Intersectionality in Sustainable Development

The main theme of SDG’s is inclusiveness, meaning including the active participation of all sectors of society and all types of people. The SDG’s cannot be achieved without collaboration of all, and an intersectional approach that interconnects social categorizations such as race, class and gender to a given individual or group, as a result creates barriers to an inclusive society.

In 1992 during the Earth Summit, the first UN Conference on Environment and Development, it was acknowledged that achieving sustainable development would need the active participation of all sectors of the society, thus Agenda 21 adopted at the Earth Summit drew up the “UN Major Groups”. To this day, most of the UN processes related to environment and sustainable development use the “Major Groups” framework or some variation, which includes nine sectors of society, as the main channels through which board participation would be facilitated. The nine group include: women, children, farmers, indigenous people, NGO’s, trade unions, local authorities, science and technology, and business and technology. However, the problem with these categorizations is it is missing out major stakeholders, such as the 1 billion persons with disabilities and the older population (estimated[1] by 2050, about 2 billion people will be over 60, 22% of the world’s population). Hence, as a result, lots of identities are not included.  However, when advocates argue about the need to expand beyond these nine groups, many appeal to the argument of intersectionality that indicates we deal with these groups under the nine specific groups (For example: women with disabilities as part of the women category). However, to what extent do the category deal with the problem separately concerning people with disabilities or older generations? And to what extent are they successful addressing these groups? While we question on aspect of not including these groups, there is also another perspective- if we add more groups-will it be progressive in achieving all the set forward goals with the multiple representatives (transaction costs)? However, at the same time by excluding a certain group undermines the concept of inclusivity, and thus the SDG’s. In conclusion, while intersectionality exists the issue of exclusion will persist.