The SDGs and the High Level Political Forum

The creation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) marked a groundbreaking moment for the inclusivity of persons with disabilities in global development goals. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs), where no language surrounding persons with disabilities was included, the SDGs were a crucial step in identifying the importance of inclusive sustainable development. 

As discussed in class, the SDGs improved the MDGs in two vital ways.  First, they include eleven direct references to persons with disabilities.  Secondly, the language outlines clear, measurable targets, goals, and indicators that are more defined than those included in the MDGs.  Prior to the inclusion of persons with disabilities within the framework of the SDGs, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was the core UN framework on inclusive development. Established in 2007, the CRPD is a development and human rights instrument and identifies/gives rights to the 15% of every country’s population that live with some form of disability.  Important to my capstone project is the fact that the United States has not ratified the CRPD, leaving out a large portion of the population in terms of involvement and participation in decisions that may directly impact them.

The UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development(HLPF), created during the 2012 Rio+20, reviews the progress of both the SDGs and the CRPD.  The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) hosts the HLPF every year and the UN General Assembly hosts a meeting of the HLPF every four years.  The HLPF is the main UN platform on sustainable development and is central in the implementation of the SDGs by 2030 at the global level.  The objectives of the forum are to provide political leadership, guidance, and recommendations for sustainable development and to provide a platform for regular dialogue between various stakeholders (including persons with disabilities).  The UN’s framework of inclusive sustainable development (the SDGs, CRPD, and the HLPF) fit into Amartya Sen’s idea of development as freedom.

Sen believed that without individual freedoms, economic development cannot be achieved. For Sen, if persons with disabilities are not granted these freedoms, development cannot be achieved because a large portion of the population would be excluded.  If persons with disabilities are excluded in the attainment of individual freedoms, the common narratives around the stigma of persons with disabilities are reinforced.  Arie Rimmerman’s work fits into this discussion because he discusses the roots of negative stigmas surrounding persons with disabilities.  I found his critique of the way persons with disabilities are portrayed in the media extremely fascinating and integral to my project.

Sen’s work focuses on the inclusion of marginalized groups such as women, indigenous people, minorities, and persons with disabilities in his discussion of development.  Sen was influential in changing the index of how we measure development by including life expectancy, education, and per capita income in the equation.

This week’s discussion fits into my capstone project because of the subjective nature of development.  My project focuses not on using technological growth, but indigenous food teachings, to generate more knowledge surrounding healthy food.  Through my project, I dispute the capitalistic idea of development and look at how SDG 2can be accomplished in a holistic way.


Rimmerman, A. (2013). Social Inclusion of People with Disabilities: National and International Perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Sen, A. (1999). Freedom as Development. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.

Summer, A. & Michael, T. (2008). International Development Studies: Theories and Methods in Research and Practice. London: SAGE Publications LTD.