Intersectionalities in the SDGs

Intersectionality is defined as the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group. Simply put, intersectionality is the overlaps of systems, experiences, or identities. This term is a huge buzzword in the social sciences field and in academia broadly and is taught as a theory or lens of which to look at social situations critically through. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are a great framework to critically look at with an intersectional lens. The SDGs are categorized by People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnerships which all overlap with each other, are codependent on each other to be achieved, and are therefore intersectionality related and should be approached as such. You cannot achieve SDG 1: No Poverty without addressing SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, which can’t be achieved without the implications that come with SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities which is directly tied to SDG 13: Climate Action which is has extreme implications for both SDG 14 & 15: Life Below Water and Life on Land which cannot be achieved without SDG 17: Partnership for the Goals, upon which all the goals are connected to. The overlaps and the realities of all the SDGs are tied to, hinged on, have implications for, and are only achievable through addressing one another – that is at the heart of intersectionality and arguably sustainability broadly.

Sustainabilty like intersectionality depends on the observer to look critically at the overlaps, the points of contact, that social, environemtnal, and economic realms make with themselves and with each other. How decisions in one realm have implications and ramifications for the others and the decoupling of them in most cases is not an option. The SDGs are a great global framework to look to in how intersectionality is both vital for success an easily interpretable. Intersectionality for the SDGs isn’t an option it is the only viable avenue.

Sustainable Development and Intersectionality

In recent years, the word intersectionality has become a buzzword in many different academic disciplines from public health to environmental sustainability to education. The concept of intersectionality is actually quite self-explanatory. Within the context of international development, intersectionality is the idea that you cannot address development issues as stand-alone issues, because sustainable development is intertwined and what occurs in one area can have effects on other areas. There are both positive and negative examples of this. For example, if a person receives a quality education, this could also have positive outcomes for their economic status, their future employment, their health, and other factors. Similarly, if someone is struggling with extreme poverty, this may have ramifications for their education, health, and access to decent work. All aspects of sustainable development are interrelated which is why it is important to look at development comprehensively rather than as individual issues. This is why it is important to look at all 17 Sustainability Development Goals as a set rather than 17 individual goals. The success and progress of each goal effects the others, so for sustainable development to be successful, it is critical to understand how different aspects of development effect one another.

Another important aspect of intersectionality in the sustainable development field is the collaborative efforts between many different stakeholders to achieve goals. For example, one of the important aspects of urban sustainable development going forward is the idea and implementation of smart cities. This is discussed in the New Urban Agenda developed at Habitat III and Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. Creating smart cities needs a combination of information and communication technologies (ICTs), urban planning, clean energy, infrastructure, and most importantly, the people who live there. The intersectionality between all of these sectors is what makes smart cities possible. I think that international actors and sustainable development stakeholders have successfully understood the importance of intersectionality in the sustainable development field, with the SDGs as a wonderful example. The SDGs predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals, did not have the same understanding of the intersectionality between the 8 different goals, which is one reason I think the SDGs will have more success in achieving their goals compared to the MDGs. I am hopeful that with the continued focus on intersectionality in sustainable development, we will continue to see improvements and successes around the world. 

Intersectionality in Inclusive Development

            The concept of intersectionality is a phenomenal study that looks into the social, political identities combine and studies the nature of the interconnected-ness of the social categories like race, nationality, rank, status, class, and many more that is associated to one individual or a group and is shaped in a way that could become of discrimination or disadvantage is a group or larger setting. Intersectionality is really important to understanding the inclusivity discussion in development on a global scale. Because there are so many people in the world, there are many concepts and groupings of diversity that needs to be incorporated in the discussion of inclusion. More specifically, for the understanding of the concept of intersectionality, when studying these things internationally and having a global agenda like the UCLF (United Cities and Local Governments), we need to keep an eye out for how international processes are governed through inclusiveness means. For this reason, intersectionality helps us to understand what these components include and how they all people should be valued and listened to regardless of how one’s identity is composed.

            The concept of intersectionality affects inclusive sustainable development as seen by such forums and summits. The GovTech Summit happening in Paris oversees how new startups and entrepreneurs are successfully “breaking into the public sector”. At this time, it is critical that government entities are understanding the importance of private firms and the role of technology that is flourishing our current GovTech ecosystems. For example, take a look at what AWS is doing and how there has been a huge transformation from physical infrastructures to the cloud. What the government is concerned with is the security and transparency of data. The private firms are willing to bring this transformation of data and store it in the cloud. There have been many efforts from the government like the DevSecOps which integrates the practices of security within the DevOps process.

            Therefore, the inclusive environments like GovTech Summit enables tech starters and all other stakeholders like government agencies to come to one table and discuss the transformation of our nations’ important discussions to the incorporation of technology. For instance, GovTech Summit had discussions on transforming health care through technology, leapfrogging towards a digital government by delivering effective and sustainable technological development in the economy. The summit and the impacts from it  recognized that there are multiple stakeholders that need to be in par with the initiatives—those stakeholders include: national governments, local economies, and decision-makers (on a grassroots level), multilateral organizations, and development banks.


Intersectionality and Inclusivity

           Intersectionality is the concept that we belong to more than one group and these groups shape the way we interact with the world and each other. These intersections occur based on our gender, sexual orientation, race, age, educational background, physical abilities and countless other experiences and traits that make us unique. Within international development, intersectionality is a new buzzword that aims to challenge the traditional approach to key issues in development. A traditional approach tends to provide a blanket solution for an issue, without considering the intersection of identities. However, intersectionality stresses that there is no one way for development to occur because everyone needs something different depending on their intersectionality. This possesses a challenge for development. How are we supposed to help everyone when everyone is different and has different needs? Continue reading

Disability and the Urban Homeless Population

As I have continued to work on my final capstone project, I have come across the intersection between PWD and the urban homeless population time and time again. This segment of the population touches on an important aspect of disability that we have not talked about in class that much- psychological disabilities.

Though it is hard to pinpoint the exact number of those who are homeless in America that are living with a mental illness, estimates range from around a quarter to a third. At a global level, around 2% of the world population is homeless. What is more clear is that these debilitating illnesses usually go untreated and perpetuate the cycle of homelessness and joblessness.

Because these individuals are considered a part of the common cityscape, their suffering often goes unnoticed. As people consciously choose to ignore the plight of the homeless, they simultaneously want them to disappear without assistance from anyone else.

As cities grow, it is likely that the number of persons experiencing homelessness will rise as well. Cities exacerbate homelessness by raising the cost of housing and pushing those that can no longer afford to live in urban centers to the outskirts of society. Cities are not built for those with severe mental illnesses; they can be overwhelming, confusing and stressful.

At the same time, well-planned cities can provide access to public services such as health centers, employment training and shelters. Expecting homelessness to rise dramatically in the coming years, it is vital that municipal, state and federal governments take into account the needs of this population, especially considering that a large portion of them are living with a disability.

Considering Intersectionality in Inclusive Sustainable Development

A new term that falls under our study of inclusive sustainable development is intersectionality, which is the “simultaneous experience of categorical and hierarchical classifications” (Cole). Some of these classifications can include race, gender, sexuality, and even disability. All of the different forms of oppression that stem from these classifications (sexism, racism, etc.) are therefore mutually dependent and intersect, creating a whole system of oppression. It is a situation of give and take; people enjoy certain privileges yet others experience discrimination based on their status in society as set by these classifiers. Continue reading

LIVE! from the UN Internet Governance Forum and GigaNet

The 13th Internet Governance Forum, an annual event for global leaders in internet governance to discuss policies and exchange information about the internet and new technology, was held in Paris, France on November 12-14th. Some of the major themes discussed were Cybersecurity, Trust & Privacy, Development, Innovation & Economic Issues, Digital Inclusion & Accessibility, Emerging Technologies, Evolution of Internet Governance, Human Rights, Gender & Youth, Media & Content, and Technical & Operational Topics. Because of my interest in working with youth, I was most interested in the sessions around youth and the internet. Continue reading

Intersectionality in Development

Intersectionality is an analytic framework created by Black legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw that shows how interlocking systems of power can impact the most marginalized in a community. More specifically, Crenshaw explained how the combined effects of racism and sexism affected African-American women in the 1980’s. In other words, intersectionality shows how multiple identities can combine and determine how a person experiences oppression. These identities include those related to age, gender, race or ethnicity, economic status, and level of education. Moreover, intersectionality illustrates how different identities can overlap and ultimately impact inclusive sustainable development. Essentially, identities cannot be viewed in a vacuum because they all relate to and impact one another. In other words, carrying multiple intersectionalities may make more individuals vulnerable to environmental stressors than others. Recognizing intersectionality within inclusive sustainable development brings these challenges to the forefront of the conversations, while also encouraging strategy and policy makers to consider intersectional identity and the challenges that they face.

In the context of inclusive sustainable development, intersectional approaches are critical to developing programming and solutions to solve problems. Without recognizing the complexity of identity, creating viable solutions that benefit all is challenging. This can be exemplified when looking at the intersectionality of disability and gender. A woman with a disability in a country that has conservative gender role may not have the opportunity to go to school. If it does, she may face physical barriers to her education because the schools within her area are not disability inclusive. Ultimately, this individual is not only oppressed because of her gender, but is physically limited within schools because of her disability. Moreover, when looking at the UN Major Groups Framework, it is evident that there are groups formulated based off of identity. These groups represent women, children and youth, NGOs, and indigenous groups, to name a few. Yet, it is important to recognize that within these groups there are other compounding identities present. For example, among indigenous groups there are also indigenous people with disabilities, and of all ages and genders. Therefore, when considering inclusive sustainable development, it is critical to understand and provide for the complex intersectionality of identity.

Intersectionalities in Inclusive Sustainable Development

When different identities overlap at a particular time, it is called an intersectionality. People exhibit intersectionalities between many different characteristics including, but not limited to, age, gender, sexuality, minority, disability, and SES. The convergence of these characteristics means all the stressors and challenges from each identity are brought together. Continue reading