Ensuring we are leaving no one behind

Ensuring we are leaving no one behind

This month the Equality Network were delighted to join the Scotland's International Development Alliance. In doing so we became the first Alliance member which specifically works on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) human rights issues.

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Around the world LGBTI people face discrimination simply on the grounds of who they are or who they love. Male same-sex activity is criminalised in over seventy countries, and female same-sex activity in over forty. In eight countries LGBTI people face the death penalty, and in six it’s a life sentence. Even in countries in which same-sex activity has been decriminalised, LGBTI people still face high levels of violence and discrimination, as well as significant barriers to accessing healthcare, education and justice, denying LGBTI people equal access to their economic, social, and cultural rights.

Discrimination can both contribute to poverty and be a hurdle in alleviating poverty, so it is vital that as we take action using the development commitments of the international community, manifested in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to ensure that no one is left behind. We must recognise that without including LGBTI people in international development programmes, we won’t meet those goals.


LGBTI people aren’t explicitly mentioned in the SDGs, perhaps a sign itself of the challenges LGBTI people face around the world. LGBTI inclusive programmes however, are integral to the success or failure of the SDGs. For example, we know through research that rates of poverty and homelessness are higher among LGBTI people than in wider communities, a situation that bears direct relation to SDGs 1, 8, 10 & 11. We also know that laws criminalising same-sex activity and the pathologisation of trans identities can lead to fear of accessing healthcare, covered in SDG 3. We must also acknowledge the persistent global gender inequalities which affect all women, including LGBTI women. This of course correlates to SDG 5, but also SDGs 4, 6 and 13, as we know that women are disproportionately affected by barriers in accessing education, a lack of access to clean water and sanitation, and climate change. 

Scottish organisations play a vital role in development around the world, but is this development fully inclusive?

In 2005 Scotland established its own International Development footprint, with agreement from the UK Government since international relations remain reserved to Westminster. In that time over £108 million has been spent improving the lives of people accross the world. Unfortunately, to date no money has been spent on any LGBTI development.

We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to international development, and to improving Scotland’s global citizenship role, however, we believe that it’s important that Scotland’s international development role should be LGBTI inclusive. This can, and should be done within the Scottish Governments international development programme and out with it, in the many programmes being delivered by Scottish organisations around the world.

It is only by including LGBTI people that we deliver on the promise not to leave anyone behind. We look forward, as a member of the Scottish International Development Alliance, to supporting organisations in this task, and to ensuring the barriers that exclude LGBTI people from the benefits of the development agenda are eliminated.