Intersectionality is the concept that diverse people and institutions are interconnected. This could be the identification of individual people such as race, religion, disabled, etc. or it could be the variety of discourses and theories such as feminism, social inclusion, etc. All these topics and theories are interconnected in the work towards sustainable development. We must understand each identity and each group in order to understand the root of societal problems and how to address them. For example, inclusive education is not just a subject that includes education systems. This topic must involve persons with disabilities, women, people of color, communities, policy makers, etc. in order to address the issues and move toward more inclusive programming. This concept is very similar to a multistakeholder approach in that various groups must come together in order to meet the goals set by the United Nations.

Inclusive Education

Inclusive education is an all-encompassing term that refers to the inclusive of people with physical and mental disabilities along with all other marginalized groups such as women to name one. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities specifically addresses the need for education to be inclusive to those person with disabilities. This group represents about 1 billion people within the population and not providing them with targeted, effective education that works with their needs is not only morally incorrect but economically unsound. It is important to note that not only programs that are only for people with disabilities are needed but also educational systems that integrate these persons with the general population of the school in order to reduce stigmas and allow for a truly inclusive education system. Sen also mentions the need for all persons to have access to quality education as a key factor in development. This means that a country with a higher percentage of education persons will further the development of that country and allow for increased economic opportunities in the future. Inclusive education should absolutely be talked about in conjunction with ICTs and closing the gap on the digital divide. Using innovative technologies to improve inclusivity in the classroom is already being done today and shows tremendous promise across the globe.

Frameworks – MDGs

One global framework that we can analyze in intense detail is the Millennium Development Goals. These 8 goals were put in place by the United Nations in 2000 and were set to be achieved by the year 2015. These goals were groundbreaking in that they called attention to nations largest challenges and gave not only countries but NGOs, business, and political leaders clear goals to work towards. The 15 year time frame was also an extremely important factor in that it was long enough to make achieving the goals somewhat feasible while still being short enough to keep the world leaders interests for their respected time in office. However, the MGDs were not met by 2015 as they lacked certain qualities that I believe the SDGs improve upon. The MDGs lacked specific targets and indicators that countries could universally use to determine their progress. It is also important to note that the SDGs expanded to 17 goals in order to encompass a wider range of detailed societal issues our global is facing today. One of the biggest limitation with these type of overarching strategies is that applying lofty goals to diverse regions and countries posses problems, along with the ever facing issue of the UN is that there is no penalty for not meeting these goals.

Global Governance

Multistakeholder governance relies on a large variety of stakeholders to come together to share their ideas, concerns, resource, and perspectives to formulate productive and effective plans of action for development. An example of this is seen in goal 17 of the Sustainable Development Goal which specifically states that global partnerships of diverse groups and categories must work together in order to achieve the other 16 goals by the target year. An important factor in this concept is internet governance which allows these groups to communicate from all around the world easily. The internet and new technologies allow for increases communication and transferring of information from various stakeholders. An example of one of these tools is the collaborate software that we have utilized in class. This system allows students and virtually anyone to not only listen to the lectures but also participate just as those who are physically capable of attending class in person.

IG and multistakeholder governance plays an enormous role in inclusive sustainable development. These technologies and the potential of the internet allows persons with disabilities and persons who lack the financial means to attend political forums and otherwise the capabilities to participate in the conversations and think tanks that are fueling development initiatives. This gives voice to those who need it the most and who are most effected by undeveloped communities.

Digital Divide

The digital divide arises from the increase innovation and use of technologies. It refers to the gap between demographics that have access to the newest and most innovative technologies and those who do not. These demographics that do not have access to ICTs do not have the same opportunities and resources to advance their communities and solve societal problems. The digital divide represents the differences in economic class. This divide is especially seen with assess to cell phones and smart phones. The World Summit on Information Society has brought this issue to the forefront of the United Nations and demands that countries take action to bridge the technology gap.

Another aspect beside economic means is people with disabilities who offend cannot utilize technologies even if they gain access to them physically. People with disabilities face barriers from the technology’s software that prohibits them from using it. However new technologies are in place and continue to be created to improve software to make technology more accessible. The idea is to shift the mindset from the average user to all users. The concept of digital divides also came from a report entitled ‘Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide.’ This report examined the issue and focused on the internet as lacking in access to the developing world.


Information and communication technology is a key factor in sustainable development as technology provides the basis for innovation and the world’s ability to solve its grand challenges. Therefore, ICTs play a major role in countries initiatives and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The Mainland Commission Report highlighted the importance of ICTs in development. The World Summit on the Information Society met in 2003 and 2005 which developed a society that promotes ICTs and attempts to close digital divides which I will discuss in another post. This conference made the powerful statement that ICTs are interconnected to development and that without the innovation and initiatives that come from developing technologies, sustainable development is not possible in the time frame needed to address the world’s grand challenges. They also developed a matrix that demonstrated how ICTs are connected to each SDG.   

Inclusive City

The majority of the world’s population with soon be based in major cities making the structure of cities and their inclusivity increasingly important. It is crucial that the benefits of cities are open and easily accessible all people. It is also key that people with disabilities and marginalized groups are given to opportunity to not only utilize the city but be active economic contributors in order to push cities towards further development. These are just some of the elements of an inclusive city, more examples include ensuring all people have access to public transportation, parks, affordable homes, healthcare, etc.

The Habitat III conference took place in Ecuador and reviewed the topic of housing and sustainable urban development. This conference and the discussions within revolve directly around the theory of inclusive cities. The conference specifically recognized global urban trends and it set a new global standard for urban development. The major outcome of this conference was the creation of the New Urban Agenda. The NUA has specific sections that dictate the freedoms, services, and requirements that cities must provide its citizens in order to be considered a an inclusive developed city. The NUA specifically mentions inclusivity as a key to a developed city and requires that all persons have access to the rights of the city.


The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 international development goals set by the United Nations. The SDGs are meant to fill the place of the expired Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs are an improvement upon the MDGs because they are more specific and within each goal are detailed targets and indicators that allow countries to better determine and track their progress. The SDG that relates closely to the field of my interest is SDG 7 which is renewable energy access.

The High Level Political Forum is a platform within the United Nations that aims to respond to the Sustainable Development Goals which are set to be achieved by 2030. The Forum convenes every year and meets over a period of 8 days. The HLPF’s main position is to support and oversee the implementation of the SDGs. There are 9 major groups within the Forum that represent the main constituency groups. These groups are women, NGOs, indigenous peoples, children, local authorities, unions, IT community, farmers, and businesses. These are the major stakeholders in development initiatives and are therefore given a platform for which to voice their concerns, opinions, and best practices to make the implementation of the SDGs a success.

Development Theory

Development is a concept that lacks a universally accepted definition. Development in terms of countries is defined by Sen as people’s ability to access freedoms of all kinds. Sen’s ideas are based on a theoretical concept of development which includes expanding people’s capabilities and giving them access to tangible freedoms. This means that development is not simply based on economic factors but of social, political, and civil factors that provide people within a country to have freedoms. Increasing freedoms to all people is the basis of inclusive development in which every person has complete access to the freedoms offered by a country.

In a more economical sense, Acemoglu and Robinson claim that development is the inclusivity of economic institutions which allows all people to participate in opportunities. Development has 3 inter- related definitions; long term, short to medium term, and a dominant discourse. Long term development focuses on structural societal change. Short to medium term development utilizes targets and indicators such as the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. Dominant discourse development refers more specifically to western ideals of modernization.

Personally, I am more a believer in Sen’s ideals of development as they are more applicable to the diversity of countries and allow for more inclusivity in terms of who has access to the freedoms that developed countries offer.

Grand Challenges

Grand challenges are complex societal problems that have yet to be solved and require science and technological innovations to understand them and find their solution. These challenges are not only ambitious goals but they are physically achievable within a desired timeline. Another term often used in relation is ‘moonshot thinking’ which refers to President Kennedy’s ambitious goal to send a man to moon. Solving a grand challenge requires moonshot thinking and multidisciplinary collaboration. Fundamental research is also critical to defining societal goals and finding their solutions. Branscomb argues that in particular two policies must be implemented in order to solve these grand challenges; promoting ‘Jeffersonian science’ and moving products of science into new industries. It is extremely important that schools encourage students to study science and engineering and that higher education devote more resources to laboratories that can produce valuable innovations. Some examples of the challenges that can be addressed with these changes include developing new energy sources, vaccinations, and curing cancer. Other grand challenges that have already been identified explicitly and are working to be achieved by the global community are the Sustainable Development Goals. An important quality that the SDGs have is their ability to capture the public’s imagination as they are intrinsically motivating. Recently, the global approach to development has changed to include more cross-national collaboration, research and innovation, and inclusivity. Although inclusivity is still an area that needs to be improved particularly in the context of language within the SDGs, more and more development goals and projects address and include people with disabilities. It is critical that persons with disabilities be included in development goals because it is estimated that they make up fifteen percent of the world’s population, eighty percent of which live in developing countries. Not including persons with disabilities when developing solutions to grand challenges in the development field would exclude one billion people from the potential benefits. The Sustainable Development Goal that I find to be the biggest challenge and most intriguing is goal thirteen, Climate Action. It is also important to note that these seventeen goals are all interdependent and in most cases, one cannot be achieved without the achievement of another. For example, goal seven, affordable and clean energy, must be part of the solution in order to address goal thirteen. Another important quality that the SDGs possess that motivates nations to finding solutions is it’s time frame. Fifteen years is a short enough time frame to keep the current global leaders engaged but is also long enough to make achieving these goals feasible.