Welcome to the Capstone Seminar on Inclusive Sustainable Development, where we highlight the Global “Grand Challenge” of Disability and Development

In September 2000, world Leaders gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York for the Millennium Summit.  At this summit, they adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which included 8 time-bound targets called the Millennium Development Goals (or MDGs).  These MDGs were aimed at developing a new global partnership to reduce poverty by the year 2015.  Unfortunately, disability issues were completely absent from the MDGs.  Subsequently, on 13 December 2006, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted, and became the first human rights treaty of the 21st century. This seminar will enable you to explore these policy developments and focus on enhancing your understanding of disability-inclusive development.

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Weekly Blog Posts

Throughout the semester each seminar participant will submit at least ten (10) blog posts. Blog posts should address your thoughts and reflections on any issue being discussed that week. Each blog post should be around 400 words, and will be organized under one of ten pre-determined categories: 1. Grand Challenges; 2. Development Theory; 3. SDGs and HLPF; 4. Efficacy of Global Frameworks; 5. ICTs and Sustainable Development; 6. Digital Divide(s); 7. Multistakeholder Global Governance; 8. Smart Cities and Employment; 9. Inclusive Education; and, 10. Intersectionality in Sustainable Development.

How applicable are global frameworks to local issues?

After my presentation yesterday, I did a lot of thinking about how international frameworks are difficult to apply to local, municipal issues. These frameworks are usually broad and have no enforcement mechanisms. They are basically suggestions to countries and national governments for what they should or shouldn’t do.

Local governance is much different. Policies are specific, applied to certain segments of society, industry and the economy. They vary based on where they are located and what the people they affect need. International frameworks have little to no use in these cases because they are so non-specific and are not created to be used in a local context.

Although both of these governance levels are very different and are difficult to fit together, they do interact with each other in positive ways. Especially in regards to ensuring that PWD have their rights protected and advocated for, international conventions and agreements can serve as important starting points for the development of local policies. For example, the CRPD includes a comprehensive vision of governance, at any level, that provides for an anticipates the needs of PWD in a diverse range of settings that can be applied to different regions and governance structures.

So how do we bring these two very different governance mechanisms together? How to we bring the grand challenges at the international level to the local stage? The UN notes that the role of municipal governments in regards to international frameworks is implementation and enforcement. This is a vital part of the realization of international conventions like the CRPD because the UN and other global governance institutions are unable to put their policies into practice in local settings. Local governments enforce global treaties into their structure through adding them to their constitutions, bill of rights, or some other law. Another important role of local governments in the application of international frameworks is the monitoring of their effectiveness and implementation.

While international frameworks are sometimes hard to pare down into tangible goals for municipal and local governments, they play a vital role in providing the baseline on which these governments should base their tailored policies and laws off of. International frameworks are also helpful in that they are flexible enough to serve as building blocks for a vast range of areas instead of being rigidly contained in a small area of specific rules that must be adhered to.

https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/comp101.htm

https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/monitoring-of-the-implementation-of-the-convention.html

How can technology bridge inequalities in education?

 In the development field, it is well known that education is fundamental for development and economic growth. Education for All is Goal 4 from the Sustainable Development Goals. The World Bank’s Education Strategy encompasses these three ideas: “Invest Early, Invest Smartly, and Invest in Education for All” (WB). Learning for all promotes equity and makes it explicitly known that acquiring knowledge and skills should be available to everyone. There are still several barriers and challenges to access remain for girls, children with disabilities, and linguistic minorities from achieving the same level of education as other parts of the population. Despite progress, the gender gap in education still exists: according to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, 16 million girls will never step into a classroom (UNESCO). An estimated 62 million are not in school, and 100 million will drop out before completing primary school (USAID). UNESCO studies also indicated that 1-2% of persons with disabilities in the Global South receive an education (UNESCO).

It would be impossible to meet the goal of education and sustainable development without considering these inequality issues. Within the context of globalization, the information society and knowledge economies have come to fruition. Its critical to have education particularly to participate in the sectors of industry, science, global policy formation, and civic advocacy.  How can technology contribute to inclusive education? 

The digital divide can be defined as the increasing gap between underprivileged members of society who do not have access to the internet and those who do (Stanford). ICT refers to technologies that broaden access to information and communication technology. As such, ICT can play a significant role in inclusive education through available learning objects for persons with disabilities. Distributed learning, through being able to learn on your own and having resources that you can use by yourself, is one avenue for increasing access to education through the use of technology. G3ICT, a global organization that was spun off of GAID, is very active working all over the world to increase inclusivity. They produce model policy for countries, by creating templates for how to include persons with disabilities.  WCAG, the current version 2.0, produced a set of guidelines for how to use electronic resources and make them more accessible like screen readers. Technological innovations like ICT can and should be utilized to make a more inclusive education system, pushing us further towards SDG 4: Education for All.

https://cs.stanford.edu/people/eroberts/cs181/projects/digital-divide/start.html

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-90-481-2652-1_6

https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-and-gender-equality

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTEDUCATION/0,,contentMDK:22474207~menuPK:282402~pagePK:210058~piPK:210062~theSitePK:282386,00.html

Urban climate resiliency for all

The Dhaka Declaration was completed in May, 2018, and with it, the term “Nothing About Us Without Us” was coined. This Declaration was the first of its kind in terms of being entirely focused on persons with disabilities and the role they play in disaster risk reduction and management. This term encompasses PWD feelings of being excluded from previous frameworks and conventions that directly impacted them. It also fits perfectly within the main goal of Dhaka which is, “recognizing the inherent dignity, equal and inalienable rights of all human beings, to experience non-discrimination, protection, full accessibility and effective participation in decision-making processes, equalization of opportunities, individual autonomy and independence of PWD.”

http://dkconf18.modmr.gov.bd/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Dhaka-Declaration-2018.pdf

Dhaka emphasized the importance of linking disability-inclusive disaster risk management with the SGDs on the understanding that inclusion builds the resilience of whole societies, safeguards development gains, and minimizes disaster losses. Urban planning is a monumental part of this document, at all governance levels: local, national and global. SDG11 is particularly important here as it connects sustainable, accessible and resilient urban development.

The entire concept of a city space being more resilient when it includes all people rests on the idea that diverse communities are able to better weather the storms (pun intended) and crises that hit them. When a city is able to safely and equitably accommodate PWD, evacuation routes are effective for everyone, the physical environment is better suited to shelter and protect people, transportation routes are clearer, and public offices are open to new ideas and participation from all kinds of people. In short, Dhaka emphasizes a people-centered approach to disaster risk management and reduction on all levels; one that ensures the meaningful participation, inclusion and leadership of PWD.

In order to make all areas, but especially urban centers, more resilient in the face of increasing intense weather events due to climate change, diversity and inclusion needs to be the center focus of urban planners. Urban areas need to be multi-use and open to everyone to allow for the effective functioning of all types of businesses, social and cultural activities with the ability to bounce-back after crises.

https://www.resilientcity.org/index.cfm?id=11928

The Risk of Improper Disaster Risk Planning

Our last aspect in exploring inclusive sustainable cities was disaster risk reduction and disaster management. This subject is important when considering cities because of their huge populations, so there needs to be precautionary plans to anticipate natural disasters or emergencies and to also have the resiliency and adaptation to recover from these situations and hopefully prevent them. Risk reduction refers to the practice of reducing disaster risks through efforts to analyze and reduce the causal factors of disasters. It involves a combination of hazard (frequency, magnitude, location), exposure (who is at risk), and vulnerability (susceptibility of an individual to be impacted by hazards). Risk management on the other hand is the application of disaster risk reduction policies and strategies that aim to prevent new disaster risks, reduce existing risks, manage residual risks, and strengthen the resilience and reduction of losses. There are three main categories risk management falls under: prospective, corrective, and compensatory. Inclusive disaster risk reduction and management takes all these steps further by making sure all people — those with disabilities, youth, elderly, etc. — are able to be prepared and included in plans. All aspects from first responders, to alerts, to evacuation need to be able to adapt and help with all people to ensure their safety. Continue reading

City-Scale Resilience Plans: Implementation of WUF 9

The World Urban Forum, established in 2001, is a conference that covers a multitude of urban issues including rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change, and policies. In 2018, the ninth session of the WUF took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and brought together stakeholders from all around the world to convene on the building, planning, and management of cities. WUF 9 was the first session to focus on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda; the NUA commitments included sustainable urban development for social inclusion and ending poverty  sustainable and inclusive urban prosperity and opportunities for all; and environmentally sustainable and resilient urban development. 

In April of this year, the UN-Habitat published a guide on addressing human settlements in National Adaptation plans, and was presented at the NAP Expo 2019. By including urban settlement issues into the NAPs, UN-Habitat believes it will help countries address urban areas specifically in the context of combating climate change. One specific SDG target that is relevant to this is SDG Target 1.5 that states: “by 2030 build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations, and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters.” As such a complex problem to tackle, making a city resilient to climate change calls for including pre-existing factors, like location, ecology, resources, political history, infrastructure, and culture. Along with all of that, it is so crucial to be inclusive of vulnerable groups in sustainable urban planning. 

With the rapid urbanization taking place all around the world, cities hold immense significance for building and bolstering urban resilience to climate change. Many cities around the world have taken steps to implement resilience plans. For example, Washington D.C. just released its first Resilient Strategy, in April of this year. The plan focuses on two areas, along the Anacostia River and Kenilworth Park. Both of these areas are more vulnerable and at-risk to climate effects, as they are low-lying and flood prone. This strategy also contains broader goals including closing the educational achievement gap, building more housing and more. The D.C. Resilience Plan is a city-scale attempt at pushing us closer to the NUA commitments and SDGs. We can look to cities as a hope for sustainable planning in the future. 

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg1

Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF 9)

UN-Habitat Presents Guide on Addressing Human Settlements in NAPs

Conversations at WUF

The World Urban Forum was established in 2001 by the United Nations to create a dialogue of the ever-changing issues associated with urban life and development. The conference, which is organized by UN-Habitat is held every other year in a select city. The main goals of the World Urban Forum are as follows:

  • Raise awareness of sustainable urbanization among stakeholders and constituencies, including the general public;
  • Improve the collective knowledge of sustainable urban development through inclusive open debates, sharing of lessons learned and the exchange of best practices and good policies; and
  • Increase coordination and cooperation between different stakeholders and constituencies for the advancement and implementation of sustainable urbanization.

Continue reading

Monitoring Inclusive Sustainable Cities Through the WUF

Our class had the opportunity to further delve into inclusive, sustainable cities as we learned about the World Urban Forum, or WUF. The WUF is convened by UN Habitat and is a world conference on cities in a non-legislative forum. The last one, WUF9, was held in Kuala Lumpur in February 2018. WUF10 will be held in Abu Dhabi in 2020. This forum is crucial because it meets more frequently — every two years — versus Habitat where UNGA and all the participants involved with that meet every twenty years. Habitat III helped set the stage for the New Urban Agenda (NUA), where it has a series of long-term visions, commitments, and implementations countries will use to further develop of smart cities and ensure everyone has a right to the city. WUF acts as a checkpoint to see the progress of whatever happens at Habitat, and in this case, it is the NUA from Habitat III. Continue reading