Intersectionality in Sustainable Development

Intersectionality is the concept that there is no single instance of privilege or oppression, instead, many instances of privilege and oppression intersect in the lives of all people in a way that creates an individualized human experience. For example, a white bisexual woman may experience oppression for her sexuality and gender while simultaneously experiencing privilege for her race. The combinations of varying identities are countless, but include race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, class, age, and more.

The United Nations High Level Political Forum provides a platform for “major groups” who are often marginalized. These stakeholders include women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, scientific and technological community, and farmers. Having these platforms allows marginalized groups to participate in UN policy more than they would be able to otherwise.

Intersectionality affects sustainable development in various ways. For example, climate change is more likely to affect people living in poverty and women, so women in poverty are even more vulnerable to climate change. Environmental degradation that is often caused by development and that sustainable development tries to avoid is faced primarily by indigenous peoples.

During natural disasters, persons with disabilities are more likely to be affected, as are women and elderly persons. Thus, elderly women with disabilities are even more vulnerable to disasters. In creating sustainable disaster risk policy, these intersections must be evaluated in order for all persons to survive disasters. It is critical that inclusive sustainability take intersectionality into account in order to ensure the experiences of all are taken into account when creating policies like these.