LGBTI rights not explicit in SDGs, but all is not lost

Following years of negotiation, 17 new Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the UN on 2 August 2015. It was a truly historic moment where 193 countries of the world came together to agree on how to ensure a better future for humanity. 

This agenda is truly universal. It applies to high-income, middle-income and low-income countries alike. There is a large emphasis throughout the document on achieving equality, empowerment of all citizens, inclusiveness and ‘leaving no one behind’.

While the adopted document might not include all the issues we fought very hard to obtain until the end (for example explicit attention to the rights and needs of LGBTI people, comprehensive sexuality education and sexual rights), a large number of strong and historic commitments have been made that the world can be held accountable for in the coming fifteen years.

One hard won victory is that ‘other status’ was retained in paragraph 19 on respecting, protecting and promoting human rights (see below), which includes LGBTI people:

"We reaffirm the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other international instruments relating to human rights and international law. We emphasize the responsibilities of all States, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, to respect, protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability or other status."

In May the Alliance launched the Write Us In campaign calling for inclusive language in the health goal targets and indicators to ensure that all groups, including LGBTI people, were covered under Universal Health Coverage. We now have language that opens the space for civil society at national level to advocate for essential healthcare and rights of LGBTI people.

“Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.”

There is work to be done. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development now provides us with a powerful advocacy tool to hold governments to account to ensure the realisation of human rights for all. Civil society now needs to engage with the process at the national level and we must work together to ensure that the historic opportunity to end AIDS by 2030 is not lost.