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.