. The evident retreat of the Rule of Law combined with the global COVID-19 pandemic has put this recommendation to the unprecedented test. This book addresses both developments in the ground-breaking context of artificial intelligence and traditional philosophies of law; of quality education for crime prevention and justice in which faith contributes to responding to new United Nations realities where larger freedom is at stake. SDG 16 is not a numb concept. 

What do you think is the most relevant way to measure success against this goal in your field?

The 2030 UN Sustainable Development Agenda is a break-through paradigm that requires a very pragmatic transformative response in which academic research findings should be applied to advance in practical social justice – one of the UN ideals.

What do you think is the most productive way that researchers can engage policy makers? What has your experience been with policy engagement?

Politicians are interested in being (re-)elected. It is essential to inform the public so they are engaged in the most relevant activities and then politicians may follow suit. Publishing research results is very important, so the books have a high action-oriented aim.

In addition to routine avenues to provide and arrange for utilizing  academic inputs in UN parliamentary and field work, the UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme offers a unique opportunity to contribute expert knowledge into the mainstream of Member States’ counter crime work by inviting academics and other researchers to contribute their findings to the periodical UN Congresses on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, including the forthcoming 14th Congress (Kyoto, Japan, 7-12 March 2021), which will address and, hopefully, assess the implementation of SDG 16.

What does public engagement look like in your field and how important do you think it is for researchers to make a societal impact with their work?

The problem in topics of crime and the background is that the public is not properly informed. Newspapers very often do not report about the background of a crime.  In our two previous titles published by Springer, we emphasized that mass media driven by bad news is not the news the world needs. Mass media does not show the world as it is. Criminologists and victimologists – academics, researchers and other experts usually in the back rows of policy-making – should report to the public more intensively and understandably. However, they are often more interested in getting published in professional journals and these journals are not read by the public.

Researchers should share their own news in more widely understandable books and other texts that make it to the public and decision-makers. Our book seeks to do so. We feel that the major challenge before UN Member States is to "make them want to want” social progress. Social progress is not cast in stone, but in the international crime prevention and criminal justice field pursuits there are still not enough constructive, forward-looking engagements into our common future. Poverty of thought – no genuine interest and innovativeness for improving the quality of life of broad social strata and motivating them to own their destiny with their own positive social energies – invites ignorance and complacency with those “who know better”. Extreme poverty aside (with which the UN Member States deal quite well), it is the poverty of thought which is the mother of failures and a cradle of populism, so dramatically manifested through in the 20th century outbreaks of global wars. Quality education (SDG 4.7), including critical thinking countering toxic ideologies and public engagement are elementary conditions to advance sustainable development and the Rule of Law as indivisible features of social progress. Again, it is not cast in stone, but there is no better avenue to meet the global challenges of this unprecedented magnitude.

What are the short- and long-term goals of your work? 

We are first interested in having valid information from good research, on an international basis. We think one of the most privileged topics of our books is that we present data from all over the world. We want to sensitize scientists but also the public about the topic of crime, what is the background, what can we do to reduce the problem.  To inspire the readers to take their local and global destiny into their own hands and to continue to build solidarity amid climate change, toxic ideologies, the retreat of the Rule of Law and the persisting excessive economic inequality.

What progress would you like to see next towards addressing SDG 16?
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Beyond this book and past 2030: promoting effective counter crime technical assistance to meet the SDG 16 targets and their successors that should be pursued according to “proportional equality” (Aristotle/Confucius/Rawls/Sen) involving inequitable mutual benefits insofar both work to grass roots level advantage of donor and recipient countries, whether as entities or their underprivileged locals, including victims of crime and offenders or corruptible officials and their clients. In the UNSDG community of researchers and other actors there are calls to pursue Palma ratio in measuring the implementation of SDG 10 “Reduce inequality within and among countries”. Would it not also make sense that the UN considers assessing SDG16’s social justice progress aiming at peace, justice and strong institutions, by focusing on the principle of solidarity (like Rawls’s “difference principle”), which – by the way – a long time ago has originated in the minds of progressive technical assistance practitioners (e.g. Canadian Mitchell Sharp, 1961) in very adverse international circumstances? After all, this principle of solidarity eventually emerged in the UN 2000 Millennium Development Goals Declaration (“Those who suffer or who benefit least deserve help from those who benefit most”)… Not only in typical offenders/victims terms this includes pursuing commensurate measures in Restorative Justice terms with its UN Golden Rule “Do Unto Other as You Would Have Them Do to You” (“win-win”), but also in terms of “triple wins”, i.e.  Climate Justice – restoration of human environment by focusing more on climatological factors and challenges relevant to the Rule of Law crime prevention cooperation across the world for Mother Earth.

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Left: Helmut Kury

Below: Slawomir Redo

Redo headshot


Author: Guest contributor

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