HLPF: Covid19 and SDG 16

Opening statement by Permanent Representative Mona Juul at the HLPF side-event 'As governance crises worsen COVID-19 impact, is SDG 16 the key for recovery?', 6 July 2021. The event was co-hosted by Norway, East Timor, Costa Rica and Germany, in cooperation with UNDP Oslo Governance Centre and Southern Voice.

I am pleased to co-host this side-event, to address key questions about systemic issues of great importance in our national and international efforts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Let me express my gratitude to Timor Leste, Costa Rica,  Germany, Southern Voice, and the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre for the initiative, and for organising the event.

All 17 SDGs are important, indispensable, and interdependent. Yet, SDG 16 is by many considered to be “the enabling goal”. It encompasses the policies, institutions, and processes that are conducive to broader goal achievement. It also focuses on several harmful activities to be prevented and combated. 

 SDG 16 calls for:

  • the rule of law;
  • strong, effective, accountable, and transparent institutions;
  • responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making;
  • public access to information;
  • the protection of fundamental freedoms;
  • and non-discriminatory laws and policies.

SDG 16 also calls for an end to abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture. Along with significant reductions in illicit financial and arms flows, organised crime, corruption, and bribery.

Despite democracy’s spectacular growth over the last half century, we have also witnessed the growth of serious challenges to the integrity and sustainability of democratic rule - in particular over the last decade.

We have seen some leaders use the tools of democracy to dismantle it from within by:
harassing journalists, shrinking the space for civil society, weakening parliaments, interfering with judicial independence, and challenging human rights.

According to the research institute ‘Varieties of Democracy’ (or V-Dem), as many as 68 percent of the world’s population lived in autocracies at the end of 2020 – this is compared to 48 percent in 2010.

This negative trend has not been caused by the pandemic alone, but, we have seen examples of it being used as a pretext to increase government control at the expense of the rule of law, separation of powers, and human rights.

This is the very opposite of what we need for peaceful societies, and ultimately to ensure sustainable development.


During and after the pandemic, many countries face increasing developmental and economic challenges. While the main responsibility to mobilise financial resources rests with national authorities; multilateral cooperation is necessary to improve the overall international financial system, and foster a culture of: accountability, transparency, integrity, and fairness in the public and private sectors.

Effective anti-corruption reduces poverty and inequality, provides an attractive environment for investments, strengthens democracy, and helps stabilise societies.

National action together with multilateral cooperation can contribute to substantial resource mobilisation for sustainable development. This is a very attractive option!

Many developing countries cite the need for stronger organisational capability in the public sector to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, respond appropriately to the pandemic, and recover from it.

To this end, Norway is ready to share knowledge and experience, as requested, as a supplement to technical assistance provided by multilateral organisations.

Norwegian public institutions are already engaged in competence and capacity building through long term partnerships with ‘sister’ organisations in partner countries, in areas such as natural resource management, tax administration, gender equality, energy, and ocean management. This form of partnerships is coordinated by what we call “the Knowledge Bank”.

 For example, from 2003 to 2013 Norway supported East Timor in establishing a governance system for the petroleum sector, through a close partnership between public sector institutions in our two countries. This cooperation produced excellent results, among them Timor-Leste’s sovereign wealth fund.


In closing, I strongly believe that integrity governance provides a conducive framework for all other sustainable development goals. More research on such linkages is therefore most welcome. And I look forward to the discussions today on this vital topic.