Intersectionality in Sustainable Development

Intersectionality explores the intersections of race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, and class. Issues regarding race, gender, religion, and class can be heightened when combined. It is essential to understand how marginalized communities are further set back by the combination of varying identities, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and class. In the United States, homelessness disproportionately affects gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender youth. These groups represent 20 to 40 percent of the 1.6 to 2.8 million homeless youths in America (Center for American Progress, 2010). When creating policy or implementing programs, the advantages and disadvantages of social placement must be considered to ensure policy and programs benefit everyone equally. In the case of homeless youth in the United States, specific programs and policies must address the fact that gender, race, and sexual orientation are major factors for homelessness among youth.

All factors that contribute to ones advantages or disadvantage must be acknowledged for peace and equality. The United Nations has made a concerted effort to include the voices and perspectives of the most marginalized groups in the world after recognizing the sustainable development was impossible without active participation of all societal members. The High Level Political Forum provides a platform for nine often marginalized groups consisting of:

  1. Women
  2. Children and Youth
  3. Indigenous peoples
  4. Non-Governmental Organizations
  5. Local Authorities
  6. Workers and Trade Unions
  7. Business and Industry
  8. Scientific and Technological Community
  9. Farmers

Member States decide upon how these groups participate in intergovernmental processes related to Sustainable Development. While the creation of these groups is a step forward, I question whether or not Member States interests may be valued over the perspectives of the Major Groups, especially in countries with political instability and corruption.

All in all, intersectionality as a social theory is a relatively new concept. The Working Groups of the United Nations show the progress and importance of giving marginalized communities a platform to express their concerns and ideas towards sustainable development.


Quintana, Nico and Josh Rosenthal, and Jeff Krehely. On the Streets: The Federal Response to Gay and Transgender Homeless Youth. Center for American Progress. June 2010.


Inclusive Education

The disability community represents over one billion people in world. Regardless of this large percentage, equal opportunities are not provided, especially amongst the education sector. Technological literacy is fundamental for social and digital inclusion, however many disabled learners to not have access to proper education opportunities to advance these skills. The UNESCO Model Policy for Inclusive ICTs in Education assists countries in the pursuits of creating an inclusive education framework based upon Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). Inclusive ICTS for education aim to mainstream technologies to all individuals. This includes making computers, web browsers, mobile phones, and word processors accessible to learners with and without disabilities. This could be as easy as supplementing technological instructions with an online video with captioning. However, one must have a computer to access this, which is a further determinant for exclusive education.

Inclusive ICTS for learners depends on eliminating the digital divide. The digital divide refers to “the gap between those who can benefit from digital technology and those who cannot ”(2012, 46). Eliminating the digital divide requires public funding and subsidies and depends on a public-private partnerships.Considering the private sector plays a large role in the R&D stages, inclusivity and accessibility must be acknowledged and integrated. If certain companies do not assume inclusivity and accessibility in R&D stages, it will be nearly impossible to achieve inclusive education. Not only do Inclusive ICTs expand opportunities for marginalized communities, they can also expand market opportunities for private corporations, thus generating greater profits for Inclusive R&D.

Education is integral to social and economic development. Inclusive ICTs have the opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless, cultivate greater awareness of social, political, and environmental issues. Most importantly, ICTs can bring different people and cultures together.


Model Policy for Inclusive ICTS in Education for Persons with Disabilities. (2014). UNESCO. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. France.

Efficacy of Global and Regional Frameworks

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were presented at the Millenium Summit of the United Nations in 2000. These goals addressed global challenges such as the eradication of poverty and hunger, environmental sustainability, and to develop global partnerships for development. Prior to the implementation of these goals from 1980 to 2000, the developed world experienced economic growth and an increase in economic inequity. The MDGs aimed to expand the benefits of development to excluded and deprived populations. The MDGs introduced a new monitoring mechanism to hold national governments and the international community responsible for ensuring goals were accompanied with action.

A major limitation for the achievement of the MDGs was accountability. Many developing countries where these challenged persisted, lacked resources and a voice to truly implement programs towards goal achievement. Furthermore, the dominant ideology regarding the success of the MDGs was linked with economic growth, aid, and sound governance. This view is limiting because it isolates economics from politics and society.

While the MDGs focused on long-term goals, short-term targets and processes are not clearly defined. The global framework for development also set a one-size-fit-all model for development, assuming all countries were at the same starting point. The transition path was undefined, which painted goals as idealistic and unachievable. Monitoring processes were also highly quantitative and depended upon statistical data to determine progress. While quantitative data can say a lot about a countries development, it does not fully reflect the well-being of vulnerable populations and in cases where data is inaccessible.

While the MDGs were deemed unsuccessful, they provided a framework and a global opportunity for improvement and cooperation. With the international community and national governments aware of the limitations of the MDGs, the framework still provided a point of reference and vast opportunities for reconfiguration. The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGS) served as the replacement agenda for the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs aimed to fill in the gaps of the MDGs by proposing greater short-term targets and indicators of development. The SDGs also place high important on global partnerships between all sectors of society, especially amongst the private and public sector.



Nayyar, Deepak. (2012). UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda. UN Expert Group. New York.

Inclusive Cities

Rapid urbanization and population growth will amplify global inequities if development initiatives are not inclusive of the poor and vulnerable. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) developed Strategy 2020, a long-term framework, 2008-2020, committed to inclusive development and livable cities. In Asia, one-third of the population resides in slums (ADB). UN Habitat defines slums as as:

“a group of individuals living under the same roof who lack one or more (in some cities, two or more) of the following conditions: security of tenure, structural quality and durability of dwellings, access to safe water, access to sanitation facilities, or sufficient living area.” (ESCAP, 2008)



South Asian Slum

The conditions that define a slum coincide with human rights violations, such as the human right to water and security. On the other hand, Asia, with the People’s Republic of China and India, lifted 125 million people out of slum conditions. However, rapid urbanization and population growth have contributed to an increase of the worlds slums. Addressing the needs and challenges of the poor requires direct interventions within slums. This requires greater inclusion of the poor in city planning and development initiatives. Amartya Sen asserts that the removal of poverty, poor economic opportunities, and systemic social deprivation is fundamental for development. Sen further determines that income cannot be the sole measurement of capability deprivation, and handicaps, such as age or illness, can further inhibit one’s ability to translate income into capabilities. The capability lens should be used when implementing programs in creating more inclusive and livable cities.


UN-HABITAT. 2010. State of the World’s Cities: Bridging the Urban Divide 2010/11. UK–USA: Earthscan. p. x.

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). 2008. Statistical Year Book for Asia and the Pacific