Development Theory

Development theory is an exceedingly important aspect of IR theory. Development theory explores what can be defined as development and why the concept of development is important to begin with. Predictably, the answer to the question, What can be defined as development? is not as simple as it may seem. In fact, the concept of development as a whole is often criticized because it seems to paint western society as an ideal should be striven for or as the pinnacle of what can be achieved from a society. According to people who subscribe to such an argument, the very term “developed” and therefore “development” alludes to some fixed point or measure that has been established by western society and ideals. However, beyond the critiques of the study of development as a whole, a complex debate on what constitutes development and how development can be achieved also exists. As with any debate of this magnitude, there are copious amounts of literature pertaining to development theory. This class explored primarily the work of Amartya Sen and the lens through which he perceives and discusses development.

As Amartya Sen explains in his book, “Development as Freedom,” he perceives development as, “… A process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy.” He goes on later to explain in his book that, “Development requires the removal of major sources of unfreedom: poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities as well as intolerance or over-activity of repressive states.” In short, Sen perceives development as access to real freedoms that can only exist when tyranny and poverty are eliminated. Sen’s perspectives on development have shaped how other scholars perceive development as well.

Understanding Sen’s definition of development, and the many other perspectives on development are essential to understanding the subject as whole. As is to be expected, perceptions of what development is and how it can be accomplish profoundly shape the approach that the international community takes to addressing the issue of development as a whole. During a time when many new international agreements and goals are emerging pertaining to development, it is more important than ever to fully understand what development means and the various scholarly opinions surrounding the subject. Only then can one formulate their own opinions on what are effective means to achieving development and what types of policies should be implemented.

Intersectionalities in Sustainable Development

Throughout the topic of sustainable development there exists many intersectionalities. However, before one can fully understand where these intersectionalities exist within the area of inclusive development, it is first important to understand what an intersectionality is. In a broad sense, an intersectionality, is a meeting point or a crossing point of two objects or concepts. However, this definition is exceedingly broad and does not directly speak to the issue at hand. Therefore, for the purpose of this reflection an intersectionality can be defined as the place at which two aspects of sustainable development cross or intersect. With these definitions established, one can next define what intersectionalities exist within the topic of sustainable development.

There are many intersectionalities that exist within the topic of sustainable development. Three of the most prominent ones explored by this class are: [1] gender and disability, [2] gender and development, and [3] youth and development. However, many other intersectionalities exist within the subject of sustainable development exists as well. These include: education and disability and education and poverty. Understanding the relationship between these variables, and many more like them, is absolutely critical to understanding how truly sustainable development can occur. For example, if one understands how addressing gender disparities can influence overall development or how gender inequities exist with sub-groups such as persons with disabilities, more efficient strategies can be developed. When these relationships are ignored; however, achieving sustainable development can be exceedingly difficult if not impossible. Intersectionailites can also exist within different international agreements that address the issue of sustainable development. For example, internsectionalities exist exist between the SDGs and the CRPD in terms of inclusive education. Therefore, addressing distinct intersectionalities that exist within the topic of sustainable development is of the utmost importance.

Yet, as is discussed by Gabby in her blog post, adequate attention is not always given to these intersectionalitites. Even more troubling is that the intersectionalities that exist within sustainable development are not always understood. Instead of perceiving or addressing sustainable development as the complex web of overlapping issues that it is, some address sustainable development as a series of isolated issues that have no or minimal influence on each other. These patterns of thinking leads to ineffective strategies that do not adequately address many of the root issues associated with sustainable development. Only when the intersectionalities associated with sustainable development are fully addressed can true sustainable, inclusive development be achieved.

Inclusive Education

The term “inclusive education” is defined (according the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization —UNESCO) in the 2014 Model Policy for Inclusive ICTs in Education for Persons with Disabilities as, “the process of strengthening the capacity of the education system to reach out to all learners.” It is important to remember that inclusive education does not mean separate schools for through traditionally left out of the public school education system nor does it mean special classes within schools. Instead, truly inclusive education dictates the full integration of those traditionally ignored by the public education system into the mainstream classroom. Including children with disabilities into the traditional education system is often key to implementing inclusive education within a given country or region. Children with disabilities often struggle to access to education at all. A lack of education, as has been demonstrated time and time again, can have serious implications in terms of financial security and employment opportunities.

There are a variety of countries and even regions that are currently attempting to implement inclusive education policies. One region currently engaged in implementing inclusive educational policies is East Asia and the Pacific. The 2003 UNESCO report titled, “Inclusive Education Initiatives for Children With Disabilities: Lessons from the East Asia and Pacific Region” explores the success and challenges associated with the implementation of inclusive educational policies. Each chapter explores the various experiences of different countries in the region. By including children with disabilities in the education system, countries exponentially expand the options available to this vulnerable sub-group.

Aside from the ever-important human-aspects associated with implementing inclusive education policy, it is also vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and more specifically, SDG 4.   Lack of education among children with disabilities also poses a direct threat to SDG 4— “Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. “ By introducing more inclusive education policies within countries, governments are taking an active step to reducing educational inequities towards children with disabilities. This in turn, clears the way for “ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education.” Implementing inclusive educational policies also goes a great way towards achieving some of the educational goals laid out by the Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Therefore, while implementing inclusive educational policies may at times by challenging, they are absolutely paramount towards achieving the SDGs and alleviating inequities that exist among children with disabilities.


Efficacy of Global Frameworks

In the past number of years, much has been made about the efficacy of global frameworks. Nowhere is this more important than in the debate surrounding the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs, which were established in 2000, sought to expand and improve development throughout the world through 8 goals. These goals included achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality, eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, and ensuring environmental sustainability. While certainly admirable goals, the SDGs are not without their own criticisms. First and foremost, the MDGs have received criticism because although these goals were slated for completion in 2015, many of them were not reached. These shortcomings were attributed largely to the breath of the goals expressed and the lack of concrete plans associated with each goal. There were also very few monitoring or follow-up mechanisms associated with the goals. The MDGs also received criticism for not paying enough attention to vulnerable sub-groups including indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities.

However, the debate surrounding the efficacy of the global frameworks expands beyond the MDGs. Even with the relatively recent introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), critiques about the feasibility and monitoring of the goals have already begun to emerge. Some say the goals still do not address certain vulnerable sib-groups adequately. However, the SDGs do also represent an attempt by international community to respond to the criticisms of the MDGs. The SDGs have a much more complex series of goals and targets than the MDGs contained. The SDGs also sought to speak more directly to vulnerable sub-groups including indigenous groups and persons with disabilities than the MDGs. They also speak more directly to cross cutting issues such as gender disparities and environmental degradation.

However, despite the criticisms extended to global frameworks both past and present, they still play an inarguably critical role in international governance. The SDGs, MDGs, and other international agreements and meetings such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), shape how the international community perceives, talks about, and addresses critical issues. While they may not be as efficient as some would hope, they do still guide international policy in a positive direction and address valuable issues that might otherwise not be addressed. For example, while MDG goal 2 —achieving universal primary education— was not met by 2015, illiteracy rates did decrease rapidly throughout the world. This demonstrates that while not 100% effective global frameworks do play a critical role in addressing important international issues.


Multi-Stakeholder Governance

Multi-stakeholder governance can be defined as a multi-actor approach to internet governance. The concept of multi-stakeholder governance came into existence as countries and multinational corporations grappled with the concept of the governance of the internet. How the internet should be governed and even if internet governance should occur has, in recent years, been a topic of fierce debate. However, multi-stakeholder governance has emerged to a solution to the issue. In our increasingly globalized and interconnected world, multi-stakeholder internet governance is more relevant than ever before.

As explored in class, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is one means in which the strategy of multi-stakeholder governance is utilized. As explained on its homepage, the IGF is a, “Multi-stakeholder platform that facilitates the discussion of public policy issues pertaining to the internet.” The IGF, hosted by the United Nation Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), plans to will meet December 6th– 9th of this year in Jalisoc, Mexico. One group that participates in the IGF is the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is often presented as an experiment in international governance. ICANN is interesting because it prescribes to international regime theory. That is, it believes that there are actors other than states that can influence international relations. While ICANN does contain a Government Advisory Committee (GAC), it is only a small part of the group and not a major actor. Strategies such as those implemented by ICANN and the IGF have become increasingly important as different entities vie for control over different aspects of the internet.

There are also many outside conferences that have sought to establish multi-stakeholder governance on the internet. The NETmundial conference, which met on April 32nd and 24th of 2014 in São Paulo, Brazil, explored the idea of multi-stakeholder governance. In fact, the NETmundial conference website describes the conferences as a, “Global Multi-stakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance.” The meeting, which was organized by CGI and Dilma Rousseff, established a tentative framework for multi-stakeholder governance.

I believe that internet governance will continue to be an issue for many years to come. As the internet expands and permeates many different aspects of our lives, questions about who should govern the internet and how the internet should be governed should be governed will continue to become increasingly pertinent. By addressing this issue now, the international community can avoid some undue tensions in the future.


Digital Divide(s)

The term “Digital Divide” refers to the concept of a division in access to certain technologies that prevents communication and at times, further development with a community or country. Depending on the source utilized there can be one digital dived or multiple digital divides. Most of the discussed digital divides center upon demographical separations both domestically and internationally. These separations often occur along age, income, and geographical location divides. The presence of digital divides presents a large problem in our continuously globalizing society. Predictably, there are a number of different reports written on the subject.

This phenomenon of digital divides was explored thoroughly in the 1995 report titled, “Falling Through The Net.” The report, published by the United States National Telecommunications and Information Administration explores the digital divides that exist within the United States. Some of the most prominent divides found were between age and geographical location. The report is considered a key perspective in the discussion on ICTs and digital divides. However, “Falling Through the Net” was not the only report released that touched on the concept of digital divides. The 1981 report titled, “Many Voices, One World” explored similar topics. The report was published by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and is often referred to as the McBride Report. Chapter 6 specifically of Part II of the report explores the disparities in communication technologies. It also expresses the need to address these disparities. These two reports, “Many Voices, One Voice” and “Falling Through the Net” brought attention to the concept of a digital divide (or multiple digital divides) to the attention of the international community. They also facilitated the initial attempts to address the existence of digital divides and the various repercussions of their existence.

As stated previously, addressing digital divides is essential in an increasingly globalized society. As discussed in the two previous classes, ICTs are critical to developing more inclusive urban areas and the inclusive, sustainable development of society as a whole. In fact, many of the goals and ideals set forth in the New Urban Agenda will be exceedingly difficult to address should these digital divides persist. Therefore, it can be argued that the very existence of digital divides makes sustainable, inclusive development exceedingly difficult. Similar opinions, as is noted by Megan as well, are expressed in other documents associated with this class including the WISIS +10 outcome document and the WISIS +10 matrix. Looking into the future, addressing digital divides will be essential if the international community hopes to achieve true inclusive and sustainable development.

ICTs and Sustainable Development

In recent years, ICTs (information and communications technology) have often been thought of as the key to sustainable and inclusive development, both in rural and in growing urban areas. ICT is a broad term that encompasses a variety of different technologies. However, in the context of development and inclusive development, ICTs generally serve to improve accessibility and improve inclusivity within countries. The WISIS +10 meeting (World Summit on the Information Society) in December of 2015 and the corresponding WISIS +10 outcome matrix explored how ICTs could be used to achieve sustainable, inclusive development. The WISIS +10 matrix found relevant WISIS action lines within all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This demonstrates the widespread depth and application of ICTs and the developmental process.

However, the study of the role of ICTs in development began far earlier than 2015. The Maitland Commission, published a report titled, “The Missing Link” in 1984 explored the role that telecommunications played in development and the inequities in access to telecommunications that existed. It was published by the International Telecommunication Union. This report is largely viewed as an important step in understanding the relationship between ICTs and development. The report, “Falling Through The Net” published in 1995, continued to build upon the ideas introduced within the Maitland Report through internet accessibility. It also laid the groundwork for future analysis and discussion on the role ICTs in development including the WISIS +10 meeting.

ICT are and should be an inarguable part of sustainable, inclusive development. As was explored in the previous class and blog post, ICTs are essential to the creation of “smart cities.” Smart city initiatives, as outlined in the New Urban Agenda (NUA), are key to successful, inclusive development. Nowhere are ICTS more applicable than in the ever-expanding urban areas throughout the world. However, important steps must be taken to ensuring that ICTs and many of the recourses that they seek to increase access to. As is explored in the Maitland Report, there are often access divides within location and incomes. This phenomenon was explored further in the report further in the report titled, “Falling Through the Net.” However, since the publication of the Maitland Report in 1984, a great number of initiatives have been implemented to try to reduce these gaps. While these initiatives have been met with varying degrees of success the expansion of ICTs throughout the world is undeniable. Because of this steep increase, it can be anticipate that their expansion should continue to increase. However, the inclusive distribution of ITCs and the recourses that they help to access will be much harder to achieve.