In 2001 the Millennium Development Goals were developed in order try and eliminate some of the world’s greatest problems such as inequality, poverty, hunger, and poor maternal health. While there was some success, critics call into question the effectiveness of the MDGs, as well as the effectiveness of global strategic frameworks. Critics argued that the MDGs (and most global strategic frameworks) employ broad goals that do not take into account national needs. Other critics argue that the MDGs employ a vertical approach that does not partner with local organizations or hold actors accountable. These critiques of the MDGs and global strategic frameworks are important because they highlight some of the problems associated with top down development. Global strategic frameworks have many limitations because they are usually general but the needs of countries are varied and diverse, especially when it comes to development. Some critics also view global strategic frameworks such as the MDGs as the Global North telling the Global South what to do, even though the Global North exploited the Global South during the colonial period. Global strategic frameworks are also hard to enact because they are not legally binding. Therefore, the amount that countries participate is up to them and some countries participate much more than others.
While global strategic frameworks have some limitations, they also provide many opportunities. Using a global strategic framework, countries can work together to try and solve problems. Through organizations like the UN, developing countries can participate in creating development initiatives and trying to resolve major global issues. Through global strategic frameworks different countries with different perspectives, but similar goals can share knowledge and best practices, and collaborate on different goals. In order to be more successful, global strategic frameworks should acknowledge critique and take into account the individualized needs of different countries, while still trying to realize their goals on a global scale. Countries can also adopt the spirits of international documents such as CEDAW and The CRPD. Through adopting the spirit of those documents, countries can attempt to make them a reality by enacting them. These documents outline specific goals to make the world a more accepting and inclusive place and by adopting them, countries can address the specific needs that exist within the country, while still participating in a global strategic framework. The more connected international conventions are to strategic global frameworks, the more successful they will be.
ICTs are incredibly important because they factor into every facet of development. Without ICTs and technology, it is very difficult to make advancements and develop. In 1984 the Independent Commission for World Wide Communications Development published an important report known as the Maitland Commission Report or the Missing Link. The report found that ICTs were incredibly important in all aspects of life and development but there was a huge disparity in which countries had access to them. The report found that developed countries were far more likely to have access to ICTs than developing countries and that this difference contributed to differences in development. This disparity became known as a digital divide, which are still present in 2017.
In 1999 another report came out called Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide. This report also examined ICTs and their connection to development, with focus on the internet. Similarly to The Missing Link, Falling Through the Net found that their was a large disparity between developed and developing countries in internet access. The same countries that did not have very much access to telecommunication in 1984 were the same countries who did not have much internet access in 1999. The lack of ICTs for developing countries becomes a sort of Catch-22 because countries cannot develop without ICTs but developed countries have the most access to ICTs. The access that developed countries have to ICTs allows them to pursue sustainable development and stay competitive, while developing countries are left behind.
The UN acknowledges the important role that ICTs play in development and therefore has held many conferences and forums to try and help close the digital divides. The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was convened in 2003 and 2005 with the purpose of sharing information that would help close the digital divide. The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was created at the first WSIS in order for countries to share best practices and work together to better internet governance. These attempts to bridge the digital divide are important because for all countries to be able to participate in the SDGs, they must all have equal access to ICTs. IN 2017, there is an even greater focus on technology than there was when the Missing Link and Falling Through the Net were published. Almost every development initiative requires access to ICTs in some way. In order for developing countries to successfully develop, they must have access to ICTs and WSIS and the IGF will help with that access.
ICTs or Information Communication Technology has a large role to play in inclusive sustainable development. In the Maitland Commission Report, it was found that ICTs were involved in every aspect of development, including health and agriculture. The World Summit on the Information Society (or WSIS) was convened in its two phases in 2003 and 2005 in order to develop a common information society and promote ICTs as enablers to development, as well as try and close some of the digital divides. The WSIS conference in particular shows how ICTs are connected to development, especially development initiatives of the UN such as the SDGs and MDGs. There is a WSIS-SDG matrix that shows how the goals of WSIS can be connected to each sustainable development goal and used to make the goal a reality. The matrix highlights the importance of ICTs in development and shows how they are related to every development goal. The matrix also shows what specific work has been with ICTs and how they connect to the SDGs. For example ICTs have been used to integrate refugees, to help women entrepreneurs, and to map data to allow internet connectivity at schools. These projects all directly connect to SDGs such as SDG 5, SDG 9, and SDG 4.
Not only do ICTs have a role making sustainable development a reality, they can also make sustainable development inclusive. ICTs can make it possible for marginalized populations to participate in development. One of the most clear examples of this is the example of education. SDG 4 is the goal of quality education for all. ICTs make it possible for students who may have trouble coming to the class room such as women or persons with disabilities able to learn and exchange ideas remotely. This dissemination of information that is made possible by ICTs is very critical to other goals as well. With ICTs public health information can be easily spread which relates to SDG 3. One of the recommendations that I make in my capstone project suggest that countries in Latin America develop hotlines and 24/7 television channels that are disability accessible in order to spread sexual and reproductive health information. This use of ICTs allow persons with disabilities to receive important information and know their rights without having to go to a health center or clinic. In this case, ICTs would further SDG 3 and help make reproductive services available to all by 2030.
In 2015 the United Nations came up with the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs as a successor to the Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs are to be completed by 2030 and are far more extensive than the MDGs. There are 17 SDGs that include, health, gender equality, protecting the earth, and of course developing sustainably. The SDGs are very ambitious but not impossible and there is the High Level Political Forum or HLPF to help guide their implementation. Each goal has several targets and indicators which helps keep States and the United Nations on track to achieve the SDGs. While many activists and development theorists believe the SDGs are an improvement to the MDGs because they are more expansive and detailed, many feel like the SDGs missed the mark in a variety of ways. For example, while the SDG’s emphasize that the goals must be accessible to all, they do not provide specific targets or indicators to reach out to those populations. This lack of outreach makes the language that states “for all” in the SDGs seem like an empty promise.
Other activists are not satisfied with the SDGs because they believed that they missed an opportunity to focus on rights based approaches. With the ever looming threat of climate change and the potential for environmental conflict, many activists believe that it is necessary to state that things such as clean water are a right. Establishing clean water and clean air as a human right would align with the human rights framework that the UN is currently applying to treaties such as CEDAW and the CRPD. Applying a human rights framework to environmental issues gives the UN a framework with which to address these issue. There is already a special rapporteur who addresses human rights and the environment, but his suggestions were not applied to the SDGs. Activists argue that the UN should apply the human rights framework to the environment in all UN initiatives.
While the SDGs are far more extensive than the MDGs, they still have a lot of room for improvement. For the next set of goals, the UN should have targets and indicators specifically for marginalized populations. The UN should also apply frameworks that they are already applying in other sectors to the goals as well and put increased focus on protecting the environment, especially in light of the potential conflicts that could arise.
A very pressing Grand Challenge is inclusive education. Inclusive education requires the collaboration of many different disciplines because there are so many different aspects of making education accessible. Inclusive education is also a new frontier because the systems of education that exist are inaccessible and exclusionary, so drastic changes to the educational system must be made. One innovation that has drastically changed the educational system and made it far more accessible is technology. Technology makes it possible for educators and students to communicate even when they are not in the same place or even time zone. This is incredibly important for students with disabilities who may have mobility issues that prevent them from coming to a traditional classroom. Technology like blackboard collaborate makes it possible for students to attend a class without physically attending. In recent years there has been an increase in educational programs that allow students to participate remotely. One example is the IDPP international masters program which allowed students with disabilities from all over the world to participate and earn their masters without having to come to Washington D.C. Programs like this show the innovative role technology is playing in making education more inclusive.
There are many challenges to inclusive education, however. One is unequal access to technology and unequal technological capabilities. As seen with the Maitland Commission Report and Falling Through the Net, not everyone or every country has the same amount of access to technology. Non-reliable or no internet access can prevent potential students from participating remotely in educational programs. Lack of internet can also lead to a lack of information about these programs and opportunities. Equal access to technology should be made a priority, because without equal access, much of the world’s disabled population could be excluded from education. For places that currently do not have as much access to technology, traditional classroom settings must also be made to be more inclusive. More educational materials should be made available in braille and schools should provide a sign language interpreter to every student who needs one. All children should also learn sign language in school so that they can communicate with their deaf and hard of hearing classmates. Schools should also be physically accessible with ramps and elevators. Inclusive education is a grand challenge and incredibly important because education is the future. If people with disabilities are not getting the education they need, we are missing out on the hundreds of new ideas and innovations they could come up with.
Intersectionality is a theory coined by race theorist and civil rights advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, that states that related systems of oppression and discrimination intersect with multiple identities to create a whole that is different from the individual components. For example, if someone is a woman with disabilities, those two identities are compounded and the systems of oppression interrelate. This intersection of identity makes women with disabilities more vulnerable because they are doubly excluded from the economic sector, education, and health care, as well as doubly excluded socially. Because they systems of oppression interrelate, it is very hard to separate identities. The theory of intersectionality allows us to understand the additional challenges of persons with multiple identities that are discriminated against. However, though intersectionality is recognized as an incredibly important theory, many institutions have not put the implications of the theory into practice and tried to fight the interrelated systems of oppression. The theory of intersectionality has also been used by some institutions to marginalize some identities.
The United Nations is an example of an institution that has used intersectionality in order to exclude some groups from participating. In the UN there are 9 major groups which are allowed to participate in sustainable development initiatives and the review and creation of those initiatives. The 9 major groups are allowed to participate in the high level political forum which was created to implement and review the SDGs. However, persons with disabilities and older persons are not part of the major groups which means they do not get a seat at the table. When activists brought this concern to the UN, the UN argued that due to intersectionality, the 9 major groups were already fighting for persons with disabilities and older persons because the women’s group would fight for women with disabilities and the farmer’s group would fight for farmers with disabilities and so on. However, the groups already have set agendas which may or may not include older persons and persons with disabilities. Relying on the groups’ intersectionality is not the most effective way to ensure persons with disabilities and older persons get a seat at the table. Intersectionality is a useful theory but it is not a silver bullet that automatically reduces oppression just by being mentioned or understood. Action must be taken to put the theory in to practice, but intesectionality should not be put into practice in such a way that it excludes already marginalized populations.
Development theory is critical to understanding development initiatives and how they are created. Development theory has evolved greatly throughout the years in response to research and a better understanding of the world around us. Development began as a separate discipline after World War II when many former colonies were gaining there independence and Europe needed to be rebuilt. One of the first theories of development was modernization theory, developed by Rostow. Modernization theory argued that the third world was not developing because they were clinging to traditional culture and they would develop as they began to adopt more modern practices. Rostow was criticized for ignoring how the devastating effects of colonialism impacted development in developing nations. Dependency theory arose as a direct response to Modernization theory and argued that underdevelopment was the result of an unequal flow of resources from the periphery to the core as a result of colonialism. Both these theories and many other that followed measured development in terms of economic; countries with a higher GDP were seen as more developed. However, in recent years development has started to be looked at in a new way.
One of the most prominent scholars of development, Amartya Sen, argues that development cannot simply be measured in economics. Development must also be measured in the opportunities or “freedoms” a population has. In order to measure the opportunities a population has, we must use other tools and not simply the GDP. The Human development index (HDI) is a better measure of development because it includes life expectancy, education, and per capita income which gives a better picture of the opportunities of a population. Sen argues that development and development initiatives must also include marginalized populations such as women and minorities because there can be no true development if a large percentage of the population is excluded. This point is critical to my project which deals with the sexual and reproductive rights of women with disabilities in Latin America. Women with disabilities make up 10 percent of the population but are often excluded from development initiatives which impedes development. The lack of sexual and reproductive health care for women with disabilities also works to exclude them from development. In order for countries to be truly developed, they must make sure they are allowing marginalized populations such as women and people with disabilities to have the same opportunities as those populations traditionally included in development initiatives.
A “ Grand Challenge” can be described as a challenge that ambitious but achievable, captures the publics imagination, and requires many different disciplines to solve. Grand challenges currently include challenges of renewable energy, challenges of public health, and other challenges which have captured the imagination and labor of many people. Grand Challenges require “moonshot thinking” which describes taking a chance and trying to creating exploring new ideas even when nobody has tried it before. Moonshot thinking is named after one of the greatest examples of a Grand Challenge: the moon landing of 1969. No one knew how to get to the moon, it had never been done before, but they still attempted and worked across disciplines, and eventually we got to the moon. Moonshot thinking encourages people to try the impossible in the hopes that grand challenges will be solved. The concept of grand challenges is important for this class because many challenges in the realm of development such as ending poverty and hunger are possible but very ambitious. There are many different organizations working towards these goals in the hopes of making the world a better place.
The United Nations created the Millennium Development Goals as well as the Sustainable Development Goals to provide a framework for solving some of the most persistent grand challenges that exist today. The Millennium Development goals and Sustainable Development Goals s deal with such topics as health, education, equality, and protecting the environment. The goals are ambitious, but not impossible, and require new ways of thinking in order for them to be achieved. While the goals themselves are Grand Challenges, there is another challenge included within them: how to make the goals a reality for every member of the population, not just the populations that are usually included in development initiatives. In order for the grand challenges of the SDGs to truly be solved they must be solved for all populations including older persons and persons with disabilities. Including marginalized populations such as persons with disabilities is a grand challenge within itself because they have traditionally been excluded from many institutions and few institutions and systems have been built with people with disabilities in mind. However, through technological advances that allow for more participation, collaboration, and moonshot thinking, the achievement of the SDGs that include everyone, especially marginalized populations, are possible and within reach. Our projects will contribute to the moonshot thinking that is making these goals and the inclusion within these goals a reality.
Technology can make the world a smaller place. With technology you can communicate with someone in another country in real time, as if they were sitting with you. With technology there is also more opportunity for multi-stakeholder global governance. One example of multi-stakeholder global governance is the Internet Governance Forum or IGF. The IGF was created after it became clear at the first phase of the WSIS conference in 2003 that internet governance was a key issue. The purpose of the IGF is to bring varying stakeholders together as equals and exchange information and best practices, as well as facilitating a common understanding of how to maximize internet opportunities and address risks. While the IGF does not directly create policy, the discussions that are had can greatly shape the international agenda and set the ground work for negotiations.
Multi-stakeholder global governance bodies such as the IGF have many strengths. One of these strengths is that when there are multiple stakeholders, there are more perspectives and more information. This is a key aspect of the IGF because the more information that can be obtained, the stronger the knowledge base, which benefits every participant in the forum. Another strength of multi-stakeholder global governance is it gives developing countries the same opportunities as wealthier countries that have established dominance in fields such as internet governance. Developing countries having these same opportunities are important because, as detailed in the Missing Link and Falling Through the Net, technology is crucial to development. Without technology, it is harder to develop agriculture, health care, education, and almost every other area that governments are responsible for. Because of the importance of technology, it is crucial that developing nations have the opportunity to participate in the IGF because through the sharing of information and best practices, those countries can start bridging the technological gap between them and wealthier nations.
Multi-stakeholder global governance also allows for stakeholders who wouldn’t normally be included such as NGOs and other organizations to take part in discussions. This is beneficial because it allows for different perspectives and different ideas to be included. However, there are till many barriers to participation such as cost, travel, and a lack of personnel. In order to make multi-stakeholder governance truly inclusive, we must take into account the costs that participating for stakeholders face, and make global governance more accessible for those organizations that may not have as much money or funding.
While slums are often not thought of when people talk about cities, they are growing in size and population especially as more and more populations move from rural to urban environments. Some slum populations in India have grown so large that they can influence elections. Sustainable Development Goal 11 focuses on “Making cities inclusive, resilient, safe, and sustainable” and if we are to implement goal 11, then slums must be included and thought of as well. Including slums in sustainable development is often met with many barriers. Local governments do not want to acknowledge slums or provide them with services because they want the slums to disappear and think providing benefits such as water and sanitation will encourage the slum-dwellers to stay. Slums are also illegal settlements so there are other barriers to providing them with services such as schools and health clinics because they are technically not supposed to exist.
The habitat III conference’s new urban agenda commits itself to trying to end stigma surrounding slum-dwellers, making informal settlements more resilient, and upgradings slums. This is certainly a step in the right direction but I was more impressed with the concrete examples of slum rehabilitation the Asian Development Bank described in their document Inclusive Cities. Slum rehabilitation often doesn’t work out as planned because the project leaders don’t ask the residents what their needs are and don’t understand the attachment residents have to their homes, or interrupt their livelihoods. The phrase “Nothing about us without us” is credited to the disabled community but the ADB took that mindset to heart when constructing their slum rehabilitation programs. The ADB provided surveys and asked residents what their needs were. These surveys informed project developers what residents wanted and with this information they were able to provide some low cost sanitation, women’s support groups, schools, and clinics. The ADB was able to work with local governments and encourage them to recognize the slums and see them as a boon for the local economy. The reason ADB’s programs were successful was that they took into consideration what the residents wanted and the systemic problems that were preventing them from achieving their needs.
Including slum-dwellers in the conversation about inclusive cities is a concrete way of advancing SDG 11 because they are able to offer a more direct perspective of what would make their settlements inclusive, sustainable, and equitable.