Intersectionality in Sustainable Development

Intersectionality explores the intersections of race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, and class. Issues regarding race, gender, religion, and class can be heightened when combined. It is essential to understand how marginalized communities are further set back by the combination of varying identities, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and class. In the United States, homelessness disproportionately affects gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender youth. These groups represent 20 to 40 percent of the 1.6 to 2.8 million homeless youths in America (Center for American Progress, 2010). When creating policy or implementing programs, the advantages and disadvantages of social placement must be considered to ensure policy and programs benefit everyone equally. In the case of homeless youth in the United States, specific programs and policies must address the fact that gender, race, and sexual orientation are major factors for homelessness among youth.

All factors that contribute to ones advantages or disadvantage must be acknowledged for peace and equality. The United Nations has made a concerted effort to include the voices and perspectives of the most marginalized groups in the world after recognizing the sustainable development was impossible without active participation of all societal members. The High Level Political Forum provides a platform for nine often marginalized groups consisting of:

  1. Women
  2. Children and Youth
  3. Indigenous peoples
  4. Non-Governmental Organizations
  5. Local Authorities
  6. Workers and Trade Unions
  7. Business and Industry
  8. Scientific and Technological Community
  9. Farmers

Member States decide upon how these groups participate in intergovernmental processes related to Sustainable Development. While the creation of these groups is a step forward, I question whether or not Member States interests may be valued over the perspectives of the Major Groups, especially in countries with political instability and corruption.

All in all, intersectionality as a social theory is a relatively new concept. The Working Groups of the United Nations show the progress and importance of giving marginalized communities a platform to express their concerns and ideas towards sustainable development.


Quintana, Nico and Josh Rosenthal, and Jeff Krehely. On the Streets: The Federal Response to Gay and Transgender Homeless Youth. Center for American Progress. June 2010.


Inclusive Education

The disability community represents over one billion people in world. Regardless of this large percentage, equal opportunities are not provided, especially amongst the education sector. Technological literacy is fundamental for social and digital inclusion, however many disabled learners to not have access to proper education opportunities to advance these skills. The UNESCO Model Policy for Inclusive ICTs in Education assists countries in the pursuits of creating an inclusive education framework based upon Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). Inclusive ICTS for education aim to mainstream technologies to all individuals. This includes making computers, web browsers, mobile phones, and word processors accessible to learners with and without disabilities. This could be as easy as supplementing technological instructions with an online video with captioning. However, one must have a computer to access this, which is a further determinant for exclusive education.

Inclusive ICTS for learners depends on eliminating the digital divide. The digital divide refers to “the gap between those who can benefit from digital technology and those who cannot ”(2012, 46). Eliminating the digital divide requires public funding and subsidies and depends on a public-private partnerships.Considering the private sector plays a large role in the R&D stages, inclusivity and accessibility must be acknowledged and integrated. If certain companies do not assume inclusivity and accessibility in R&D stages, it will be nearly impossible to achieve inclusive education. Not only do Inclusive ICTs expand opportunities for marginalized communities, they can also expand market opportunities for private corporations, thus generating greater profits for Inclusive R&D.

Education is integral to social and economic development. Inclusive ICTs have the opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless, cultivate greater awareness of social, political, and environmental issues. Most importantly, ICTs can bring different people and cultures together.


Model Policy for Inclusive ICTS in Education for Persons with Disabilities. (2014). UNESCO. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. France.

Efficacy of Global and Regional Frameworks

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were presented at the Millenium Summit of the United Nations in 2000. These goals addressed global challenges such as the eradication of poverty and hunger, environmental sustainability, and to develop global partnerships for development. Prior to the implementation of these goals from 1980 to 2000, the developed world experienced economic growth and an increase in economic inequity. The MDGs aimed to expand the benefits of development to excluded and deprived populations. The MDGs introduced a new monitoring mechanism to hold national governments and the international community responsible for ensuring goals were accompanied with action.

A major limitation for the achievement of the MDGs was accountability. Many developing countries where these challenged persisted, lacked resources and a voice to truly implement programs towards goal achievement. Furthermore, the dominant ideology regarding the success of the MDGs was linked with economic growth, aid, and sound governance. This view is limiting because it isolates economics from politics and society.

While the MDGs focused on long-term goals, short-term targets and processes are not clearly defined. The global framework for development also set a one-size-fit-all model for development, assuming all countries were at the same starting point. The transition path was undefined, which painted goals as idealistic and unachievable. Monitoring processes were also highly quantitative and depended upon statistical data to determine progress. While quantitative data can say a lot about a countries development, it does not fully reflect the well-being of vulnerable populations and in cases where data is inaccessible.

While the MDGs were deemed unsuccessful, they provided a framework and a global opportunity for improvement and cooperation. With the international community and national governments aware of the limitations of the MDGs, the framework still provided a point of reference and vast opportunities for reconfiguration. The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGS) served as the replacement agenda for the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs aimed to fill in the gaps of the MDGs by proposing greater short-term targets and indicators of development. The SDGs also place high important on global partnerships between all sectors of society, especially amongst the private and public sector.



Nayyar, Deepak. (2012). UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda. UN Expert Group. New York.

Inclusive Cities

Rapid urbanization and population growth will amplify global inequities if development initiatives are not inclusive of the poor and vulnerable. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) developed Strategy 2020, a long-term framework, 2008-2020, committed to inclusive development and livable cities. In Asia, one-third of the population resides in slums (ADB). UN Habitat defines slums as as:

“a group of individuals living under the same roof who lack one or more (in some cities, two or more) of the following conditions: security of tenure, structural quality and durability of dwellings, access to safe water, access to sanitation facilities, or sufficient living area.” (ESCAP, 2008)



South Asian Slum

The conditions that define a slum coincide with human rights violations, such as the human right to water and security. On the other hand, Asia, with the People’s Republic of China and India, lifted 125 million people out of slum conditions. However, rapid urbanization and population growth have contributed to an increase of the worlds slums. Addressing the needs and challenges of the poor requires direct interventions within slums. This requires greater inclusion of the poor in city planning and development initiatives. Amartya Sen asserts that the removal of poverty, poor economic opportunities, and systemic social deprivation is fundamental for development. Sen further determines that income cannot be the sole measurement of capability deprivation, and handicaps, such as age or illness, can further inhibit one’s ability to translate income into capabilities. The capability lens should be used when implementing programs in creating more inclusive and livable cities.


UN-HABITAT. 2010. State of the World’s Cities: Bridging the Urban Divide 2010/11. UK–USA: Earthscan. p. x.

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). 2008. Statistical Year Book for Asia and the Pacific


ICTS and Inclusive Sustainable Development: GIS for Participatory Planning

Inclusive sustainable development requires the utilization of information and  communication technologies (ICTS). ICTS can help support the achievement of the 2030 Agenda to deliver improvement and innovation with health, education, business development, and participatory planning processes. Governments will need to focus planning processes, policies, and strategies to address the implications of rapid urbanization on already marginalized communities. Goal 11 of the SDGs aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. Goal 11 aims is to ensure individual rights in urban centers are fully met, with universal access to basic services, energy, housing, transportation, and more. Collaborative and inclusive urban planning is necessary to ensure future individual rights are not violated. Technological innovations can be used to trace inequities in city planning efforts, such as GIS software, which I argue is a sub-category of the ICT field.

Geographic information systems (GIS) provide software programs that are “designed to capture, manage, analyze, and display all forms of geographically referenced information.” These types of technologies can supplement ArcGIS is a mapping and analytic platform designed by Esri, a global leader in GIS technology. One of the main applications of GIS is urban planning, utilizing spatial databases, and analysis and modeling tools (Arc GIS) Furthermore, GIS planning solutions can be used for sustainable development initiatives such as improving the quality of life and portraying data in a visual context for easier decision making processes.

GIS services offer governments ability to readily access maps and capitalize on preexisting data to streamline knowledge accumulation needed for strategic decision making such as planning urban centers and implementing projects where multistakeholder collaboration is key to success. GIS technologies have also aided in community based planning processes that allow planners and citizens to test alternative development scenarios to determine future impacts. Citizen participation is improved through GIS technologies and provides mechanisms to further communicative planning. Communicative planning emphasizes the importance of multistakeholder dialogues for decentralized planning processes. Patsy Healey (1996) a prominent scholar in the field of communicative planning asserts the importance of decentralized and communicative planning processes:

“Knowledge is not reformulated but is specifically created anew in our communication through exchanging perceptions and understanding and through drawing on the stock of life experience and previously consolidated cultural and moral knowledge available to participants. We cannot, therefore, predefine a set of tasks that planning must address, since these must be specifically discovered, learnt about, and understood through intercommunicative processes.”

Examining potential consequences of urban planning is essential and GIS technologies allow for alternatives to be evaluated before actual implementation. Converging informational communication technology with GIS software can be beneficial for urban planners and bottom-up grassroots approaches for inclusive development.


Multistakeholder Governance and Climate Change

The multistakeholder partnership initiative, was developed at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) contains over 300 public-private partnerships (Backstrand) . The achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will require a multistakeholder approach of varying sectors and actors working in an integrated manner. A multistakeholder partnership can also promote new approaches when they first emerge. Sustainable Development Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, highlights the importance of the multistakeholder partnerships for the exchange of knowledge. The multistakeholder approach has potential to improve current practice, provide entry into new markets, and an integrated exchange of best practices. This approach can help uncover gaps and areas of convergences between various goals, objectives, and evaluation frameworks for inclusive sustainable development.

The multistakeholder approach is essential for achievement of the SDGs and for combatting the effects of climate change. Climate change has no borders, and global cooperation is key to mitigating the impacts. The effects of global warming has disproportionate impacts on marginalized communities and will stand as a major obstacle for universal equality. Climate change is already impacting livelihoods and restraining already scarce resources. All citizens have a role in mitigating their carbon footprints. Privileged individuals must ensure they are doing everything to offset the impacts of their lifestyles. Americans consume more than any other country in the entire world and we must address our consumption patterns. SDG 12, Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, will need to be enforced in the United States if this goal is to be achieved. A multistakeholder approach should be used when addressing consumption and production patterns in the U.S..



SDG Overview and the High-Level Political Forum

The 2030 Agenda consists of 17 interrelated goals, targets, and indicators to ensure sustainable and inclusive development. The 2030 Sustainable Goals (SDGs) recognize the multidimensionality of poverty and builds upon the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to fully realize the human rights of all peoples. The goals also highlight the need to implement and monitor programs regarding climate change. In comparison to the MDGs, the SDGs are intended for universal application in both developing and developed countries. All countries are considered to be developing countries and to achieve the goals set forth, and all stakeholders must work together in implementation and monitoring processes. Eradicating poverty and zero hunger are the first two goals of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Agenda. The 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals aim is to mobilize global efforts and partnerships. The overarching goal is to end all forms of poverty whilst ensuring no one is left behind in development initiatives.

The United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) was established at the Rio+20 Conference of Sustainable Development. The HLPF is responsible for the review and follow-up of the 2030 Agenda. Each year, the HLPF decides on goals to focus on. In 2019, the HLPF will focus on empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality. This encapsulates Goal 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, and 17. All 17 goals have convergences and opportunities to build off each other. Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality requires the voices of marginalized communities to be amplified. Active participation is further needed. The United Nations recognizes this need and formalized nine sectors of society whose participation is essential for UN related activities. The Major Groups represent women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, civil society, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, and the scientific and technological community.