Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
By A.H. Monjurul Kabir
NEW YORK, Nov 10 2022 (IPS)
We are living in a world where both our bilateral and multilateral achievements, consensuses on human rights and social justice, and our resolve to public good are being tested like never before.
Now, more than ever, we need to bring to life the values and principles of the UN Charter in every corner of the world. Due to the powers vested in its Charter and its unique international character, the UN can act on the issues confronting humanity, including:
• Maintain international peace and security
• Protect human rights
• Deliver humanitarian aid
• Promote sustainable development
• Uphold international law
Given my own personal trajectory in human rights advocacy and development cooperation, let me focus on aspects of sustainable development and consider whether we need to change and adopt any new approach to it to end extreme poverty, reduce inequalities, and rescue the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from exclusionary practices.
Development or Sustainable Development must be inclusive: In fact, inclusion at the heart of Development Cooperation. Inclusive development is the concept that every person, regardless of their identity, is instrumental in transforming their societies.
Development processes that are inclusive yield better outcomes for the communities that embark upon them. The UN was created to promote the rights and inclusion of marginalized and underrepresented populations in the development process and leads the UN’s response to addressing the needs and demands of those in in adversity and youth.
Therefore, the UN implements activities that combat stigma and discrimination, promote empowerment and inclusion of marginalized or underrepresented groups, and improve the lives of populations in high-risk situations.
It is important that we also adopt this in institutional and management settings: For example, UN Asia Network for Diversity and Inclusion (UN-ANDI) recently conducted its first survey on Racism and Racial Discrimination in five languages.
The survey was intended to capture data reflecting the Asian perspective in the UN system. It is planning to issue a report on the survey’s findings to support and address many critical issues of racism and racial discrimination. There are other networks who are addressing different elements of intersectionality including but not limited to, gender, disability, ethnicity, identity etc.
So, the world and its challenges have become much more intersectional, which calls for a robust and intersectional approach to development cooperation.
Intersectional Approach: An intersectionality lens allows us to see how social policy may affect people differently, depending on their specific set of ‘locations,’ and what unintended consequences particular policies may have on their individual lives.
By listening to the most marginalized and/or disadvantaged groups of a community, development organizations can help combat oppression at all levels of society and rebuild communities from the ground up.
Take the example of Persons with Disabilities. They are not a homogenous group, and this should be reflected in our policy advocacy and communications by considering intersectionality—the intersection of disability together with other factors, such as gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, refugee, migrant or asylum seeker status.
For example, a person with disability also has a gender identity, may come from an Indigenous group and be young, old, a migrant or live in poverty.
At the UN System, it is time to adopt an intersectional approach in our development cooperation, policy advocacy, programming, operational support, planning and budgeting. An intersectional approach considers the historical, social, and political context and recognizes the unique experience of the individual based on the intersection of all relevant grounds.
This approach allows the experience of discrimination, based on the confluence of grounds involved, to be acknowledged and remedied. Using an intersectionality lens to approach our development practice means moving beyond the use of singular categories to understand people and groups and embracing the notion of inseparable and interconnected sets of social ‘locations’ that change through time, vary across places, and act together to shape an individual’s life experience and actions.
This would go a long way to contribute to the SDGs’ Leave No One Behind principle (LNOB). The new approach calls for invigorating existing practices, making them more innovative, effective, and efficient.
Innovation: We need to think of innovative approaches and instruments to attract and channel new resources to finance our developmental aspirations, as outlined in the 2030 SDGs now more than ever.
Reliable and well-administered development financial institutions with a well-defined mandate and sound governance framework will continue to be an important vehicle to accelerate inclusive economic and social development.
They can create new channels to crowd-in the private sector. Moreover, they can play a catalytical role by generating new knowledge, convening stakeholders, and providing technical assistance to build capacity in the private and public sectors. Mutual collaboration between and across public and private sector is critical to harness the full potential of innovation and innovative approaches.
Let us not forget new media’s growing impact on both inclusive participation leveraging innovative practices.
New Media: New media, including mobile and social media, could help demystify international institutions and encourage participation. The new media is also critical to widen the breadth of accessibility for persons with disabilities or those who live in rural and/or remote, hard to reach areas.
Alongside this, there could be more regular interactions by the leadership of intergovernmental organisations with multi-stakeholders including civil society, organisations of persons with disabilities, and the media, and the creation of accessible databases of statistical and other information and knowledge on their work.
Notwithstanding the Ukraine war, work at the UN continues. The world body can and should continue to play a constructive role in both development cooperation, crisis management, peace building, and post-conflict stabilization. It should continue to focus on crises from Afghanistan to Mali and Ukraine itself.
However, it must explore new and innovative and intersectional ways to support inclusive development, climate justice and resilience, peacekeeping, and other global and regional key priorities.
Otherwise, the SDGs will not be even near to their desired destination in 2030 or beyond.
Dr. A.H. Monjurul Kabir, currently Global Policy and UN System Coordination Adviser and Team Leader for Gender Equality, Disability Inclusion, and Intersectionality at UN Women HQ in New York, is a political scientist and senior policy and legal analyst on global issues and Asia-Pacific trends.
For policy and academic purposes, he can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on twitter at mkabir2011
This article is from a blog based on a speech delivered by the author, in his personal capacity, at an event commemorating the UN’s 77th anniversary organized by UN-ANDI– a New York-based global network of like-minded Asian staff members of the UN system who strive to promote a more diverse and inclusive culture and mindset within the UN.
IPS UN Bureau