Intersectionality in Development

This blog post discusses the importance, and often lacking presence, of intersectionality in development policy.

Intersectionalities are incredibly important in all areas of study, particularly studying disability and when planning to create disability policy. Intersectionality is studying the crossing of different (often marginalized) social identities. Intersectionality can be visualized as a Venn diagram, with each identity being a big circle and the complete identity of a person being the place where all these individual identities meet. It is important to view topics with an intersectional lens as various forms of social categories are never seen in a vacuum, but are interwoven together. Focusing on just one identity when trying to solve or better an issue neglects the numerous other factors that add to disenfranchisement and impede progress. However, despite the innate nature and undoubted importance of intersectionality, intersectionality is overlooked in the creation of policy, particularly international policy.



Looking at the Major Groups Framework, for example, there are nine major groups: women, children, farmers, indigenous people, local authorities, businesses, civil society, and worker and trade unions. While the intentions of the nine major groups were well-intentioned, created in order to represent the key actors sectors of society, distinguishing 9 specific groups allows little room for multiple identities. Additionally, it creates an atmosphere where an individual who may prescribe to many of these identities may have to separate their complex identity and prescribe to just one in order to have representation [2]. By ignoring intersectionality, it completely nullifies the idea of inclusive sustainable development. Inclusive for one group, may not be inclusive for another. One reason why intersectionality is sometimes overlooked in international policy is that often global strategic frameworks must create targets, goals and evaluative methods for such large and complex issues that less prevalent identities get forgotten.

However, there are examples of international frameworks that focus on intersectionality, particularly the Sendai Framework. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction focused on 4 priorities for action and 7 global targets [3]. The Sendai Framework was complex in the sense that it did not simply focus on the homogenous group but delved into specific plans to aid niche groups and vulnerable communities.

It is important that intersectionality is not a topic that is discussed after the fact and then added into to programs or policies. Intersectionality is an innate part of each person’s identity and should be taken into account constantly during the creation of policies and frameworks to ensure addressing all challenges are met between various stakeholder groups.







Global Strategic Frameworks

This blog post discusses Global Strategic Frameworks, particularly the SDGs and MDGs and their positives and negatives and how it connects to my Capstone.


Global Strategic Frameworks are designed to create worldwide frameworks, solutions, strategies and policies and actions and are becoming ever prevalent in modern society. The increase of technologies and an increased sense of importance in worldwide rights and ideals has caused global strategic frameworks to become the main method of creating international order.  Global strategic frameworks allow for actors worldwide to come together, collaborate and create a discussion area to discuss numerous issues, particularly issues around development. While these frameworks create a space for progress and discussion, Global Strategic Frameworks are also widely criticized by outside actors.

Global strategic frameworks, in theory, allow for choreographed and well planned global action and cooperation across numerous agendas. It also is supposed to create a space where all actors are equal in their opinions and are able to build partners in their social, economic and environmental goals. However, global strategic frameworks have limitations and are subject to wide criticism. Often indigenous persons are not able to participate in conversations, there is a lack of accountability, enforcement, determination, follow through, a complete understanding of cultures and other issues that have lead to disastrous consequences. Additionally, specifically with the SDGs and MDGs, these global strategies often lacked local context and had few analyses into individual countries social, cultural, political, and economic norms. The MDGs and SDGs created an ideological depiction of what the western world wanted with little consideration of local context. The MDGs are considered both a classic example of both what a global framework should be and the shortcomings of such frameworks. The MDGs were monumental for 2000 when they were first initiated. The MDGs also were incredibly important in the conversation of development as they marked the first time that the world collectively said that the idea of poverty is not just an economic experience, but a more holistic understanding of what development is and what areas that poverty effects. However, the MDGs did not accomplish all of its 8 goals and the success it did have was not equally distributed. The MDGs helped to lift more than one billion people out of extreme poverty, to make inroads against hunger, protect planet etc. however, progress has been uneven. The goals that it created were shortsighted, and while each goal had targets and indicators, it lacked enforcement, accountability and solid plans to achieve said goals. Furthermore, the MDGs lacked input from many groups including persons with disabilities and indigenous groups and had many detrimental impacts in some areas of the world.

When the MDGs concluded in 2015, the SDGs were created to replace them with the idea of taking the great strides that had been made in the MDGs and making them more sustainable. The SDGs focused more on intersections in the development world and had more goals, targets and indicators, included representation of more groups, were considered more universally applicable and focused less on what the West traditionally considered development. However, the SDGs had some downfalls, as well, as is true with every global international framework. Often the terminology used in the SDGs is a bit unrealistic and the statements made in the goals are not the same as what the indicators describe. For example, eradicate extreme poverty and hunger is one of the SDG goals, however, Target 1 states that the target is to Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 a day. The issue with this goal to target interpretation is that eradicate isn’t the same as half. Additionally, the MDGs started in 2000, not 1990. $1.25 to measure poverty an arbitrary figure. Some critics use this as an example to say that the SDGs created the language in order to assure improvement over the years. Additionally, many of the goals that are created in the SDGs are unrealistic for all countries and some critics are saying that it is asking too much too soon and setting certain areas up for failure with the methodology of setting the goals being inconsistent and arbitrary around the world. For example, the idea of the goal of 100% education is biased against countries with low starting points and the question is raised about the quality of the education the children are receiving. If a country prioritizes getting their children to school and they have 900 students but only 3 teachers, do they still succeed according to the SDGs? Finally, as applicable to most Global Strategic Frameworks, collecting this data to see if the goals have been accomplished is very expensive and time-consuming.

While there are numerous flaws with Global Strategic Frameworks, the overarching idea of creating a space where persons worldwide can discuss their ideas and their beliefs is positive. The idea of Global Strategic Frameworks is instrumental in my paper as it analyzes the CRPD and discusses how and why a global strategic framework may not be as comprehensive as they intended it to be when it was created and how to create more accountability and more opportunities.

Multistakeholder Internet Governance

In this blog post I will discuss Multistakeholder Internet Governance, how it is beneficial to the masses and particularly persons with disabilities.


Multistakeholder internet governance is the concept that has been discussed in depth in the past few decades. The Internet Governance Forum (IGF), established in 2006, is a multi-stakeholder space where public policy regarding the internet is discussed, negotiated and decided to work towards the goal of creating a more inclusive, accessible and sustainable Internet. The IGF brings together numerous organizations, stakeholders and groups in order to discuss ideas from technical and operational workings to public policy. Multistakeholder involvement has largely been the method used to discuss such issues as it allows for numerous backgrounds and ideas to collaborate to create solutions from around the world. It is important that members worldwide are able to participate as the Internet is found in every country around the world (albeit unequally) and each of these areas may have different needs/opinions. The benefit to a multistakeholder approach is that allows for ample flexibility to an ever developing field. The multistakeholder model allows for individuals and organization to develop, share and be flexible, allowing for policy to adapt and change when needed. While the Internet is a technology that we use daily, it is a fairly new technology and still not a technology that is equally available around the world. While it has revolutionized the world without a doubt and allowed for powerful positive changes, the need for governance and regulations on it are necessary to ensure the further development of the internet continues to be positive, particularly in developing countries. The WSIS session in Tunis in 2005 established the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) as a mechanism to bring stakeholders together every year.

Multistakeholder Internet Governance is seen as a framework informed by three components as outlined by the Internet Society’s Executive Summary.  These components are an “a) opened-ended unleashed innovation (infrastructure), b) decentralized governance institutions (governance) and, c) open and inclusive processes (human).”  [1] These components are centred around the fact that the Internet is an open, free, transnational and interconnected and it is viewed that the multistakeholder approach to internet governance has grown from what has allowed the Internet to thrive in the first place.

The NETmundial initiative allows organizations to participate as multi-stakeholders and congregate to discuss internet governance and policy. It provides a place for flexibility and innovation to thrive. Organizations ranging from governments to the private sector to academics and the tech community come together to contribute to the evolving IG framework. [2] While having a large group debating and conferring on one issue may seem challenging, for the IG field it provides a sense of regulation to an otherwise anarchic system void of a central governing body. Having such a large amount of actors working on policy ensures systems of checks and balances and calls for more negotiation to ensure consensus and less unfair power dynamics, transparency and democracy. Internet Governance ensures that certain privileges remain, such as the internet remaining free and continuing to push for equitable distribution of resources. Currently, equal access to the internet is an important discussion in the international development world as internet access = freedom and freedom = development as per Sen’s beliefs. Internet access allows for knowledge flows, economic transactions, social change, education opportunities and more. The WSIS+10 SDG matrix shows that every Sustainable Development Goal connects to action lines of the WSIS Plan of Action and each goal can be further achieved with the internet being open and free to all, what multistakeholder internet governance fights for. Having access to these possibilities is extremely important for developing countries. Having these opportunities particularly for persons with disabilities is especially important.

However, despite the obvious benefits of Multi-Stakeholder, there is some discussion on whether the multi-stakeholder system is still as functional as it was two decades, or even a decade ago. An article published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation details that behind the benefits of multi-stakeholder internet governance is a lack of accountability and the paradoxical nature of inviting affected communities to help develop policies for the Internet if their recommendations are ignored. However, despite these caviets having this multistakeholder approach is also beneficial to persons with disabilities as it allows them to have an equal voice in discussions regarding internet policy. Similar to the HLPF where the 9 major groups that are recognized by the UN that partake in the forum that contributes to the discussion, being apart of the discussion of internet governance allows for persons with disabilities to introduce language that would aid the efforts of persons with disabilities to get disability-specific policies included.





SDGs and the High-Level Political Forum

In this blog post, I will discuss the SDGs and HLPF and their implications and importance for persons with disabilities.


The SDGs are 17 international development goals that were created by the United Nations as an expansion of the MDGs. The SDGs were considered a valiant next step in continuing world efforts towards development and improved the MDGs in two poignant manners. First, the SDGs allowed for persons with disabilities to have a platform in international documents as in the SDGs disabilities were mentioned 11 specific times compared to the complete lack of acknowledgement in in the MDGs. Additionally, the SDGs were much more measurable than the MDGs and included clear, measurable targets and indicators to easily determine the success of the SDGs.  Each of the 17 goals that are outlined in the SDGs contains numerous indicators that allow individual countries to track their independent progress of the SDGs. The SDGs and the CRPD has some overlap, but the CRPD is still viewed as the main article designed for worldwide inclusive development.

The High Level Political Forum, first created in 2012 is a creation of the UN that aims to assist with the the progress of the sustainable development goals. The HLPF is viewed as the UN’s main platform to assist in the implementation of the SDGs. The Forum, which meets once a year over a period of 8 days works to oversea the implementation of the articles. The HLPF is held every year by ECOSOC, however the UN General Assembly hosts a larger meeting of the HLPF once ever four years. The HLPF is also extremely important to create a dialogue between  stakeholders and independent groups and the UN.  There are 9 major groups that are recognized by the UN that partake in the forum and these groups represent the main constituency groups that need representation to insure their rights are upheld when thinking about Inclusive Sustainable Development. These groups are indigenous peoples, business and industry, children and youth, farmer, local authorities, NGOs, scientific community, women, and workers and trade unions. These groups are considered to be major stakeholders in the world of development and are given a platform for their language to be included in negotiations related to sustainable development.

The creation of the SDGs and the creation of the HLPF is incredibly important for persons with disabilities. The SDGs have a ton of overlap between goals and this intersectionality allows for persons with disabilities to find representation with numerous other stakeholders. There are 11 mentions of disabilities in the SDGs, meaning the language that would allow persons with disabilities to have the standing they need to advocate for themselves is already in place. The amount of overlap between goals also means that persons with disabilities can gain representation with stakeholders from the women’s or children groups and allow for those groups to negotiate with persons with disabilities in mind. 

ICTs and SDGs!

ICTs, information and communication technologies, are considered integral to accelerate progress of all the UN’s SDGs, particularly on SDG goal #9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. [1] Each Facebook check, riding the Metrobus around DC and checking blackboard demonstrate the importance of ICTs in our modern life in a digitized age. ICTs allow for easy connection cross-cultures, cross borders and have created an ability to easily share and receive information for everyone with access. ICTs have allowed for improvements in banking, education, health and allow individuals freedom to be informed, make decisions and having access allows for greater equality amongst persons, particularly disabilities [2].


ICTs are technologies that focus on intercommunication between parties by combining elements of audio-visual technology with information. They allow for the creation of global and national networks and providing a space for discussion and by providing equal access to all to ICTs allows for equalization for persons with disabilities. ICTs provide an opportunity to make various aspects of life more efficient and connected to the individual, regardless of ability. With an internet connection and ability to access ICTs, numerous barriers are reduced from a population of persons that are otherwise disenfranchised. This is particularly true for persons with disabilities. However, ICTs are not provided equally worldwide, with a majority of research determining that the distribution of ICTs can be found predominantly in the developed world. From telephones in 1984 where The Missing Link highlighted that 75% of telephones were found in developed countries, making persons in less developed countries more vulnerable than people in developed countries, to access to internet in 2018, it is clear that the developed world has an advantage in access to ICTs. In June of 2018, a report found that just 55.5% of the world’s population has access to the internet, with the majority of users being located in the developed world [3]. Furthermore, the graph below from the Pew Research Center in 2015 depicts clearly the relationship between per capita income by country and internet access. This clearly shows the unequal access of ICTs to developing countries [4].


Lack of access to ICTs, whether it be internet, telephones or other forms of communication technologies, severely disenfranchises persons without the technology and limits how individuals’ freedom of communication. The disparities that persons with disabilities face when they have a lack of access to ICTs is especially amplified as they may face restrictions in mobility, sight, hearing etc that ICTs may assist with. Furthermore, persons with disabilities are often left out of conversations and research around ICTs.


This being said, increased technology also has negative effects. The internet, and other ICTs, while they have incredible ability to create good and promote, can also be used to spread hate and destruction, almost unregulated. Facebook is a prime example of how ICTs can be used to spread hate and is important to recognize in my research. When it comes to “awareness raising”, it is important to recognize that awareness raising must not only promote awareness but acceptance. Promoting awareness of an issue is not directly linked to having acceptance and social media and ICTs often distinctly demonstrates this. Currently, the genocide in Myanmar can be directly tied to Facebook and parallels how the Rwandan genocide was amplified and encouraged through the radio [5]. This shows how awareness must be promoted through ICTs, not simply through government campaigns, by supporting persons with disabilities through modes of technology and communication, it can provide a method of acceptance on a social level.

Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction

This post focuses on DRR and DRM, the Sindai conference and how this can change how countries rebuild after a disaster.

This week’s class focused around the DRR and DRM and the importance of inclusive emergency preparedness. The UN had a large role in raising awareness for the importance of an inclusive emergency framework with the Sendai Conference, the subsequent Global Platform, and the Dhaka conference. As climate change causes more frequent, more damaging and deadly natural disasters, the global community is more empowered than ever to create inclusive sustainable development plans for disaster relief.

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Disaster Risk Management (DRM) have been tailored to be inclusive through numerous stakeholders. There is a concept in the disaster stakeholder group that natural disasters are in fact not natural (even if the associated hazard is) and only “by reducing and managing conditions of hazard, exposure and vulnerability that we can prevent losses and alleviate the impacts of disasters”[1]. DRR and DRM focus on managing risks, not just disasters, it focuses on the policy objective of anticipating and reducing risk. Both the Dhaka and the Sendai conference focused their efforts on DRR, DRM and peoples with disabilities. Due to the disproportionate amount of casualties that people with disabilities experience during disasters and emergency situations, the UN and other stakeholders have focused on creating specific measures that allow for people of all abilities, age, gender, race and poverty level to have equal amounts of protection as abled people.


The Sendai Conference was held with this in mind. The conference is heralded as the benchmark for an inclusive conference, with every effort made to make it as inclusive as possible. The Sendai Conference was the 3rd global UN Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan and was held in March 2015 and funded through the Nippon Foundation. What emerged from the conference was a non-binding agreement that arched over 15 years that highlights the need for individual states to work with other stakeholders to work to improve preparedness for disasters. Additionally, the Sendai conference was impactful as it altered the focus of disaster management to disaster risk reduction and highlighted the importance of rebuilding cities in an inclusive and sustainable way that would be less susceptible to natural disasters. The conference integrated both advocates for persons with disabilities as well as the elderly.  The conference outlines seven targets and four priorities for action and implementation guidelines to aid stakeholders to reduce disaster risks [2]. These measures need to be enacted in every country because natural disasters are becoming more prevalent and powerful and often, when disaster strikes, cities rebuild with little change. This leads to a reemergence of problems. In developing countries, one disaster can wipe out decades of development work and millions of dollars’ worth of investment, however, it presents an opportunity to rebuild smarter and more inclusive.

WUF and Diplomatic Events

This week in class we continued our discussion on inclusive and smart cities, with a focus on the World Urban Forum (WUF) and how it relates to inclusive development. The WUF is a global conference on urban issues established in 2001 by UN-Habitat specifically to address rapid urbanization and its far reached impacts. The Forum made a specific effort to be inclusive, gathering participation from diverse groups of people with diverse backgrounds, in order to increase awareness about sustainable urbanization, coordinate between groups, and create ideas to change the world of urbanization. The WUF meets every 2 years, most recently held in February 2018 in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia and boasted 23,000 participants, making it the second largest gathering in history.


One question that I had regarding many diplomatic events with high attendance, is whether having a large turn out for an event creates a more or less productive atmosphere? I believe this is something that must be very challenging in many UN meetings and Forums, the balance between being small enough to have compelling and influential discussions, but large enough to create an engaged and powerful dialogue. However, despite the specifics, the thought of having hundreds of people in one space, discussing one issue is powerful. Having 23,000 participants for WUF9 illustrated the popularity and the amount of support that the WUF gained over the decades.


Having popularity was very important to the mission as it showed how many governments, interests and stakeholders were interested in the message WUF was working to spread about sustainable urban development and urban issues. The were able to raise awareness of sustainable urbanization among stakeholders and constituencies and plan goals for future meetings. The message that everyone should have equal access to cities resonated across groups and solidified the Kuala-Lumpur Declaration on Cities 2030, ensuring cities and quality of life for all. Additionally, one of the main outcomes of the WUF9 was focused on creating a multidisciplinary conversation with both SDGs and the NUA, which we discussed in class last week. The NUA, being the primary outcome of Habitat III in 2016, was analyzed and discussed at WUF9. The participants viewed NUA as a tool for achieving both Agenda 2030 and the SDGs.


The WUF is very impactful to my research as the WUF’s main goal is to raise awareness. In conducting my early research, I have had a difficult time finding specific, tangible examples of how awareness raising can lead to tangible change. However, the WUF and NUA depicts an example of how

Habitat III

One of the concepts that we discussed in the first meeting of our class was what being disabled really means. One of the concepts that was raised was that a person is only disabled once they can not do something because of their position. This means that if the world adapts itself to become more adaptive to “disabilities”, citizens across the world aren’t restricted. The idea of smart, inclusive cities is the starting marker that would allow for a wider variety of citizens to be included in society. By avoiding marginalization of any demographic of people, cities can grow and promote safe, interactive, sustainable and rich urban spaces for all residents. While all smart cities should be inclusive cities, not al inclusive cities are necessarily smart cities. Smart cities focus on using analytics and sensors to create efficiency and predict was the society needs, and often factor inclusivity into decisions that are made. However, inclusive cities do not need to be super technologically advanced to avoid discrimination. I believe this is a fact that is not often addressed with clarity, often thinking the two terms are synonymous. However, the main component that is shared between the two concepts revolves around future planning to create cities that will grow and change as the population grows and changes.

To address creating cities that would fit these dimensions, the New Urban Agenda: Habitat III conference was held in October 2016 in Quito. The NUA creates a 20-year roadmap for achieving the goal of making cities and settlements more inclusive, resilient, safe, and sustainable and echoes Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities. One large change between the Habitat III document and other the previous NUAs was the emphasis of pre-planning to prevent slumming from occurring. In previous NUAs, there was a large focus on the importance of “de-slumming”, and fixing the horrible living conditions by vacating residence, tearing down the slums and rebuilding – a timely and expensive initiative. In habitat III, there was a large emphasis placed on creating living spaces that would prevent slumming to begin with, a much more economical and logistically simpler concept. As the world’s population is rapidly urbanizing, with more than half of the world’s population now living in an urban setting, pre-planning is more influential than ever.

Specific preplanning is being focused around PWD. The NUA clarifies specific actions that ensure PWDs are included in the urban development. By designing a universally accessible building, urban spaces can improve their ability to accommodate to all members of the city. However, one thing that I wish was addressed more in the class were the environmental ramifications of smart and inclusive cities. Obviously, having inclusivity is a must, but the question arises as what is necessary for inclusive cities and what is creating more waste. The NUA emphasizes the importance of sustainability in the framework, however, all new development comes with an environmental cost. At the moment, cities consume more resources and produce more waste than any other areas of the world. (Environmental effect of cities: While it is impossible to deny that urbanization is continuing to occur at a rapid rate, we must think not only what is best for the citizens living in the cities, but the total ramification of urbanization and how to minimize the negative effects on the Earth.

The NUA has created a new, international dialogue. One that emphasizes, not only the importance of planned urbanization but also one that declares the “Right to Cities” and the need for planning for all citizens.

Development Theory

While there is no clear definition of the term “development”, the majority of international relations courses I have taken have been spent studying development theories to analyze, critique and understand “development”. When first defining development, researches reached for GDP and economics as the method for determining what countries were considered developed and developing. Currently, the definition of development is altering as authors spend their careers researching a more accurate way to define the concept. One researcher who seriously impacted development theory is Amartya Sen.

Sen focused on the intersection between development and freedom, creating a new discourse that deviated from the economic and industrial based definitions of development. Sen’s work was extremely important for the field of development as the conclusions he presented made development a more intersectional field that highlighted the importance of human rights and social issues in development and that urbanization was not synonymous with development. Unlike numerous other development researches, Sen highlighted the importance of human well being in development and argued that economic development is linked to freedoms. Sen focuses on how societal arrangements, involving many institutions in a particular society, impact freedoms and how a broad view of freedom, that encompasses opportunities, is necessary.

I find an echoing between Sen’s research and what I envision for my capstone project. While I understand the importance of economics in international relations theory, particularly in development, my project is coming from a more humanitarian view of development. I’m using this idea of “overall freedoms to all people” and finding its intersection with the CRPD 8, focusing on raising awareness for people with developmental disabilities. Studying Sen’s Development as Freedom is extremely useful because his focus on opportunities as key to freedom is poignant to Article 8 of the CRPD, focusing on acceptance. My project is planning on focusing on ideologies and how ideologies are impactful to people with developmental disabilities. I feel raising awareness for people around the world with disabilities and promoting acceptance will lead to positive change in societies worldwide. Sen argues that capability deprivation is a better measure of poverty than low income and without awareness, numerous people with disabilities have opportunities stripped away from them. Poor education systems, poor working conditions and a lack of ability for social movement. The more awareness that is raised for people with disabilities, the more societal arrangements might be made for them and as Sen argued, these societal arrangements can lead to more freedoms. In order for a country to be more developed, all people need to have equal opportunities.