International Development Theory

I have studied many different development theories over my time as a developmental studies SIS major at American University. There has been on that has stood out to me from the beginning as the one that will do the most good for the most people. Development as Freedom by Amarta Sen is the most human based yet practical development theory I have read throughout college. So many other theories worry about the global dynamics and international politics whereas Development as Freedoms sole focus is how to provide the individual no matter where in the world with the freedom and the options to chose their own path. Sen makes no assumptions about the person or tries to make them conform to a certain path or way of development. Whatever a person can chose the path they want to take without their basic rights being taken away or hinder that is a truly developed society. I feel as if many development actors do not focus on this theory today. They are much more concerned about the immediate results and impact that, that sometimes the humanity of the exchange gets lost in it all.

The UN and UN frameworks or conventions are a great way at guiding stakeholders in developmental goals. There is limited opportunities to get stakeholders other than government involved. This is something that needs to be improved. Although the governments are the ones who provide the monetary assistance, the NGO’s are generally the movers and shakers who provide the on ground technical support. More importantly they are the ones who interact with the communities at a much more personal level. They are the people who would be able to most effectively and accurately advocate for populations who cannot advocate for themselves. That is why grassroots NGOS and other stakeholders such as the communities themselves need to be given many more opportunities to actively participate in major discussions on how their communities are going to be developed.

Global Grand Challenges of International Sustainable Development

The idea of global grand challenges and the vast number of them that exist in todays world can be daunting and discouraging. A global grand challenge is a technical complex societal problem without a solution.  It effects multiple communities around the world and needs global cooperation. It is important that the multiple actors involved in solving these global grand challenges are as inclusive as possible. When a large problem spans across a diverse amount of people it is difficult for one governing entity to take responsibility for solving it. I think that it is crucial for states to donate money to research and innovation for solving these big problems that face most of the world today.

Where one can fall short when thinking about these global grand challenges  is the idea is one size fits all. Development as a whole is not a one size fits all type of sector. Each challenge, community and project is so unique that it is difficult to duplicate the same exact thing everywhere. Even just in the same immediate community there are people who experience the grand global challenges different from their neighbor. The way that something like the Millennial Development Goals will not be the same as for a person with a disability.

There are so many grand challenges and all of them are important that it is hard to pick one that stands above the rest. I would have to pick climate change  as the most important grand global challenge. Climate change is a challenge that if not addressed, the entire world population a few generations from now will feel the effects.

Intersectionality in Sustainable Development

The term intersectional has become quite a buzzword in the development community. It is used often by humanitarians, organizations and to describe projects. When a word becomes so prominent in a community, at times it can lose its original meaning or purpose. Intersectionality originated in academic communities as a way to explain the dual discrimination that African American women faced in the United States.  That being said, intersectionality in sustainable development is very important framework to consider and can benefit many if understood correctly by development actors. Development agencies or workers can best assist communities by understanding the complexities and intersectionalities that each community or person in that community faces. Many different factors in a person’s life such as gender, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic class  and more all combine to determine how that individual experiences oppression or discrimination.

I read a quote from Kimberle Crenshaw, an African American lawyer who coined the term intersectionality, that I thought  important for development stakeholders to consider. She said, “If efforts began with addressing the needs and problems of those who are the most disadvantaged, and with restructuring and making the world more necessary, then others who are singularly disadvantaged would also benefit.” When development actors listen to the most marginalized communities they are able to build from the ground up and make sure that development is inclusive for the entire population. Implementing projects with intersectionality in mind also allows for sustainability and long-term effectiveness. When look at the intersectional discrimination a population faces the project is more likely to identify the root cause of the problem and solve it more efficiently. This does not waste as much donor funding by only looking into one issue and jus putting a Band-Aid on the larger problem at hand.

In my capstone project intersectionality is important to think about. The students who I am researching are some of the most marginalized in the Haitian community. Girls have a harder time accessing school in the country, but it becomes nearly impossible when they have a low socio-economic status and also have a disability. These intersectionalities need to inform the government and schools when designing programing for students such as the one described above in Haiti and all over the world.

Efficacy of Global and Regional Frameworks

Frameworks are an important step to any project or goal that one is trying to accomplish. I have always found issue with international frameworks being effective. The problem with global frameworks is that the international order is in a state of anarchy. The United Nations is a great organization that tries to guide countries to do the right thing, but it has limited ability to hold a foreign government accountable for developmental goals.  While countries may sign onto or agree to follow a global or even regional framework, they could be doing it just to avoid falling under a bad light on the world stage.

The UNCRPD is a framework and convention that lays out what countries should do to ensure the successful inclusion of persons with disabilities. This something that countries can voluntarily sign onto. The United States, one of the greatest world powers, has not signed it. The efficacy of the framework is then called into question if a large power does not sign. My capstone project looks at the access to education for children with disabilities in Haiti. The country ratified the CRPD and the optional protocol in 2009 which allows the UNCRPD Committee in Geneva to make comments on their progress. The committee can make comments and suggestions, but they can not hold the Haitian Government accountable to the CRPD. Haiti may have signed the convention with every intention of fulfilling the commitments that they signed up for, but they have not made much progress in providing and inclusive environment for persons with disabilities. This could be because of changes in government, cultural friction,  lack of financial resources or technical ability to implement the new policies. No matter the reason, there is not a system international system in place that can truly hold the country accountable with any consequences or penalties if they do not implement policies related to the CRPD. Therefore, a global framework such as this can never been considered extremely effective.

Internet Governance and Sustainability

The World Wide Wide has been around for nearly 30 years.  While the internet has created extreme advances in connectivity, information sharing and access, it has also created many new problems and hurdles that the world has to overcome. There were no clear outlines or precedents as to how or who governs the internet and what exactly they are governing. I do agree that a multi stakeholder approach is the smartest and most effective way of approach internet governance. The Internet Society points to things like the wide impact and distributed range of people and interests decisions have, the overlapping rights and responsibilities across sectors and borders, different forms of expertise are needed and legitimacy and acceptance of decisions directly impact implementation. All of these make giving one single entity the governing power of the internet impossible. Within the multi stakeholder discussion persons with disabilities need to be included to ensure that this large, open and participative technology is easily accessible for all.

The inclusiveness of decision-making in regards to internet governance is necessary or else the trust in these technologies and those who regulate them will be threatened. This aligns with the importance of digital security and how the multi-stakeholder approach is more effective at ensuring the security. The internet is so vast and there are so many different actors that take part in it daily. It is impossible for one government or stakeholder to monitor everything in order to keep their people’s digital activity secure. As more and more individuals are gaining access to the internet and it is becoming ever more intertwined in people’s daily lives, the problem of security is only going to increase. Multi-stakeholder governance is the most effective way to keep up with security and maintain a collective responsibility for the safety of peoples information.



Digital Divides: Technology bridging the gap

The use of technology in the development sector is a very exciting and innovation is truly changing the way developmental agencies operate. The Maitland Commission is one of the first documents that pledged to bridge the imbalanced gap between developing and developed countries in terms of telecommunications. Today in developing countries almost everyone has access to a smart phone and can be connected to their neighbors and the global community with ease. During my time studying abroad in Kenya, I enjoyed the technological innovations such as MPESA that makes instant money transfers  fee free straight from your phone. This allows technology allows development agencies to transfer money to their beneficiaries, but allows the everyday person to make transactions with each other and business without the need for physical cash. I and almost everyone I knew in Kenya used MPESA on a daily basis. Due to this easy access to cash resources the economy is flowing much more fluidly and individuals can get assistance almost instantly. The access to telephones for almost everyone breaks down this digital divide.

Another form of technological innovation that I thought about while reading the assigned readings is block chain. Although block chain is not an ICT, the potential impact it has on the development sector is great. Interning at the World Food Programme, block chain is something that the organization has just started implementing to provide assistance more effective and efficiently to refugees around the world. It allows food recipients to be registered into databases by different features like finger prints. This means that the people who are supposed to receive the commodities will without a hitch and those who try to forge documents or collection cards will not be able to take away from the refugees that actually need it.  Innovations like these when used properly are what makes the world a much more equitable place and development more sustainable. Technology is rapidly changing and it is very exciting to see how innovation in the inclusive sustainable development front will push this sector forward in the coming years.

Inclusive Education:

This topic is something that I am very passionate about, so I thoroughly enjoyed the readings and in-class discussions. My capstone project is about access to education for children with disabilities, therefore it is interesting to draw comparisons and contrasts between my research and the assigned readings for class. The article “Comparison of Brunei Preservice Teachers’ Attitudes to Inclusive Education and Specific Disabilities,” highlights that inclusion for student’s with disabilities with low support needs was welcomed by the student teachers. When it came to students with high support needs teachers were not in favor of accommodating. This thinking seems to be similar in Haiti as well. The more support the student needs the less likely they will have any form of inclusion in the education system in Haiti. It is interesting to see that Brunei, which is a relatively wealthy country in comparison to Haiti, does not want to include those children in the schools.

I really enjoyed the main idea behind Richard Rieser’s article on “why inclusive education is the only educational philosophy and practice that makes sense in today’s world.” His argument that the world is a globalized community and each classroom has plenty of diversity, that inclusiveness is the only way to break down barriers and combat discriminatory attitudes. It is true that “inclusion” is such a buzzword in many realms of society today, especially education, but its not entirely clear to most what exactly inclusion means. The definition can change immensely depending on who is defining it. There is a giant push in many developing countries for free access to primary education, but children with disabilities are rarely mentioned. Even in cases like Haiti where they are mentioned, there is still little effort being made to provide them with an inclusive education or even access to education at all . The idea of inclusion could mean integration into mainstream schools or the restructuring of school systems to accommodate students with disabilities. I think how the student should be included should be looked at on a case by case basis.  The most important thing on the schools agenda should be how the child will learn and succeed the best. If that is through integration in the mainstream classroom with an aid or the student is placed in a separate school for children with similar disabilities. I do not believe there is one universal right way for an inclusive education because each student has such different needs.

Works Referenced:

Educational Opportunities for Students with Disabilities: The Experience of
a University Student in Brunei, F.S. Haq , Asian Journal of University Education

Richard Rieser, “Disability, Human Rights, and Inclusive Education, and
Why Inclusive is the Only Educational Philosophy and Practice that Makes
Sense in Today’s World,” Gill Richards, Felicity Armstrong (eds), Teaching
and Learning in Diverse Classrooms: Key Issues for New Teachers
(Routledge, 2011), Ch. 14.


Urbanization and The New Urban Agenda

The world’s global urban population is expected to double by 2050. It is also projected that 90% of this concentration will take place in Asia and Africa. These continents have the opportunity to greatly benefit both economically and socially by adhering to the goals and being inclusive throughout the five pillars of implementation laid out by The New Urban Agenda. This major population shift being highly concentrated in some developing areas allows these cities to be built right the first time. They are not confined by the exclusive infrastructure in large old cities like New York and Paris. It will be economically efficient to build inclusive infrastructure instead of having to rebuild or revamp already existing old infrastructure. The point that I liked the most from The New Urban Agenda is the humanization of cities and human settlements. It is important to think about the wide range of humans with variant needs who will be occupying the space.

The “Enabling Justice: Spatializing Disability in the Built Environment” reading by Pineda made me think about the impact of a built environment truly has on people. He does a great job at dispelling the idea that, “disability as a property held by the individual.” This places the responsibility to “correct” on the individual themselves and not on the environment that creates this disability. After reading this article I thought about my day to day life and how the environment around me could be disabling. It reinforces the importance of The New Urban Agenda. This past summer I had the opportunity to go to Sao Paulo, Brazil. I remember thinking then how the city was so much more inclusive than many of the American and European cities I have visited. After doing some research I found that Sao Paulo has implemented laws and policy in order to aid in the implementation of The New Urban Agenda. They also made sure to involve many different actors in the discussion of the city’s needs with the government. When everyone is represented modern cities can be a place of inclusion and not a place that creates extreme division.