SDG Overview and the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF)

Two large appendages of the United Nations that are making intense movements towards inclusive sustainable development are The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and the High Level Political Forum (HLPF). Building on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDG’s were adopted on January 1, 2016 and include 17 separate agendas for the efforts towards sustainable development, including things such as no poverty, good health and well-being, quality education, clean water and sanitation, etc. Within each of these 17 goals are a farrago of targets and indicators that grant each goal a more attainable sense of purpose, equalling to 230 individual indicators to monitor the 17 goals and 169 targets of all 17 SDGs. These new Goals universally apply to all and will be enacted throughout the next fifteen years in an overall effort to promote prosperity while simultaneously protecting the planet.

Formally established in July 2013, the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) is the main platform of the United Nations that deals with sustainable development. Within the HLPF is a group of 12 objectives that include targets in achieving said sustainable development, targets such as providing political leadership, enhancing integration at all levels, encouraging high-level system-wide participation of UN agencies, etc. Within the topic of achieving sustainable development is the Major Groups system, which came about from Agenda 21 and identifies nine different sectors of society as the main channels through which “broad participation would be facilitated in UN activities related to sustainable development”. These Major Groups include, amongst others, women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, local authorities, farmers, etc. The importance of engaging these nine sectors within society is continuously reaffirmed through the efforts of both the High Level Political Forum as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

In regards to people with disabilities (PWDs), there has been a long history of unequal access to these many efforts towards bettering the development of the world. As Amartya Sen states in his book Development As Freedom, the rate and form of globalization is decided by the very people that are found within a community (240-242). When Sen exclaims this, he is talking about every part of the community and population. According to the World Report on Disability by the World Health Organization, about 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability, making PWDs not only an important group to make use of but also an incredibly large amount of people.

Within his book Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, Rimmerman outlines a religious and genetic rationalization for this longstanding prejudice and stigmatization against PWDs, citing things such as the Bible and the Qur’an. Between the two religious texts, he points out that both see PWDs as burdensome, the bible referring to them as “sinners” and the Qur’an as people that should be excluded from certain aspects of society (12-13). As religion plays a gargantuan role in the lives of so many people throughout the world, it is easy to see how religion can be used as reason for this stigmatization against this marginalized group of people.

In addition to religious texts, history itself has played a large role in the current treatment and involvement within development amongst PWDs. In the United States itself, PWDs were not allowed basic civil and human rights until the late 20th century, a phenomenal change from just a century earlier when the country forced the euthanasia of what they referred to as “defective babies” (18-19). These stigmas, although diluted by a more modern way of thinking, are still very prevalent in the culture of many countries involved. Rimmerman and other scholarly authors consistently point out the fact that these newfound global initiatives such as the SDGs and the HLPF must make an extreme effort to incorporate PWD in order to eradicate these prejudices and stigmatization from the theme of international sustainable development. There is no globalization unless all that are being affected by the problems at hand are included in the solution.