Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme in 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. She also chairs the United Nations Development Group
Helen Clark: Statement on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia provides an opportunity to reaffirm that the rights of LGBT people are a matter of concern to all of us working on human development.
Human beings cannot benefit from development progress if their lives are defined by inequity, exclusion, and policies which treat them as less than equal. This is true of all people who encounter marginalisation and injustice, whether they be women living under laws which fail to provide equal status in all spheres of life, or persons of any gender who are ostracised because of their ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
In the last year, harmful anti-LGBT laws have been passed under the guise of protecting children and families. Punitive laws such as these have the potential to stir up homophobia and transphobia, and can have very toxic effects on people’s lives – shattering self-esteem, increasing marginalisation, and creating hurdles to accessing health and other services. Such laws scapegoat LGBT people and distract from the real social and development challenges which countries face. Anti-LGBT laws are based on the incorrect assumption that homosexuality poses a danger to a country’s social fabric. The evidence does not demonstrate this – where nations have decriminalised same sex sexual conduct, no threat to the institution of marriage nor to the well-being of children has been witnessed. Instead, decriminalisation has been a key step in providing an opportunity for historically oppressed LGBT people to flourish and fully participate as respected members of society.
There is some good news: in the past few weeks the Supreme Court of India upheld the fundamental rights of transgender people, noting that “respect for human rights is the root of human development and realization of full potential of each individual, which in turn leads to the augmentation of human resources with progress of the nation. Empowerment of the people through human development is the aim of human rights.”
UNDP is committed to such a vision of inclusive human development and continues in its efforts to advance the human rights of LGBT people globally. In Latin America and the Caribbean, UNDP supported REDLACTRANS, a network of transgender groups, to advocate with the Organisation of American States in support of an historic human rights resolution for the region which explicitly includes LGBT rights. In sub-Saharan Africa, UNDP, in partnership with the governments of Sweden and Norway, is supporting countries to implement the recommendations of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law in relation to LGBT rights and HIV. In Asia, UNDP in partnership with the United States government and within the “Being LGBT in Asia” initiative, is supporting LGBT communities to engage with their governments and other stakeholders to demand their rights; helping to ensure that the respect of human rights for LGBT individuals is part of the broader human rights and governance response.
As development practitioners and advocates for human rights, on this day let us reinvigorate our efforts to support countries to achieve a vision of human development which is truly inclusive and where everyone is able to live their lives free from fear, discrimination, violence, homophobia, or transphobia.