Intersectionality in Development

Intersectionality is the idea of looking at solutions for a problem that considers all intersecting inequalities that could be affected by the problem. By looking at a development problem through the lens of intersectionality, it is possible to understand the impact different identities have on access to rights and opportunities. For example, if there were a policy that is meant to advance girls’ education, an intersectional approach would look at girls with disabilities and of various races to make sure it is intersectional. A truly intersectional policy would consider a wide variety of identities not only in the proposed creation of the policy, but in the proposed solutions and implementations as well. Multistakeholder approaches and intersectionality are similar ideas, but not all multistakeholder approaches are intersectional. It is possible for a policy to be formed by multiple groups representing different constituencies to not be intersectional to the truest form.

Intersectionality is incredibly important to inclusive sustainable development because it would help to make development more inclusive. By getting the opinions of every group that could be affected, the possible solutions are better suited to fit the needs of those groups. Race, gender, youth, and persons with disabilities are all groups that can be sometimes left out of policy consideration. Intersectional policies are important because different groups experience events and problems in different ways. Policies by governments and NGOs that do not consider the various identities even one person can have can produce ineffective policies. Underrepresentation can make it difficult for certain groups within larger marginalized groups to have their voices heard. For example, with gender there are multiple subcategories that need to be addressed when it comes to development policies. There are women of different ages, races, finances and women with disabilities. For gender issues to be effective, they need to include input from all of the different identities a woman could possess.

It is important to name various identities, and then make sure that those identities are included in policy decisions. By having a clear idea of all of the possible intersectional identities that exist, then there is an easier pathway for governments and other policy makers to make effective policies. Intersectionality is still a challenge with everyday policies, and a recent example is the gender wage gap. Many people know the fact that a woman makes only $0.78 to a man’s $1 but that is only true for white women in the United States, African-American and Latina women receive much lower wages. If intersectional identities are not known, then people are given the wrong information and the policies that follow from that are not as effective as they could be.

Disability Inclusive Education

Disability-inclusive education is education that meets the individual needs of every student. Disability-inclusive education includes raising awareness of the rights of children with disabilities not just to governments, but also to teachers, their parents and other families. Often times, children with disabilities are considered too different than other children and therefore should not be allowed to attend school. The stigma or superstitions surrounding children with disabilities often is a factor in keeping them out of school. Besides raising awareness, disability inclusive education includes training parents and teachers on how to work with children with disabilities. Schools then need to be built that are designed with certain standards that make the school inclusive and accessible to all students. This includes things like Braille books, tactile maps and literacy and numeracy teaching aids to help students with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, there should be rooms within the school that are devoted for children with disabilities, and teachers that are properly trained to work with students with disabilities. Finally, disability inclusive education works with governments and schools to create inclusive education policies. Once policies are created, there need to be resources dedicated to implementing them, which can be a struggle considering the getting basic education to rural and/or developing parts of the world is already difficult enough.

Education is an important step in social and economic development, because it can open so many doors for further development. Education is beneficial not just to persons with disabilities, but to all minority or underrepresented groups. Education is seen as a way to a better life, but it is not met without its own challenges. For example, fees for books, uniforms, and other school materials can make it difficult for persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups to afford to attend school. If children were also considered earners in their households, it would also be difficult for them to attend school, as their family would be losing money. Providing financing or loans would be one way to make sure students are able to attend schools.

Once students are able to attend schools, it is important that the schools be able to accommodate the children with disabilities. ICTs can play a crucial role in this. Technology can provide schools and teachers with multiple platforms to accommodate those students who have disabilities. However, there is an issue of cost and infrastructure for putting ICTs into rural and developing schools, which makes it harder for schools to be truly inclusive. High costs and stigma against children with disabilities are difficult challenges that must be overcome to provide disability inclusive education.

The Multistakeholder Approach to Development

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a multistakeholder platform where public policy pertaining to the Internet is discussed. The IGF was established in 2006 and its goal is to work towards a more sustainable and inclusive Internet. The Multistakeholder approach is so important because it allows for a wider range of ideas and interests to come together to help solve the problems surrounding the Internet. Additionally, because the Internet itself spans across countries and it makes sense that a multistakeholder approach would be the most useful. The Netmundial initiative is a platform that allows multistakeholders to come together to solve issues about Internet governance. This includes work from governments, academia, civil society, the private sector, and the technical community. Together, these different stakeholders are able to work on work on Internet related public policy and build a community of Internet governance.

Even though the multistakeholder approach is not a single solution, for something like the Internet it seems to be the best solution to solving problems and coming up with a framework for Internet governance. For example, having multiple actors working on policy helps to make sure there is more of a consensus among everyone, especially since the Internet is a global tool. A multistakeholder approach to IG is important to inclusive sustainable development because of how important the Internet and communications are to the world and to development. It is vital that the Internet remains free and open for everyone, which is why something like the IG is so necessary.

The IGF is open to all organizations and individuals with WSIS accreditation or any other group that is able to prove they have some relevance to Internet governance. The multistakeholder approach that works so well for Internet governance should be applied to other areas of development. It is important to get numerous viewpoints and experiences when it comes to solving problems related to development. By including groups that represent different constituencies into the discussion, it is possible that outcomes can be more inclusive. However, this doesn’t mean that every development issue is going to be easily solved with an international multistakeholder approach. Some issues would need to be solved within countries or within specific regions, like education and certain environmental issues. Countries that are surround by water have more cause to be concerned about flooding than landlocked countries. That does not mean that working with other countries or governments isn’t helpful, but having multiple parties discussing at one time can make reaching a consensus difficult.

The Importance of ICTs in Development

ICTs or information and communications technology play a huge role in sustainable development. The Maitland Report and the NTIA report on Falling Through the Net both highlight the struggles found in rural and poor communities when ICTs are limited are difficult to come by. The Maitland report is officially referred to as the Missing Link. This first report on ICTs focused on the fact that developing and rural communities are often missing access to reliable communications infrastructure. Submitted in 1985, the report notes the differences between developed and developing countries when it comes to access to telephones. Limited access or even no access to telephones completely hinders development in developing countries. This problem has morphed with the creation of the Internet, which is where the Falling Through the Net report comes in to play. FTTN echoes the Maitland report in the sense that there is some key factor of development that is missing between developed and developing countries.

Technology plays an important role in development, and it is key in multiple of the SDGs. For example, ICTs are a big part of advancing SDGs 4,7,9, and 11. However, ICTs could play a role in all of the SDGs. Technology allows people to communicate all over the world, and without it, developing countries and entrepreneurs there are left out of the increased global market. Even beyond telephones, the importance of the Internet cannot be denied. It is not just in rural, developing communities either, even in places like DC, where there is a community of lower income residents, there are billboards that state the importance of having Internet so that children will have it for school. Technology affects everyone, not just adults. There needs to be a global push to provide all forms of ICTs to as many people as possible.

Another important element to providing ICTs to the developing world is the World Summit on the Information Society, which took place in two parts, Geneva and Tunis. The decision to use the two cities shows the importance of the developed and the developing world when it comes to ICTs. The developed world should serve as an example to the developing world and help them build the infrastructure needed to advance their own ICTs. WSIS+10 was the outcome document from the original conference that highlighted the actions and challenges to making ICTs more accessible and inclusive to everyone in the world. ICTs are important to global development and it is crucial that they are made accessible to everyone.

Disaster Risk Reduction and Inclusive Development

The UN classifies Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) as the desire “to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts and cyclones, through an ethic of prevention.” The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) also takes the stance that there are no such things as natural disasters but only natural hazards. The UNISDR believes that there should be an importance placed on restoring and maintaining the environment. This is one aspect of the reduction element of DRR. If State parties were making better choices in how land and resources are managed, then it would be possible to reduce the disasters, or to at least minimize the damage that could happen. However, this does not mean that State parties are supposed to look for ways to stop natural disasters, much of the environmental impact that causes natural disasters to be more destructive than they once were have already happened. What State parties can do, on the other hand, is implement more advanced warning systems and improve the overall preparedness for dealing with natural disasters.

Disaster Risk Management follows a similar idea. Poor people are more frequently affected by natural disasters, and it is up to State parties to make sure that poor persons are able to survive during and after the natural disaster. DRM can include planning into urban areas, especially as more and more people are expected to move into urban areas by 2050. As natural disasters such as droughts push more people into cities, not only where there be a food shortage related disaster, there will also be a housing disaster. The international approach to disasters is a “culture of prevention.” The UN, along with governments at the national, state, and local level, civil society, and general collaboration between state actors, are all major players in DRR.

The UNISDR outlines a plan of vision, goals, objectives, and implementation when it comes to preventing disasters. There is an emphasis on research and including risk reduction into development plans that are already under way. The Sendai Framework—which was adopted in 2015—looks to reduce the loss of lives, livelihoods and health in disasters. The Sendai Framework also has nation states take over the role of leader when it comes to reducing disaster risk. Given that each nation state experiences different environmental factors, I believe that is important for states to take the leading role when it comes to disasters. By having individual states lead the way, more individualized plans—or regional plans for countries that experience similar climates—could be created for the greater benefit of the people living in those countries.


What is the World Urban Forum?

The World Urban Forum focuses on improving urban environments and is a sub-category under the UN Habitat. WUF9 focuses on implementing the New Urban Agenda that was adopted in Habitat III. The conference will take place in Kuala Lumpur in 2018 and the theme of WUF9 will be sustainable urbanization and it incorporates the SDGs and the NUA. It is the first WUF to directly work with the New Urban Agenda. WUF9 allows for different stakeholders to come together to talk about issues surrounding urbanization and how it can be made more sustainable and inclusive. For example in WUF9 there will be four major assemblies during the conference. They center around gender equality, businesses, children and youth rights, and the grassroots movement. All of the assemblies focus on initiatives that strengthen the rights of their constituents in the increasingly urbanized world. Past WUF conferences have focused on multiple issues surrounding urban spaces. WUF7 focused on quality in urban areas and WUF6 highlighted the challenges for an urban future and how to incorporate the SDGs into advancing that urban future. All of the WUF conferences have centered around the problems that come with an ever advancing urban world. The WUF shows that cities and States must come together to make concrete plans to secure urban areas and make sure that everyone is considered when these mega urban centers are being created.

Given that the WUF falls under the consideration of Habitat III, then the GAP plays an important role in the outcome of WUF. I think that the addition of the GAP in the WUF allows for different constituencies to be able to come to the table and discuss what they hope to see out of urbanization. On the other hand, because WUF works within the boundaries of Habitat III, it is possible that center groups that are not apart of the GAP are then left out of the discussion. However, the GAP encompasses 16 different groups, all of which are clearly named and given equal representation in the eyes of Habitat III. Due to the more inclusive nature of the GAP, I do not foresee there being an issue of one group getting left out of the discussions. One issue that could present itself is that because there are so many groups trying to advance their own viewpoints, it could become difficult to reach a consensus. The GAP and WUF are beneficial in that everyone is given a spot at the table to come together and look for ways to solidify and inclusive urban future.


Inclusive Cities and their Role in Development

By 2050, the world population will nearly double what it is right now. That is why inclusive and sustainable cities are so important. Inclusive cities came out of UN Habitat and the idea behind them is that cities need to be more inclusive in their design and infrastructure. This includes more accessible public transportation, and buildings with ramps and elevators that make getting into and around buildings easier for persons with disabilities. In addition to access for persons with physical disabilities, inclusive cities would include speaker systems and screens that announce when public transportation is arriving. That technology is also transferable to other sectors, such as having online systems or digital systems in all public sectors like libraries or hospitals.

Inclusive development and inclusive cities go hand in hand. Part of making the world more inclusive for persons with disabilities is making their environment more accessible. The CRPD requires State Parties to make the lives of persons with disabilities better, and one way would be to increase the accessibility of the environment around them. The CRPD has initiatives that focus on monitoring and evaluating disability-inclusive development. The CRPD is concerned with proper data collecting on persons with disabilities as well as inclusive housing initiatives. Under the CRPD .”..States parties have a general obligation “ to undertake or promote research and development of universally designed goods, services, equipment and facilities, as defined in article 2 of the Convention, which should require the minimum possible adaption and the least cost to meet the specific needs of a person with disabilities.” So the connection between the CRPD and inclusive cities is quite clear. State parties are obligated to make sure that research and money is devoted to advancing the lives of persons with disabilities.

Habitat III and the NUA (the outcome document which came out of the H3 conference) are also devoted to inclusive and smart cities. Through the GAP (General Assembly of Partners), a group of 17 constituency groups, of which one is Persons with Disabilities, Habitat III has a direct impact on persons with disabilities. The NUA is implemented at the state and local level at the discretion of the State parties themselves. Local governments play an important role in implementing the NUA and by working at the local level it is easier to introduce new policies that have direct impact on persons with disabilities. The NUA and inclusive cities all have an impact on persons with disabilities and through the GAP, those policies are being further implemented.