Inclusive Smart Cities

Cities can be made inclusive and accessible once old models of disability that ignore spatiality are replaced by new models of disability that address spatiality. Pineda’s article, Enabling Justice: Spatializing Disability in the Built Environment,” reaffirms the importance of how physical space and the environment can enable or disable individuals (111). Further, Pineda explains how “contemporary legal definitions of disability are not overtly spatial” (112) when spatiality is an essential part of how persons with disabilities navigate their environment. Challenging the definition of disability to include spatiality, a central component of the environment that brings about discrimination and injustice for persons with disabilities, would “radically and fundamentally alter our understanding of equal rights” (Pineda 112). Pineda offers a new socio-spatial model of disability that aims to challenge dominant models of disability, such as the charity, medical, and personal tragedy models, that assign blame to individuals and ignore the importance of the environment in hindering persons with disabilities. The socio-spatial model of disability recognizes how “physical barriers are unjust and oppressive” (Pineda 117), which reveals that under this new model of disability, personal freedom is inherently valued. In sum, cities can be made inclusive and accessible once the distribution of space is realized. Pineda argues that this recognition “is an important aspect of realizing justice for disabled persons” (122). 

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Sen’s Development as Freedom

Conceptual frameworks are important in development studies because they provide a lens through which research is conducted, showing what types of data are needed to address the problem at hand (Sumner and Tribe 82). Frameworks also provide a more nuanced analysis of research and analysis. To begin, it may be helpful to describe Sen’s concept of development as freedom before discussing how the framework can inform disability-inclusive development projects. In simple terms, Sen’s development of freedom concept states that development should allow individuals freedoms and capabilities to live the lives they desire and value (Sen 18). Sen’s framework involves both the processes of allowing freedom of behavior and the substantive opportunities to live freely (Sen 17). In other words, development as freedom entails securing the processes by which individuals can attain freedoms and the resulting opportunities that such freedom allows. Two important reasons for prioritizing individual freedom in development are the ability to evaluate society and the promotion of societal effectiveness. Success of society can be evaluated based on the freedoms that people have (Sen 18), a view that is not utilitarian but rather is more humanizing. Freedom also determines individual motivation and hence, social effectiveness (Sen 18). Thus, people’s ability to help themselves in turn helps society. Sen’s framework aligns with the notion of development as a “friendly” process, a view that exchanges can be mutually beneficial, similar to Adam Smith’s argument regarding international trade (Sen 36). Sen’s framework highlights the need to ignore common conceptions that human development (Sen 143), the establishment of social opportunities that benefit human’s capabilities and quality of life (Sen 144), is a luxury in which only rich nations can afford to engage (Sen 143). Sen argues that this belief hinders human development globally and believes that the ability for human development to take place is not limited to a country’s economic situation. 

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Disability-Inclusive Development as a Global Grand Challenge

In a presentation by Tom Kalil, grand challenges are defined as “ambitious yet achievable goals that capture the public’s imagination and that require innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology to achieve” (Kalil). Disability-inclusive development can be considered a “global grand challenge” as the goal is “ambitious yet achievable” (Kalil) without current solutions/means to reaching the goal. The goal is ambitious as it represents a reality not currently experienced and involves making the world more accessible to persons with disabilities, a long contested issue. The fact that disability rights and accessibility have been considered a political issue has made the global grand challenge of disability-inclusive development more challenging to achieve. This goal is achievable as some progress towards reaching disability-inclusive development has been made, such as through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability and provides reasonable accommodations to employees. While the ADA represents some progress towards disability-inclusive development, there is much more progress to be made in order for such development to be truly inclusive. Kalil also writes that grand challenges “should capture the public’s imagination;” while the challenge of realizing disability-inclusive development is of public urgency, it is also one that will likely require innovation and/or scientific discovery, which is motivating and exciting. This challenge is compelling as disability-inclusivity advocacy is gaining ever-more strength in the political and social worlds today with the fight for disability inclusivity focusing on different areas, such as public policy, education, politics, and transportation. 

The USAID’s web page titled “Grand Challenges for Development” states that through USAID’s programs that involve governments, corporations, and foundations to focus on certain issues, “USAID and public and private partners bring in new voices to solve development problems.” USAID’s approach of utilizing new voices to confront grand challenges represents a model that the challenge of disability-inclusive development can follow, as diverse resources and voices that perhaps have more experience and/or knowledge on disabilities and disability-inclusivity can lead to more effective solutions to the issue. Have “new voices” been brought in to examine the grand challenge of disability-inclusive development in the past? If not, could this be a reason for why the goal of reaching disability-inclusive development has not been fully recognized? 

How do the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promote disability-inclusive development? The United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs published an article titled “Mainstreaming disability in the development agenda” which argues that “there is a strong bidirectional link between poverty and disability.” As the first Millennium Development Goal is to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” while the other MDGs also aim to reduce poverty in different ways (“Millennium Development Goals and Beyond 2015”), the MDGs must have, in some way, promoted disability-inclusive development. I need to do more research to understand better the specific ways in which progress in disability-inclusive development has been achieved as a result of the MDGs and SDGs.The article states that while the MDGs brought attention to persons with disabilities, there is little discourse over the significance of how persons with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the population that the MDGs seek to help. Additionally, leaving persons with disabilities out of all development activities will hinder achieving the MDGs. I will infer that the same logic applies to achieving the SDGs: ignoring persons with disabilities when aiming to reach every SDG will hinder achieving the SDGs. I am interested in learning more about if disability-inclusivity had any explicit influence, if any, when crafting the MDGs and SDGs.

For my capstone, I am interested in incorporating my interests in global health into the discussion of disability-inclusive development and sustainable development. Sustainable Development Goal 3 aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” (“Goals”). Do health and well-being include health for persons of disabilities as well? For example, are physical access, treatment, and medicines for persons with disabilities included in the promotion of health and well-being? I need to do more research on this question to understand how persons with disabilities are either included or excluded from this goal. I am interested in how health and well-being for persons with disabilities can be included in SDG 3 sustainably in regard to cost, resources/resource allocation, and longevity.

Development Theory

 

            As aforementioned on my previous blog, Development is a complex term and its understanding is conceptualized in many ways. Personally, I find issue in defining development by using economic terms and growth rates or GDPs that many times say very little about the situation and are inflated/manipulated by public officials and/or represent a privileged minority. This is why I believed I found much interest in the way Amartya Sen correlated development to freedom. I found much understanding to her perception of development, yet I also found it limited to an extent. There is an imperative need for politicians, economists and anyone who has influence over policies to understand that development is not and cannot be represented by poverty alleviation. It is and extremely limited and mainstream perception that will not bring any substantive change. This is why I resonated with Sen’s argument which focused more on the humanity of developmentand the experiences of individuals; more specifically their freedoms. However, while I believe this is an important element of development and how it can be defined it is also limited. There are several factors such as health, education, equality that fall under one of the five categories Sen used to define freedom. However, there are many other examples of freedom that do not influence the overall well-being of a society. Freedom most definitely is an important element and an ultimate goal; but by fixating ourselves in specific ideals of freedom we once again lose the complexity of developmentand its priorities. Development is a very complex area of study that has very diverse beliefs; I personally have obtained my idea of development by incorporating many of these ideas together. 

            This idea of development, however, is also extremely based on what I have conceptualized freedom and development to be defined in the context of what I have seen, Honduras. This is why there is such difficulty in reaching consensus, because the context with each one of us defined development is incredibly distinct. As a result, I don’t believe there is or there should by one overarching definition that applies to all, as it would have to be incredibly vague and lack character. Just as there are different means and strategies through which countries reach development there should also be different way of conceptualizing it. This becomes a little difficult whenever professionals would like to compare and contrast the degree of development between countries, and for that I have yet to find a solution. But I believe and important first step is to come to the conclusion that development is complex and different in every country, and as a result the way it is defined is incredibly influenced by the context of the region one was in. 

Grand Challenges

            Being a Honduran and having lived in Honduras I was able to understand the grasp and complexity of development. We live in a time and age where poverty-ridden countries are expected to combat poverty, economic stagnation, and a myriad of other problems through sustainable means. And while this is a necessary and primordial clause; it is an incredibly difficult one to understand. I have personally seen, how for many political leaders, sustainability is not a priority. However, as we have seen and continue seeing, it is one of our biggest threats. It is easy to look at the past and find a plethora of activities that led to progress and economic achievement through the exploitation of natural resources at the expense of the environment. For many countries, this was the fastest way they believed growth and development could be achieved. Today, however, those countries who want to achieve the same level of growth and economic stability, are forced to find different and more complex and costly means to do so. There is an exponentially alarming call for countries to achieve these development goals sustainably, for there to be a change in our modus operandi. This, however, is a challenge that must be implemented by every country collectively. 

            As expected, every country will have different ways and different priorities in their implementation of these sustainable development goals, in fact, even different strategies of implementation. It is important to take into consideration how the level of difficulty for developing countries increases, and what the expectations for those countries should be. I am a firm believer that every country should do their best to implement these sustainable development goals; yet, I also do believe that many of these developing countries will need the support of the international developed community to do so most effectively. As well as the contribution of different fields of knowledge and experience that will lead and provide the guidance necessary for the achievement of these goals, leading to the innovation of new strategies and methods that’s will compel leaders in these disciplines to continue and expand their efforts. 

These sustainable development goals fall under the definition of Grand Challenges for a reason. Grand Challengescan be defined as ambitious but achievable goals that harness science, technology, and innovation to solve important national or global problems and that have the potential to capture the public’s imagination”. SDG’Sare the perfect example of Grand Challenges, as they fall under every criterion that defines one.  In fact, even its name is an accurate representation of what these goals are for most developing countries; however, despite their difficulty, it is imperative for them to be achieved. 

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.

https://sdg.guide/chapter-1-getting-to-know-the-sustainable-development-goals-e05b9d17801

Limitations in Global Strategic Frameworks and Institutions

The MDGs were ultimately unsuccessful due to a variety of issues that left weaknesses in the international framework. According to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the lack of progress was the result of “unmet commitments, inadequate resources, lack of focus and accountability, and insufficient interest in sustainable development.” While the MDGs have promoted increased health and wellbeing in many countries, they were unable to adequately meet international goals for sustainability. In 2000, all 191 United Nations member states committed to help achieve the MDGs by 2015. However, there were large disparities in commitments. The Declaration emphasizes the role of developed countries in aiding developing countries in the global fight to minimize and manage climate change and encourage sustainable lifestyles and development. Developed countries had more ambitious objectives and targets than developing nations which left most of the international community unaccountable. However, results in developed countries were uneven and uninspired. There was limited accountability to achieve commitments in developed countries as well. A lack of emphasis on environmental sustainability failed to portray the urgency of climate change. Much of the international community didn’t view the goals and working together in their self interest.

The MDGs were powerful because they marked a departure from typically overloaded international agendas. This framework was comprehensive and easily understood by an average individual. Further, the goals presented the issue of sustainable development and its increasing importance on an international stage. The problem has since attracted more attention and participation due to the mistakes and shortcomings we have learned from in the past. The MDGs also provided a framework for the 2015 agenda to be more successful and stringent in regard to international commitment and accountability. 

The overall failures of the MDGs calls into question the efficacy of international and multi stakeholder institutions. International Relations theories often debate whether states will always act in their own self interest, regardless of international agreements or treaties. Liberals believe that these institutions can generate widespread positive change. They argue that international institutions provide collective security while encouraging nations to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains. Realists believe that institutions don’t impact international stability because countries will always act in their self interest by assuming the worst in other nations and thinking strategically. These theorists claim that states will always be in competition with one another. If international institutions can provide more accountability, incentive, and focus to sustainable goals, the results will be more successful.

Disaster Risk Reduction & Management for Garment Factories

This class topic focused on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Disaster Risk Management (DRM) and the overarching topic of inclusive emergency preparedness for cities and countries. Pointing to the Sendai Conference that created the Sendai Framework for inclusive development around accessibility measures for persons with disabilities in cities, in DRR, and DRM. After the Sendai Conference, the Dhaka Conference created the Dhaka Declaration that followed expanded upon the work done in Sandai. As we discussed the implications for DRR and DRM and how they are tailored to address the disasters that will come with climate change, the Dhaka Declaration made me think of the measures or lack thereof of DRR and DRM for the industry that runs it economy. Specifically in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the issue of garment factories in the garment industry has been a major point of civil upheaval and has been subjected to another form of disaster not addressed in DRR or DRM frameworks in Sendai or Dhaka – industrial disasters.

In 2013, Rana Plaza a major 8-story garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed killing over a thousand garment workers who were majority women. It is still the worst industrial disaster in Bangladesh’s history and not much has changed in terms of policies, measures, or frameworks to protect citizens from another industrial disaster in the future. Unfortunately, many more small-sized factory failures and collapses have occurred since Rana Plaza in 2013 in Bangladesh. This leads me to question the feasibility of the Dhaka Declaration for addressing points of inclusivity in Dhaka or countrywide DRR or DRM when in the industries that run Bangladesh’s economy lacks the very same measures to protect its citizens. In short, I think that DRM and DRM should be instilled not only as a city or country plan for climate change but also throughout a country’s economy and industry as well.

https://www.iom.int/files/live/sites/iom/files/What-We-Do/docs/Dhaka-Declaration.pdf

http://thinkhazard.org/en/

https://qz.com/1255041/two-garment-factory-disasters-a-century-apart/

WUF10 & Entrepreneurship

The World Urban Forum (WUF) is a conference born out of the United Nations that addressed urban issues surrounding urbanization and its impact on economies, climate change, and cities. The most recent WUF conference, WUF9 took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and was themed Cities 2030 – Cities for All: Implementing the New Urban Agenda. WUF9 focused on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda’s goals and commitments regarding creating cities that are inclusive and sustainable. The upcoming World Urban Forum, WUF10 will be taking place in February 2020 in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The theme for WUF10 is Cities of Opportunities – Connecting Culture and Innovation which reads to me like a convergence of culture, technological and social innovation, working in tandem with fostering local-focused global entrepreneurship.

A marker for success for WUF10 would be addressing how to foster locally-focused with global perspective entrepreneurship to drive social change and innovation for sustainable development. According to the Harvard Business Review, the entrepreneurial ecosystem is a core component of economic development in cities and countries. The top three challenges that prevent entrepreneurship from flourishing however are access to talent, excessive bureaucracy, and scarce early-stage capital. I believe it would not only be to the World Urban Forum’s benefit but also for the all stakeholders attending WUF10 to address entrepreneurship in cities as a driver for sustainable developing and making their respective economies more productive and inclusive.

https://wuf.unhabitat.org/node/145

https://hbr.org/2014/05/what-an-entrepreneurial-ecosystem-actually-is

SDGs & HLPF

The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is a United Nations platform created in 2013 to deal exclusively with sustainable development. Under the Economic and Social Council, the HLPF meets every year to assess the progress made on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 grand challenges that are time-bound and overarching for our world to achieve. According to the UN, the SDGs were created to proceed with the 8 Millennium Development Goals that lacked more modern inclusivity measures and resiliency aspects for a world charged in addressing the negative impacts of climate change for instances. The expansive, inclusive, and resilient SDGs are categorized by People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnerships which address all forms of development – inclusive, universal, integrated, locally-focused, and technology-driven development. The goal-based planning approached that the SDGs are created on, claim that well-crafted goals are able to accomplish guiding the public’s understanding of complex challenges, unite the global community, promote integrated thinking, support long-term approaches, and define responsibilities as well as foster accountability. The SDGs are meant to have positive impacts and to turn our world for the better however multiple critiques have come out against the intent or potential impact of the SDGs. One London School of Economics posts critiqued the SDG framework for creating this agenda on a failing economic model. A Quartz article claimed that the SDGs undermine democracy due to the dictatorship governed countries apart of working groups created to monitoring and implementing of the SDGs. Lastly, Dr. Michelle M.L. Lim of the University of Adelaide claims that the SDGs goals approach should shift from goals to an integrative approach to prevent “cherry-picking” components of the SDGs in countries. Many critiques raised rank respectively in merit and in concern. However, it is my thought that only time will either confirm or deny these concerns raised against the SDGs. I think it is better to have some overarching global framework for sustainable development in place than none at all and the buy-in from nations to willingly want sustainable development for their nations, their citizens, our collective future generations is what will make the difference outside of the SDGs and the HLPF. By the year 2030, the HLPF will assess whether the SDGs were met globally and whether these concerns and the intention of every nation for wanting sustainable development will be revealed.

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/majorgroups/hlpf

https://sdg.guide/chapter-1-getting-to-know-the-sustainable-development-goals-e05b9d17801

https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/africaatlse/2015/09/23/five-reasons-to-think-twice-about-the-uns-sustainable-development-goals/

https://qz.com/africa/1299149/how-the-uns-sustainable-development-goals-undermine-democracy/

https://ecologyandsociety.org/vol23/iss3/art22/#failuretoint8