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.
Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. However, as stated in the progress report for 2019, SDG 4 may not be met by the year 2030. 262 million children and youth aged 6 to 17 are still out of school and more than half of children and adolescents are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) addresses the issues of inclusive and equitable education in their Grand Challenges. All Children Reading is a USAID initiative that is advancing edtech innovation and research to improve reading outcomes for marginalized children in low-resource contexts. Through the use of technology, USAID has been able to reach over 600, 00 children with early grade reading materials and approaches, distributed 1.3 million learning materials in over 140 languages spoken. All Children Reading also source and test solutions that address barriers to child literacy in the books in underserved languages, foundations of literacy, and children with disabilities. The use of technology to make education inclusive and accessible has been a major turn in realizing SDG 4 as it has not only connected our world to share resources but also given the ability for these resources to be put to good use such as meeting the need for education for all children regardless of their background, language, culture, or ability.
The challenge is how do we expound on these efforts to use technology to forward quality education for all that is inclusive more rapidly to meet SDG 4 by 2030? I believe that a greater spread of data and information, increasing the number of teachers that are properly trained to meet diverse student needs and technological capabilities for education, as well as use technology to shape the classroom environment are all ways to investigate and forward to potentially close gaps in meeting SDG 4 by the year 2030. USAID’s All Children Reading initiative is a great example and leader in pursuing technological capabilities to create quality education for every child around the world and other efforts should follow suit in using technology to advance SDG 4 by the year and beyond 2030.
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.
Throughout the 21stcentury, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have drastically changed the way we live our lives. Even more incredible, ICTs have the ability to completely change the sustainable development field. In a recent joint study performed by Huawei and SustainAbility, experts found a high correlation between countries that are progressing well with the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) and those that have performed well in the ICT field.
ICTs have many uses in all aspects of the sustainable development world. First and foremost, ICTs facilitate worldwide communication and networking which allows experts to assist and work with people from all around the world without even having to step outside their own homes. This fact alone can be incredibly helpful in providing information and knowledge to those who may not have access to it without the use of ICTs. Another use of ICTs is in the education field. With the use of different technologies such as webconferencing, students from around the world can learn without having to have the funds to afford costly travel. This is also had tremendous success in increasing inclusive education because persons with disabilities are able to use ICTs to communicate and receive an inclusive education that might not be available in their community. Another factor of ICTs in sustainable development is that eCommerce allows businesses around the world to connect to customers anywhere and everywhere. This can have big impacts on economic growth and employment.
However, one problem to consider is that countries with extensive ICT use and development are beginning to drastically overtake countries still developing their ICT infrastructure and industries. This means that, if steps are not taken to mitigate this, the divide between countries with high use of ICTs and those still developing ICTs may grow exponentially and leave a massive gap, a digital divide, between large portions of the world. While ICTs have incredible potential in their application to the sustainable development field, more focus needs to be placed on bridging the digital divide between countries or else sustainable development will suffer. Greater emphasis should be placed on catching those countries that have less developed ICTs up so that they do not fall so far behind. This will also have a very positive impact on sustainable development as ICTs open up many opportunities in the field.
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.
Since the development of the internet several decades ago, it has grown to be one of the most important aspects of society today. The internet offers vast opportunities for businesses, education, networking and so much more. However, while the lack of international borders on the internet is what makes it such an incredible resource, it also makes it very difficult for international bodies and governments to control and govern what occurs on the internet. An important term to understand when discussing this topic is internet governance. A working definition of internet governance was included in Article 34 of the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society developed at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) that took place in Tunis in 2005. This working definition of internet governance is “the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programs that shape the evolution and use of the Internet”. Rather than being regulated and formed from the top-down, the internet is decentralized and mostly works from the bottom-up with internet stakeholders, civil society and governments all having to work together to create policies.
One important element to understand about multistakeholder internet governance is that it is not a single solution, but rather a set of tools and practices that see various parties all working together to find solutions, share ideas, and develop policies. For example, the NETmundial Initiative created a set of internet governance principles meant to support the idea that the internet should be managed for the public interest. These principles include: human rights and shared values; protection of intermediaries; culture and linguistic diversity; unified and unfragmented space; security, stability, and resilience of the internet; open and distributed architecture; enabling an environment for sustainable innovation and creativity; and open standards. They also emphasize the importance of internet governance being multistakeholder, transparent, accountable, inclusive and collaborative. These are all important principles for internet governance as the internet is a vitally important global resource.
Another important body in the internet governance field is the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The IGF is part of the United Nations, and it is a multistakeholder platform that is responsible for facilitating the discussion of public policy issues pertaining to the internet. I think the platforms such as the IGF are very important for promoting multistakeholder collaboration and creating a space for internet governance issues to be discussed.
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.
Although those of us in the international relations field love to talk about development, we rarely take a moment to consider the actual meaning of the word. Most often, we think of development in terms of the different factors that relate to it such as education, gender equality, economic prosperity, environmental sustainability and so on. But it is crucial to understand the meaning and theories behind development, and how we came to understand development in the way that we do today.
According to Sumner and Tribe, there are three main ways to understand development. First, development can be understood as a long-term process of structural societal transformation. This viewpoint looks at the changes in society over time as development. Second, development can be understood as a short- to medium-term outcome of desirable targets. This second perspective can be seen in the form of the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. And third, development can be seen as a dominant discourse of western modernity. Those who view understand development this way tend to see development as something forced on developing countries by the dominant, developed Western world. All three of these views have their own merits and truths to them in terms of understanding development.
However, one of the most influential ideas within the development field was presented by Amartya Sen in 1999 in his famous book Development as Freedom. Before Sen, development was viewed exclusively from an economic standpoint. The only indicators that mattered were those that measured economic growth and prosperity. However, Sen challenged this accepted truth and instead offered a new perspective. Rather than solely focusing on economic factors, Sen presented the idea of considering the freedoms offered to the people in the country as a measure of development. Sen believed that different factors such as education, health care, democratic norms, employment and more should also factor into development. He also discussed the removal of unfreedoms, or restrictions that prevent people from making their own life decisions. Amartya Sen’s transformative work changed the way development is discussed and implemented around the world. In the development field today, we can see the many influences of Sen’s ideas in places such as the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda. Understanding development as freedom has greatly improved how development is measured and implemented around the world since the turn of the century.
The New Urban Agenda (NUA) was created out of the United Nations Conference Habitat III to address the need to focus on the world’s most built environment, namely cities. The focus on cities is pertinent because by the year 2050 two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, according to the United Nations. Within NUA, the focus on sustainable development and reimagining our cities to be inclusive and equitable for all is apparent but I found it interesting that the topic of creating more “smart” cities is only mentioned once. Smart cities or making a city “smart” involve integrating technologies and sustainability and or resilience measures through technology to advance, protect, and make a city more accessible for all. The 66th paragraph in the New Urban Agenda speaks to the “smart city” approach stating:
Paragraph 66: We commit ourselves to adopt a smart-city approach that makes use of opportunities from digitalization, clean energy, and technologies, as well as innovative transport technologies, thus providing options for inhabitants to make more environmentally friendly choices and boost sustainable economic growth and enabling cities to improve their service delivery. New Urban Agenda, page 19
Ambitious as well as crucially needed for a future impending the harsh ramifications of anthropogenic climate change but does not fully speak to how smart-cities would be inclusive if implemented in cities. I believe that the integration of inclusive smart cities in the future and pertinent to address in this way as to not leave any person behind in its development. For instance, how can making a city smart involve inclusivity measures for out low-income areas, update urban services and disaster risk management plans, accessibility measures for persons with disabilities and older persons, as well as overall increasing the ability for people to choose as a developmental framework?
Washington D.C. is attempting the rout of making itself a smart city and has yet to fully address the inclusivity measures that a smart city can have and therefore underutilizing the potential of integrated technologies to make the District smart. This is a lost opportunity that moving forward must be addressed and implemented in tandem with inclusivity measures for everyone as the city will be holding out the world’s future generations.
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.