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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The Role of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) “has a central role in the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs,” according to the Sustainable Development Goals site page dedicated to the HLPF. The HLPF meets annually under the Economic and Social Council and meets every four years under the General Assembly (“High-Level Political Forum”). Notably, the Forum asks member states to “conduct regular and inclusive reviews at the national and sub-national levels, which are country-led and country-driven” (“High-Level Political Forum”). These national reviews are used by the HLPF when they conduct their review process (“High-Level Political Forum”). The HLPF works well in the sense that it allows countries to conduct their own, voluntary reviews that are used as the basis for the Forum’s review. This allows for experts, government organizations, and civil society organizations to participate in the specific country’s Voluntary National Review. Further, this allows for the report to be grounded in the country’s specific context, which is often left out in development discourse that traditionally imposes the West’s perception of global development. Country context is essential to assessing the progress of the SDGs. The HLPF could be improved to promote inclusive sustainable development by implementing accountability measures for those members on the Forum. How are these members chosen for the Forum? Do these members represent the diversity of both the SDGs (including experts on poverty, education, water, energy, etc.) and the member states (including representation from different countries in different regions)? 

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HLPF: Is the “Major Groups” framework useful?

The United Nations’ High Level Political Forum, a platform for facilitation of the Sustainable Development Goals including targets, partnerships, publications, and documents. Described as the “most inclusive and participatory forum at the United Nations,” the HLPF is the process that governs the 15 year period SDG implementation and progress. 

One inclusive aspect of the HLPF are the incorporation of “major groups” and stakeholders other than countries. The framework for the “major groups” came from the 1992 Earth Summit in the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The groups include “nine sectors of society as the main channels through which broad participation would be facilitated in UN activities related to sustainable development” (United Nations). These groups specifically include: women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, Non-governmental Organizations, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, scientific and technological community, and farmers. These categories are a little surprising to me, given that they range quite significantly in levels of vulnerability and representation in societal decision-making. Representing workers and trade unions juxtaposed with representatives from business and industry could create a constructive dynamic of criticism and progress for both levels of capitalist society. Creating a separate category for farmers is a way to bring a group that makes up a large proportion of the world’s population, and in some ways constitutes the backbone of human society, to the forefront, and lifts their voices. That is the reason for creating these groups in the first place: making sure that those who may have not had “a seat at the table” before, do now. 

That being said, within the multi-stakeholder environment, there are limitations with this framework. The major groups can attend all official meetings of the HLPF and intervene in official meetings; however, whereas governments can speak whenever they want, as many times as they want, major groups are limited, which ends up placing significant pressure on the chosen spokesperson. Even with a few caveats, the HLPF and “major groups” provide several mechanisms for people to not only physically participate in the processes that govern the 15 year period of the Sustainable Development Goals, but also shape discourse and advocate for their point of view.

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

The SDGs and the High Level Political Forum

The creation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) marked a groundbreaking moment for the inclusivity of persons with disabilities in global development goals. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs), where no language surrounding persons with disabilities was included, the SDGs were a crucial step in identifying the importance of inclusive sustainable development.  Continue reading

Sen’s Development Theory

Amartya Sen’s perspective on the importance of individual freedoms is more convincing than differing developmental theories.  In chapter two of his book Development as Freedom, Sen writes, “Development…is the process of expanding human freedoms, and the assessment of development has to be informed by this consideration” (1999, 36).  Sen (1999) explores the relationship between individual freedoms and development, as well as the ways in which freedom is both a fundamental component of development and an enabling springboard to other aspects.  Dominant views of development tend to revolve around GDP growth, industrialization, and technological advances.  Sen (1999) defies those models, highlighting three themes that I see emerge from his writing:  first, urbanization does not mean development; second, social welfare must come before economic growth; third, growth in the community means focusing on social and economic human rights.  Framed by these three themes, I argue that Sen’s focus on substantive human freedoms challenges other development theories, such as Modernization’s, idealized set of Eurocentric assumptions about what a developed society ought to include.  Continue reading

SDG & HLPF

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.