An intersectionality is how different issues, solutions, and areas of interest converge and coincide. Many issue areas may face the same problems. Or the solution for an issue may be multidisciplinary, requiring input from multiple interested actors. In the extremely globalized world that we now live in it is nearly impossible to find two issues that are totally disconnected. There are always factors that can totally reinvent something because of an innovation that happened thousands of miles away. This has serious benefits in international relations. Innovations in communications and technologies benefit all aspects of society. They increase profits for corporations, help educate children in developing countries learn, allow two politicians speaking different languages to communicate, and much more. This is a wonderful aspect of international relations because you can always find a way to make something in the best interest of multiple stakeholders. Technological developments benefit big corporations, so they invest large amounts of money in them. These developments also help the disenfranchised as an externality. It may not be the intention of the corporation to help these people but because of the intersections it benefits them and it helps the world as a whole. Politicians may fund research into a certain scientific process because of economic or social impacts only to discover that this research can help ease climate change.
This is why it is now more crucial than ever to be aware of these intersectionalities. If we are unaware of the unintentional benefits of our disciplines, we may fail to apply these benefits and lose so much in the process. Awareness of intersectionalities is crucial to sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals reflect this. Though there are seventeen different goals, there are clear areas of crossover between the goals. Climate change affects certain areas far more strongly than it does others. This combines two different goals, #13 climate action and #16 peace and justice, to create a new discipline of climate justice. Remaining cognizant of these overlaps ensures that we can share solutions and innovations to benefit both disciplines.
If a country is to achieve progress on social, economic, and political levels they need to have the human capacity to reach these heights. Progress comes from the people of the country. One cannot import politicians, businessmen, laborers, etc and then leave the people of the country in the dark. A state needs to look inward and build the capability of their own people through education. When I studied in Denmark I learned about the governance of their satellite state Greenland. While Greenland is technically governed by the indigenous people who live there, closer inspection reveals that their bureaucratic and high income positions are all occupied by wealthy Danes who work in Greenland for a year or two before returning home. The Greenlandic people themselves do not occupy these positions because they do not have the skills, most of them barely graduate high school. If they do not receive the education necessary they can never develop economically or politically.
So how do you improve education in developing countries? And how do you do so without excluding certain groups? In many developing nations, a lack of infrastructure prevents children from attending schools. They may have to cross long distances without access to transportation. The schools may be built in a way that doesn’t accommodate students with disabilities such as no wheelchair access. The teachers may not be trained to teach students with disabilities. There are many cases such as this and students are left out because no one has the knowledge or experience to help them. This excludes a major segment of society and leaving people out of the workforce leads to a loss of innovation and expertise that can help economic and social development. Education is an example of how interconnected development issues truly are. Working on one area can lead to solutions in other areas. If infrastructure like roads and buildings cannot be changed to accommodate students, information and communicative technologies can help. ICT’s allow students to access information and attend class sessions without needing to be in there in person. They can also provide alternative methods of learning for those whom traditional modes of education fail. ICT’s also benefit educators, who can tune into training seminars online and educate themselves on new teaching methods from places around the world. Education is fundamental to development, but first we must develop education so that it accommodates everyone.
We’ve talked a lot about global frameworks as major steps towards sustainable development. Mobilization of multiple high level political actors is integral to successfully changing the world. Global frameworks keep powerful states and organizations engaged in the sustainable development process and demonstrate to the world that it is an issue that is being taken seriously and states want to see progress done. However, frameworks are only solutions if they are actually working. A large problem with international law and policy is that there are no legal means to enforce cooperation. International law is really just an agreed upon code of conduct, which no country has the true power to enforce other than through coercion. There are no world police to arrest violators of international law, that would be ridiculous. Global frameworks like the Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights are signed and ratified by countries, but how do we know if requirements are being met or if they are even effective? The Millennium Development Goals, which came into effect in 2000 were supposed to be met by the year 2015. For the reasons outlined above, their success was very limited. The goals were not legally binding to any country, and though many countries were on the right track, the goals ultimately were not effective enough. For this reason the follow up goals, the SDG’s, were far more detailed on how goals were to be met and provided specific targets and ways to operationalize sustainability. Though frameworks are not binding, there are ways to facilitate cooperation and participation among states.
Having a multitude of countries signed on to the same framework makes them more likely to be followed. First and foremost is for the prestige and the social pressure to do the right thing. A sort of “peer pressure” system occurs where major states, particularly in the Western world, feel obligated to promote values of peace and sustainability in order to fit in with the progressive mentality that has become the norm. If a powerful state deviates from the norm it shows a lack of willingness to cooperate at a global level, which may make other states hesitate to work with said state. The integration of morality into politics plays a big role in the success of sustainable development initiatives. Moral obligations force states to commit to change. If we looked at sustainable development from a “realist” relative gains scenario, states would gladly let other states fail in order to increase their own success. However, globalization has connected all states together and introduced some semblance of morality into politics that makes it in a countries best interest to develop the world sustainably
Internet governance is an issue growing in importance and it will continue to grow as the internet becomes the primary means by which people communicate. The internet is a method for sharing information that exists transnationally. How do policy makers and interested parties regulate a mechanism of communication that has no physical form? Internet governance is the tricky development of institutions, procedures, and rules that regulate how the internet is used across the world. One of the first questions is who gets to be involved in the process of governing the internet?
There are a variety of stakeholders. First and foremost are states, as they regulate most global interactions and must preserve the rule of law, even over the internet. Other stakeholders would be the corporations and businesses that benefit most from internet traffic and usage. Technology and information companies have a major stake in the successful regulation of the internet and achieving their goals without being restricted. The people themselves are major stakeholders as they are the average users who depend on the internet for daily use.
Internet governance plays a major role in sustainable development in terms of providing equal access to information for all. Without government regulation, the corporations who provide access to information and communicative technologies could pick and choose recipients based on whoever can pay more. While this trend already exists to some degree, government regulation ensures that corporations cannot monopolize internet access. Equal access to the internet is essential for developing communities to communicate effectively, encourage investment, build industry, and strengthen education.
There a variety of platforms and forums that promote and facilitate discussion on internet governance and how to manage it in the future. Netmundial was a meeting for the various stakeholders in internet governance to come together and discuss ideas that took place in Brazil in 2014. The meeting placed states and other international multistakeholders. The focus of the meeting was to create balance among the various stakeholders and foster open communication between all of the players. There is also the Internet Governance Forum, which is a multistakeholder platform that encourages discussion regarding public policy issues and the internet.
The concept of a digital divide is the unequal access to information and communicative technologies (ICT’s) based on economic or social factors. Digital divides can manifest in many ways and for many reasons. For some their access to ICT’s is limited due to the lack of infrastructure that supports it. If the government cannot put in place the necessary infrastructure to support internet connection or even phone lines it is incredibly difficult for citizens to find ways to access these opportunities without traveling long distances. This issue is one that I have run across in my project about the arctic indigenous people. Many of the arctic groups live in extraordinarily remote areas in the cold north that their respective states have not spent any time developing. They have limited access to resources in general but almost no access to internet connections. This makes communication across long distances difficulty and isolates them even further. We live in a digital age where information on current events and political processes can mostly be accessed digitally. In order to stay connected to the modern world and current events indigenous groups need to be afforded the same access to ICT’s in order to develop at the same rate.
The Digital divide may also result from economic factors. While the government may not be able to afford the infrastructure to increase access to technology, the people themselves may be excluded from ICT’s based on economic inequalities. Even among developed states there are many people who cannot afford a home computer or to pay companies for internet access. They are forced to use public means to access technology in the same way as others whether through the public library, at school, or more.
One of the central issues with the Digital Divide is the general ideology surrounding technology. For many years technology has been treated as a luxury, something that one should only have if they have the disposable income. Technology connects us to our entertainment and other leisure activities. But technological innovation in recent decades has made technology essential to surviving in our society. People cannot continue to treat technology as something only for the privileged. ICT’s must be spread to people of all statuses if we are ever to be on equal footing. As long as the privileged continue to have greater access to resources that make them money, they will continue to get richer. Meanwhile the developing world will be left still struggling to access technology in a post-industrialized world and be unable to advance. These disparities need to be reduced as quickly as possible and through global partnerships. The Maitland Commission Report advocates for integrating technology into developing communities at affordable rates. More global partnerships are springing up to ensure equal access to ICT’s for all.
Information and Communicative Technologies (ICT’s) play a crucial role in sustainable development. ICT’s allow the quick and efficient spread of information across wide distances. They let people participate and collaborate on projects that would otherwise be inaccessible to them. Part of developing sustainably is finding new ideas and insights that no one has yet considered to be a solution. If not everyone can participate in the creation of solutions, there are thousands of human resources with knowledge, insights, and ideas that are being lost. From a very realist perspective, it is a loss of human capital that could theoretically be used to improve civilization. In additions, ICT’s ensure that information about governments and policies is available to all people and can be accessed easily. This bolsters transparency and breaks down walls that divide people from their governments. Part of sustainable development is political freedom. If the people are disconnected from the people and institutions that govern them, how will society develop at all? If one applies this to disability inclusive development, participation can be a major problem for those with disabilities. For example, a family friend of mine is a quadriplegic who has no motor control below the neck. One would think that accessing systems of governance would be nearly impossible for him. However due to his expertise in computers and privilege to access technologies he has been a member of my town council for over 10 years. ICT investment leads to online translators, screenreaders, training seminars, and much more. ICT’s also keep the outside world updated on developments in sustainability for a particular country. ICT’s allow everyday citizens to judge the progress of a state and keep them motivated towards progress.
ICT’s work very well when applied to the Sustainable Development Goals. There is a strong connection between goal #4 quality education and information technology. Schools are starting to integrate online learning and technological innovations into education at all levels. While the integration of ICT’s is evident at a secondary level, given the nature of this class, I believe integration of ICT’s at a primary level deserves more attention. Primary education, particularly in the Western world, is very standardized in order to measure the progress of all children at an even level. However, this standardization excludes young students who aren’t able to fit this model and very brilliant students are left behind. In less developed states students may not have the access to the resources and knowledge to educate themselves as much as they’d like. ICT’s can aid in giving all students the same access to educational resources, no matter where they reside or if they have a disability. ICT’s also aid in Goal #9, developing industry, innovation, and infrastructure. ICT’s increase the flow of information across borders and distances. This allows industries to reach new areas and economic opportunities they may not have had access to previously. Meanwhile, ICT’s challenge people to make new technologies and innovations that will benefit the world in the future. Lastly, ICT’s aid in reducing inequalities, Goal #10. Disparities in technological access prevent many developing communities from using the same resources to build socially and economically. The Maitland Commission Report and the World Summit on the Information Society both advocate for integrating technology into developing communities at affordable rates. Technology is expensive but it would be unjust to prevent whole groups of people from accessing these technologies simply because they do not have the wealth to do so. A global effort to create strategies and policies that place infrastructure for technological development is integral to sustainable development.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), known officially as “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” are a series of seventeen goals developed by the United Nations. The extreme disparity between developed nations and underdeveloped nations is growing as the world becomes more globalized. Naturally underdeveloped nations want the same opportunities to industrialize and develop as the richer countries had. But the prosperous countries industrialized and developed by doing significant damage to the environment and perpetuating systems of injustice. The SDG’s are designed to help developing nations do so in a manner where they do not compromise the environment or human rights and to ensure that already developed nations can continue to develop but in a more sustainable manner.
The goals outline a concrete plan for the participating countries and provide targets for them to aim for and meet by the year 2030. The goals arose out of the previous plan the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) which terminated in 2015. The MDG’s were largely unsuccessful and member states failed to meet these goals. The SDG’s provided a more in depth plan and provided specific targets for states to meet and indicators by which to measure their progress. The SDG’s take a multidisciplinary approach to sustainable development. Instead of focusing solely on environmental and health issues as in previous years, the SDG’s broadened their reach. Sustainable development means focusing on economic, political, and social issues as well.
The High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) is a forum conducted by the United Nations General Assembly every four years. The HLPF took this role in 2013, after they were created at Rio+20. The upcoming HLPF in 2017 will focus on the theme of “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity.” It will incorporate the SDG’s and use them to strengthen their work as well as aid them in implementing new procedures. One of these procedures is national voluntary reviews (NVR) where member states release their progress on inclusive development as public knowledge. This is designed to increase transparency and help states learn from one another’s successes and failures.
Sustainable development is a process that requires multiple disciplines and actors to come together and create stronger and more effective policy. Without collaboration and cooperation nothing will get done. The SDG’s and HLPF are processes that link multiple actors on a global scale and ensure that these actors have the same resources to make change.
Habitat III is the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. The conference took place in Quito in October and as the name suggests, it is the third meeting on this subject. The conference meets every twenty years to discuss how to improve sustainable urban development on a global level. The main outcome of Habitat III was the adoption of the New Urban Agenda (NUA). The NUA was developed in an effort to refocus efforts on urban sustainability. The population of people living in cities is expected to double by the year 2050 and this will have dramatic impacts on the economy, political society, the climate, and much more. The NUA is designed to provide new ways for nations to design and manage cities to better address these impacts and reduce their negative effects. Urban development is essential to reducing poverty and addressing issues of health, education, food/water security. For a variety of reasons, urbanization impacts the world in major ways both positively and negatively. If neglected cities can become centers of crime, disease, and poverty. But if governments play an active role in engaging with their cities and creating institutions that redirect the resources of the city then they can be major sources of new ideas in science and technology, culture, and economic havens.
While studying abroad in Copenhagen this past semester I had the opportunity to learn about sustainable cities and visited a variety of European cities to learn more about their functioning and about the idea of a smart city. Smart cities are designed to meet people’s needs through technological innovation. They create self-sustaining systems that make urban life easier and more affordable for the average citizen. A primary example of this is transportation. A well designed transportation system allows people to get to work/school/etc on time without clogging up the city and creating unnecessary waste. An appealing transportation system brings more people into the city, which means more money for the city as a whole. Designing transportation to be responsive to people’s needs can create an entirely new culture in a city.
We learned about housing designed to maximize comfort and enjoyment while still providing housing for as many people as possible at an affordable rate. Most cities develop in limited spaces and as result natural areas are destroyed to make room for further housing or industry. But green spaces can be highly beneficial for urban life and the community. Parks and other green spaces create areas for people to socialize and meet and can foster new ideas while benefiting the environment. But doing all of these wonderful things to improve quality of life in a city creates another major problem: gentrification can push people out. As quality of living rises, so does the cost of living. Lower income families are forced to leave these spaces and rather than fixing problems of income, education, and health the problems are just pushed somewhere else. Addressing these issues means fixing the underlying causes, not just the surface ones. Therefore, the NUA must address the economic and political issues that lead to poverty while simultaneously improving quality of life in cities.
In Amartya Sen’s book Development as Freedom he discusses the theory behind development on a global scale. Sen concludes that freedom and development are intertwined. Development can only be achieved by expanding the true freedoms that people experience. Freedom for Sen depends on a number of factors. Freedom means opening up social and economic opportunities for people, ensuring the preservation or granting of political and civil rights, and depends in large part on industrialization and technological progress. Development requires removing the “unfreedoms” the people are subjected to. These unfreedoms include poverty, lack of economic opportunities, systematic social deprivation, lack of participation and representation in governance, and lack of access to health and education. These unfreedoms hinder development and as long as they are perpetuated sustainable development will be impossible.
A lack of access to health resources is essential because is people cannot meet their basic needs for survival than any sort of progress in other areas is unachievable. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs illustrates it perfectly in that if one cannot meet their needs at one level it is impossible to advance to the next level. Education is also essential to increasing literacy rates as well as economic opportunities. The freedoms being outlined are not separate freedoms but are interconnected at many levels. Education leads to literacy and literacy can give people the opportunity to increase their participation in political and civil matters. Education can create better economic opportunities for people which in turn can better the social conditions and access to resources. Social and political freedoms often give rise to economic freedoms. The various freedoms strengthen one another and create a network of freedoms that hold one another up and allow the country to develop.
Furthering sustainable development requires participation by multiple actors. First and arguably the most crucial is state level action. The state is essential to creating policy that will further development for its people. But states alone cannot pull themselves into a developed nation. Economic opportunities require input from industry and corporations to provide jobs and to bring capital into the country. A country cannot be considered developed without the political participation of the citizens of the state. Fair and equal voting free from tampering is one of the signifying features of a developed state.
Grand Challenges, as defined by Lewis Branscomb, are “technically complex societal problems that have stubbornly defied solution” (Branscomb). These issues plague society on a global scale and require a collaboration of ideas and disciplines to solve them. A number of issues can be considered grand challenges in the field of sustainable development. Since by nature grand challenges are intersectional, these issues are also challenges in many other fields. According to USAID there are eight grand challenges for development. They are: scaling off grid energy, combating zika, combating ebola, water security, reducing birth deaths, literacy, agriculture, and increasing political representation.
Both the Branscomb reading and the USAID reading discuss the ways in which we can address grand challenges and both reach the conclusion that science is key but science alone is not enough. Branscomb escribes how research into this issues simply has not been sufficient in solving these problems because science cannot be guided by a mere “invisible hand,” The goal of science is not to solve this issues, so without outside influence, how can we expect science to do so? Both readings agree that the best way to help science solve this issues is to steer science with policy. Policies, on a global and domestic level, must be tailored to addressing grand challenges and presenting solutions.
A key aspect of solving these issues is engaging the public to receive their interest and support. If these challenges are great enough, the solutions are ones that can change the face of the world for the better. Capturing the imagination of the common person is critical to creating policy focused on science and technology.
As I mentioned previously, grand challenges affect a variety of fields and areas of interest. Therefore the approach to solving them must be multidisciplinary. A governmental solution alone is not enough to address these issues. Global governance has long been the primary method by which global issues are solved but increasingly the private sector and non-governmental organizations have begun to play a more significant role in affecting change. To solve grand challenges will take input from transnational corporations, industry, non-governmental organizations, states, scientists, and a variety of other parties. These challenges create a number of stakeholders and thus challenges would be more easily solved by multistakeholder governance.