Agenda 2030 Graduate School blog

Lund University Agenda 2030 Graduate School is a global, cutting-edge research school and collaboration platform for issues related to societal challenges, sustainability and the 2030 Agenda. The 17 PhD students from all faculties at Lund University enrolled with the Agenda 2030 Graduate School relate their specific research topics to the Sustainable Development Goals. In this blog the PhD students of the Graduate School discuss topical research and societal issues related to the 2030 Agenda.

Accountability with a Focus on Migrants and Sexual Violence

Two wooden toys shaped like humans fighting. Photo.
Photo by Charl Folscher on Unsplash.

Posted on 2 December 2020 by Tanya Andersson Nystedt (Department of Clinical Sciences).

The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Agenda 2030 Graduate School or Lund University. The present document is being issued without formal editing.

Accountability is not straightforward in the 2030 Agenda in general and this is true particularly for issues of health, migration, and gender equality. There are nationally determined priorities, goals and targets as well as voluntary country-level reporting on the same achievements. There is no organization responsible for ensuring that the goals and targets that states set up meet some form of minimum criteria or contribute sufficiently to the achievement of the global goals and targets in line with national capacity and responsibility, nor any mechanism by which accountability can be demanded or enforced.

In the context of my research, accountability is particularly problematic. In terms of sexual violence, perpetrators can only be held accountable or brought to justice if perpetrated in the country of destination, though the number of cases of sexual violence that are reported and prosecuted are very low and the ones that are successfully so are even lower. This is true even amongst the general population but even more so among migrant groups that may suffer additional barriers such as cultural taboos around sexual violence, gender norms, language issues, lack of trust in authorities, and discrimination.

Experiences of sexual violence that take place in countries of origin or along migratory routes cannot be brought to justice; perpetrators cannot be held accountable. In addition, despite that safe and orderly migration is included in the SDGs, there is no nation, state or organisation that is responsible for ensuring the same (i.e. accountable for it). In fact, the reality and the goals are growing further and further apart – the EU still purports to stand up for the right to asylum, for example, which can only be claimed once a migrant has arrived in country, while actively trying to block all migrants from reaching EU borders. This includes agreements with countries just outside of Europe including Turkey, Libya and Morocco amongst others – which are now funded by the EU to keep migrants out. This increases the vulnerability of migrants to smugglers, and other human rights abuses, including sexual violence. This recent ‘closed border’ phenomenon is by no means a European issue and is increasingly taking place all over the world.

In terms of gender equality, the focus on women and girls is important and there is a target for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls. However, there is increasing evidence that migrant men and boys are also at particular risk of sexual violence as compared to general populations, and this remains invisible in the 2030 Agenda and which makes accountability for change even less likely. 

In all, it is my perspective that the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda remain mostly aspirational with limited accountability mechanisms.

December 2, 2020

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