Intersectionality in Sustainable Development

The main theme of SDG’s is inclusiveness, meaning including the active participation of all sectors of society and all types of people. The SDG’s cannot be achieved without collaboration of all, and an intersectional approach that interconnects social categorizations such as race, class and gender to a given individual or group, as a result creates barriers to an inclusive society.

In 1992 during the Earth Summit, the first UN Conference on Environment and Development, it was acknowledged that achieving sustainable development would need the active participation of all sectors of the society, thus Agenda 21 adopted at the Earth Summit drew up the “UN Major Groups”. To this day, most of the UN processes related to environment and sustainable development use the “Major Groups” framework or some variation, which includes nine sectors of society, as the main channels through which board participation would be facilitated. The nine group include: women, children, farmers, indigenous people, NGO’s, trade unions, local authorities, science and technology, and business and technology. However, the problem with these categorizations is it is missing out major stakeholders, such as the 1 billion persons with disabilities and the older population (estimated[1] by 2050, about 2 billion people will be over 60, 22% of the world’s population). Hence, as a result, lots of identities are not included.  However, when advocates argue about the need to expand beyond these nine groups, many appeal to the argument of intersectionality that indicates we deal with these groups under the nine specific groups (For example: women with disabilities as part of the women category). However, to what extent do the category deal with the problem separately concerning people with disabilities or older generations? And to what extent are they successful addressing these groups? While we question on aspect of not including these groups, there is also another perspective- if we add more groups-will it be progressive in achieving all the set forward goals with the multiple representatives (transaction costs)? However, at the same time by excluding a certain group undermines the concept of inclusivity, and thus the SDG’s. In conclusion, while intersectionality exists the issue of exclusion will persist.



Inclusive Education

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the main international legal framework on human rights that clearly highlights the rights of children with disabilities to education. More importantly, article 24, on the right to education, emphasizes the rights to inclusive education and prohibits disability-based discrimination in education. Learners with disabilities at all levels of education are one of the most vulnerable communities and exposed to exclusion from educational opportunities. Their vulnerability extents beyond just their enrolment but to issues of quality of education received, retention and progression throughout the school system. The World Report on Disability estimates that there are between 93 to 150 million school-aged children with disabilities worldwide[1]. Therefore, it is important to recognize the importance of international cooperation in including children with disabilities in programming as well as in its role in support of national governments. The inclusion of children with disabilities is a moral issue, as well as an economic and social issue.

Education is the essential part of human existence and a key to power. It’s the core principle in solving challenges such as demographic change, global competition, technological development and other various areas. Human development, a concept evolved by Amartya Sen, is a means in increasing beyond just income or GDP. It also impacts the economic, social and political components. It impacts scientific innovations and introduction of modern technology. It increases opportunities for employment, and resilience to economic shocks [2].

Therefore, a nation with a more educated population has greater chance in innovations and creating more job opportunities. Therefore, the economic and social cost of exclusion are high. Leaving a huge proportion out of the labor market just negatively impacts the long term productivity of the economy. However, investing in inclusive education, enrolment of children with disabilities is a smart investment and carries high returns. It allows to increase labor potential, impacts progress, reduces poverty, inequality and gender inequality.

Inclusive ICT can be a valuable and important instrument for learners with disabilities who are vulnerable to the digital divide and exclusion from educational opportunities.

Some aspects of inclusive ICTs for education include: mainstream technologies that are readily available in the commercial marketplace to all individuals, assistive technologies that take in consideration the difficulties in accessing and using the mainstream technologies, compatibility between assistive technology products, and accessing digital learning content and instructional delivery systems.

By incorporating inclusive ICT, it can reduce the barriers such as social exclusion and access to information through the use of virtual organization and collabotory . There are many actors involved in creating an inclusive ICT environment besides children with disabilities, but also those that are involved in developing, implementing and evaluating policy objectives and initiatives such as the parents, teachers, leaders, and other education professions and the IT professionals. ICT is a cross-sectorial sector.


[2] Riboud, Michelle. 2016. Investing in inclusive human development. Global Journal of Emerging Market Economies 8 (2): 168-200.

Efficacy of Global and Regional Framework

During Millennium Summit of the UN in 2000 eight international development goals for the year 2015 that were established known as the Millennium Development Goals. MDG became a global strategic framework for 191 member states of the UN and 22 international organizations that committed themselves to achieve the 8 MDG goals by 2015. Each goal had specific targets and dates to achieve them. The significance of MDG was that it was an explicit recognition by the international community of the reality that that a large proportion of people in the world were deprived and poor, and it became a global attempt to place this persistent problem on the development agenda for international cooperation. To what extent was is it successful? By the end at least 21 million extra lives were saved. Number of lives were saved on child mortality, maternal mortality, HIV/AIDs and tuberculosis.  However, despite these successes the MDG global framework had its limitations. One of the biggest critiques of its consequences was it didn’t include marginalized and vulnerable groups. In result, gender inequality persists, there are big gaps between the rich and poor households, and children with disabilities are excluded.

Thus, global frameworks, such as MDGs, have a huge number of opportunities, but also a number of limitations: First of all, these frameworks are a great way to unify all state and non-state actors towards international cooperation. They tend to set norms and values in terms of operation. They act as a form of peer pressure that will increase debate in the communities. It’s a great advantage for many non-state actors such as NGOs because of all the funding and resources that is provided, the fundamental research that has already been done, and the understanding of global standards. However, despite these advantages there are also a number of limitations that are inherent in these global agendas in terms of conception and design. One of the biggest problems with global agendas such as MDGs is they are set without the proper representation and participation of the members of the group that has been affected (nothing about us without us), and thus they can’t and dont’t take into consideration many areas.  In addition, usually these global agendas include multiple objectives without specific ways in implementing these goals(MDG’s). Resulting in many issues such as how do you implement and enforce these policies, and then how do you follow up with the progress. Thus, it creates a constant need for modification and new enforcements.

Multi-stakeholder Global Governance

In 2005, WSIS defined Internet governance as: the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective role, of share principles , norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the internet’. Today the internet is operated across borders and with a multi-stakeholder approach, meaning internet government is not a product of institutional hierarchy. Instead, it is a bottom-up approach where individuals and organizations from different realms have the opportunity to participate alongside each other to share ideas and develop consensus policy. It is the most optimal way for policy decision making in a global network that allows a wide range of people to impact and make decisions, to share their experiences and problems, bring in their expertise and legitimize policies. Thus, making the multistakeholder decision making process accountable, effective as well as sustainable and inclusive. Inclusiveness is the basis of legitimacy of a decision-making process, and those who are affected by a decision should have the chance to be involved in making the it.

The Internet government forum embraces the multistakeholder model, where states-including authoritarian governments- agreed to participate in policy discussions on an equal ground with all private and civil society sectors. It serves to bring people together and discuss public policy issues, exchange information and share expertise. It facilitates a common understanding on how to maximize internet opportunities and address risks and challenges that arise. Chiefly, it gives developing nations a voice and a chance to engage on debate on internet governance and to facilitate their experience in existing institutions and institutions.

Digital Divide

In theory telecommunication are meant to bind us together, however as practice shows it often does the opposite. Digital divide refers to the inequalities between people, particularly it refers to the gap between regions and demographics that have access to modern information and communication technology, and those that don’t or have restricted across. And its not just about simply access to the technologies anymore but it also refers to those that have the necessary skills, knowledge, abilities to use the ICT. The divide exists between economic classes, between those who live in urban areas and those that are living in rural areas, who have education or those that don’t and a global scale, between those who are industrially advanced and those who are still in the developing state.

Until the late 20th century the divide split those with phone access and those without phone, which was the missing link in the Maitland Commission. Then with innovation in technology the focus of the divide became the Web: in 1995 the US Department of Commerce published ‘Falling through the net’ report- first report that looked at the digital divide, and found the racial, economic and geographic gap between those who have access to the internet and those that don’t.

Today the digital divide is a grand challenge that needs to be resolve because the lack of access and skills can lead to and reinforce disadvantages between individuals. Digital divide has the power to deprive the opportunities to be included and participate fully in the society, economy and other sectors. Lack of access to ICT in the age of modern technology will impact the individual’s career, lifestyle, safety. It will impact the skills and knowledge of the employees and general public participation.

Coming from a developing nation, seeing and even experiencing first hand the digital divide in terms of access to the internet not just in the nation, but also on a global scale I can say you there are many limitations and disparities.  In many cases children in rural areas (and at times in urban areas) do not have access to the internet, and thus have no access to recent information, they don’t have necessary skills to education, employment and many other opportunities to be part of an inclusive society.  This limits their opportunities on the competitive market, this impacts their communication skills with people their age, as well as their opportunity to learn more and have the chance to go or study abroad, because they lack the simple skills required in the technologically advanced world we live in.


ICTs and Sustainable Development

The spread of information and communication technology has great potential for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by essentially becoming the facilitators and enablers. By using ICT allows to accelerate human progress, upscale critical services in health, education, financial services, bridge the educational and digital divide, enhance public awareness, bring innovation, connectivity, productivity and efficiency across many sectors. This in result will impact and develop a more knowledgeable and inclusive society. ICT particularly has the potential in enhancing access for vulnerable populations, to information, knowledge, health care and education (for example: Collabotory), which is one of the main themes of SDG- inclusivity. Understanding the importance of ICTs in achieving the global agenda the UN Member States have committed to utilizing ICTs to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is a two-phase UN summit that was initially created to evolve a platform that was aimed at addressing the issues raised by information and communication technologies. It was created to discuss and bridge the global digital divide that separates rich nations from poor by spreading access to the Internet in the developing world. The goal of WSIS is to build an inclusive and development-orientated information society where everyone can access and share information. The importance of the summit is that it is a multi-stakeholder process where representatives from member states, UN bodies, international organizations, NGO’s, civil societies and private sectors can participate and discuss the new opportunities of the information technology environment and address challenges, which is an important part of an inclusive society. As these forums allow to include and hear out the marginalized groups that are inhibited from accessing these ICTs. The WSIS+10 outcome document and the UNGA Resolution produced an overall review of the implementation of the summit outcomes in 2015, and recognized the significance of the development of ICT in achieving SDGs.

Inclusive Cities, Habitat III and New Urban Agenda

Cities have been attractors of populations. In cities there are more opportunities, jobs, transportation, close proximity. In cities you experience different cultures, politics. According to the World Bank report about 70% of the world population will live in cities by 2050. Thus, it is essential to make sure that cities provide opportunities and equal living conditions to all, because every individual has a ‘right to the city’.

The New Urban Agenda is the outcome document that was agreed upon at the Habitat III UN conference on housing and sustainable urban development in Quito, Ecuador. The UN conference was the first time in 20 years that the whole international community, led by national governments, collectively took stock of fast-changing urban trends and the ways in which these patterns are impacting human development. In addition, it was the first UN global summit about the adaptation of the 2030 SDG’s. The significance of the conference was that it set a new global standard for sustainable urban development and lets us rethink how we plan, manage and live in cities. It became an opportunity for the whole international community at all levels to harmonize its understanding of the problems by current trends in urbanization. It is roadmap for building cities that can serve as an engine of prosperity and center for cultural and social well-being for all. It also acts as guide to achieve SDG 11. In the NUA, governments are committed to provide basic services for all citizens and ensure that all citizens have access to equal opportunities and face no discrimination, including the most common excluded group­­­– persons with disabilities. PWD make up 10% of the world population, and yet they one of the most marginalized groups with limited access to rights that they deserve.  Habitat III was an important achievement for PWD – through engagement in GAP, PWD became an official stakeholder group of Habitat III and impacted the language of the final draft of the NUA (were referenced 15 times). This is a big achievement and a great leap forward not just toward SDG11, but also in promoting and encouraging inclusive policies towards all groups that been to this day excluded.


There is a lot of debates about the successes of the MDG’s. Supporters argue that the earlier development agenda did create an international movement against poverty, it played a role in lifting more than one billion people from extreme poverty, reducing the number of people suffering chronic hunger, preventable death and illness, and enabling more girls and boys to attend school than ever before. However, critics argue that the specific targets have been both regionally and thematically unbalanced.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an inter-governmental commitment and ‘a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.’  It is a universal call for action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. It consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s ), which focus on three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.

Unlike the MDG’s, The SDG’s are a result of what is arguably the most inclusive process in the history of the UN. First of all, they are universal- they apply to all nations in the world, sectors, publics and everyone in the community, thus removing various distinctions. They are inclusive in nature and are meant to include all marginalized groups. such as older generations, people living in conflict, various minorities, as will as, persons with disabilities.  For example, in the MDG’s, persons with disabilities were not included and consequently excluded from many development initiatives and funding streams. However, now they are addressed specially in the SDG’s target goals.

However, while the SDG’s seem promising and encouraging there are definite challenges: first of all, there is the challenge of successfully implementing the SDG’s as nations governments can choose to focus on one goal over the other (the implementation of goals is fully up to the government and will depend on the resources and government goals). Then, there are obvious challenges with data and monitoring, as access to data can be limited by the government and in result will impact the recommendation policies.

The HLPF is the main UN platform on sustainable development and its main role is to follow-up and review the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDG’s at the global level. It meets every year for eight days under the ECOSOC committee.  It facilitates the sharing of experiences: failures, successes and lessons.  It is the ‘most inclusive and participatory’ forum at the United Nations. One of the main features of the HLPF are the voluntary national reviews, which provide a platform for partnerships including major groups and other relevant stakeholders.

Development Theory and Actors

All nations aspire to develop and yet what is the criteria in deciding which country is developed and which is less developed? What determinants can accelerate development? And why are some countries more developed over others? The answers to these questions lay in the way we understand the concept of development. The theory and concept of development is complex and as discourse shows there is no single definition on what development is, or what specific measurements it implies. According to the book International Development Studies, development has three inter-related definitions: as a long term process focused on processes of structural societal change; as a a short-to-medium term outcome of desirable targets, which is related to evaluative or indicator led policy (MDG); or as a dominant ‘discourse’ of western modernity, which is related to westernized ethnocentric notions. Robinson and Acemoglu argue that the key to development is the inclusivity of economic institutions, which essentially is the combination of the state and the free market in which the state creates incentives, rewards innovation and allows everyone to participate in economic opportunities. Thus, economic success is due to the government becoming accountable and responsive to its population,

However, the theoretical work of Amarty Sen published in his book Development as Freedom has greatly influenced the contemporary concept of development (which is in accordance with other definitions). According to Sen development is a process of expanding capabilities, creating opportunities but mainly it is the process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy.  From his perspective real development cannot be just about increasing basic incomes or GNP, but rather that is one of the determinants of expanding the freedoms enjoyed by the society. Other factors such as social, economic, political and civil rights are also important. Thus, he argues that in the end development is about expanding those freedoms and removing the barriers that prevent expanding these sets of freedom. Health, education, housing, freedom of action and belief are no less important for developing nations as growth GDP. These factors are the key factors for inclusive institutions, alleviating poverty, providing economic opportunities and abolishing repressive regimes- that act as barriers to freedom.

Grand Challenges

Grand Challenges are big ambitious problems that face the society. Usually they tend to focus on the sciences and technology. While these goals don’t have a solution and are ambitious- they are not unachievable. Instead, they act more as motivational and require multi-disciplinary collaboration. An ‘iconic example’ of a grand challenge is when president Kennedy challenged the scientific community to achieve spaceflight in a given timeline. The science community had to use moon shot thinking in order to complete the impossible at that time task. Now, many years later this is why many refer to using ‘moonshot thinking’ when thinking about breaking intractable goals.

Grand challenges relate to a wide variety of issues such as new energy sources that are clean, affordable and reliable, cures for cancer, improving health care delivery and reducing the cost and others. Another grand challenge that is relevant today and closely linked with the 2030 global agenda are the new ways of teaching and learning, particularly that are inclusive in nature to excluded communities, such as persons with disabilities.  Disability and development is a grand challenge for the world: more than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability, which is 10% of the world’s population. Unlike many, persons with disabilities are the ones that face many barriers in accessing transportation, ICT’s, education, employment, political representation.  And these barriers are not the individual’s problem, but they are societal problems also. It is the society that created these barriers and it is our responsibility to help get ride of them.  This sort of exclusion isn’t just a moral rationale but it also has economic rationales. PWD have the potential to benefit everyone, by adding onto the labor market and economic development opportunities. In addition, incorporating people with disabilities is also now a legal responsibility thanks to the adaptation of the CRPD, which is designed to protect the rights and freedom and insure inclusion for persons with disabilities. Thus, it is up to our society to help incorporate inclusive educational policies. An example of a solution to this particular grand challenge is collabotory.