In a new paper, released this week, we argue that lesbian, gay, bi and trans people worldwide must be included properly in aid and development spending.
We’re responding to the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals, an agreement by 193 countries at the United Nations to end poverty and inequality by 2030. The SDGs were agreed in September, on the basis that they would include everyone, without discrimination, and would ‘leave no one behind’.
Unfortunately, lesbian, gay, bi and trans people have been repeatedly left behind in international development. They are disproportionately affected by the challenges that the SDGs are intended to solve, including low incomes, less education and poor health, among others. This is not through any fault of their own, but through social and legal discrimination that leads to, for example, trans communities being unfairly limited to low-paying and insecure employment.
LGBT people should have access to even more support to help them in meeting these challenges. However, up to now the reverse has normally been true. Aid-spending typically excludes LGBT people by not taking their needs properly into account. No matter how much is spent on education programmes all over the world, if nothing is done to address the issue of bullying against LGBT students that causes them to drop out early, then the children most in need of help are not receiving it.
We believe the Sustainable Development Goals are an extremely positive step in the right direction. Although they could have gone further, by explicitly calling for LGBT equality, their inclusive language is clear. Calls to ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all’ (Goal 3) or ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’ (Goal 5) mean just that – all people, whether they are LGBT or not.
Inclusive language like this is crucial but no less crucial than the practical actions and direct support to LGBT groups. Otherwise, the goals will only ever be on paper.
Thankfully, there are already lots of brilliant examples of LGBT-inclusive development around the world. We have showcased these in our paper, alongside practical suggestions for governments, charities and others to make sure their work properly includes LGBT communities.
They could be inspired by WE-Change in Jamaica, that trains police to treat LGBT citizens fairly under the law. Or the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) in South Africa, that supports lesbian and bi activists campaigning to end violence against women and girls. Or Albert Kennedy Trust in the UK, that provides shelter and life-skills training for LGBT homeless youth.
At Stonewall, we are working with the Department for International Development and UK-based charities to make sure the UK’s response to the Sustainable Development Goals directly addresses the needs of LGBT people. We’re also pushing for more direct support to activists and for them to be included in the process. This will go a significant way towards improving the situation for LGBT people globally.
The Sustainable Development Goals leave plenty of room for supporting LGBT people to claim their rights. There is now officially no excuse for aid and development spending that continues to leave lesbian, gay, bi and trans communities behind.
Kit Dorey (@KitDorey) is International Policy Officer at Stonewall
Views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of the Baring Foundation.