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Udviklingsministerens tale ved konference om diskrimination af seksuelle minoriteter og udviklingsbistand

Udviklingsminister Christian Friis Bach holdte tirsdag den 30. oktober 2012 åbningstalen bed konferencen "Sexual Minority Discrimination and Development" i Fælledssalen på Christiansborg

Dear friends and colleagues. I am pleased to see so many engaged and passionate participants at this important conference on LGBT- (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) and human rights in development work.
I would especially like to welcome Sunil Pant from Nepal and Frank Mugisha from Uganda who will both address you later in the day.
They are both tireless champions for LGBT- rights. I admire them and have tremendous respect for their efforts and fight for the human rights LGBTs are entitled to.

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Dear friends and colleagues. I am pleased to see so many engaged and passionate participants at this important conference on LGBT- (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) and human rights in development work. I would especially like to welcome Sunil Pant from Nepal and Frank Mugisha from Uganda who will both address you later in the day. They are both tireless champions for LGBT- rights. I admire them and have tremendous respect for their efforts and fight for the human rights LGBTs are entitled to.

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The issue of LGBT should be straight forward! It can be expressed very shortly: NON-DISCRIMINATION!


Non-discrimination is a core human rights principle embodied in the charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and core human rights treaties. However, we all know it is not at all straight forward – that is after all why we are here today. Sexual minority discrimination is an issue, which is often overlooked in development programmes and policies. In some cases deliberately. In other cases because it can be both very complicated and sensitive to work with these issues. Sometimes even dangerous. Nonetheless, sexual minority discrimination is an issue, which deserves strong attention and it is key to our new development strategy, The Right to a Better Life. This strategy stands on the strong foundation that the international human rights gives us - and gives each and every individual in the world. And it also underlines that poverty does not thrive in a society where human rights and the rule of law are respected, protected and promoted. Or where all people are able to exercise their rights. No matter what sex, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity they have. Human rights, democracy and development are therefore closely interlinked.

 Respecting human rights and fighting against discrimination is key for each and very individual - but it is just as important for building strong and inclusive societies based on equity and participation. Discrimination excludes individuals from fulfilling their full potential and blocks a society from prosperity. Read the recent issue of the Economist magazine and when they stress the importance of equitable societies for economic growth in a liberal magazine as the Economist then it must be true. The success of the Nordic Countries very much builds on tolerance which builds trust between individuals, lack of discrimination, and an equitable and inclusive society where everybody - regardless of their beliefs, gender and sexual orientation can participate, can contribute.

Together they are essential for peace, stability and for a sustainable economic growth, where all citizens participate and contribute on equal terms. By implementing the new strategy, Danish development cooperation will strengthen the rights-based approach to development. Our ‘mandate’ is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we have moved the focus of our development assistance away from charity towards rights. As part of the implementation of the strategy, Denmark will work together with partners in our priority countries - governments, civil society and the private sector - in order to obtain fulfillment of the fundamental human rights in the most feasible way.
The fundamental human rights are not just Western or Danish values that we want to impose and export. They constitute core values for the international community and we should all be able to work on this basis.
 

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And what does this mean for sexual minorities in Danish development work?
It means that when Denmark actively works to promote human rights for all in a country, the rights of LGBT are included. Sexual Minorities have the same human rights as everybody else. We neither can nor should distinguish.
We will insist on the core principle that all persons are equal and should have equal access to public services and opportunities, to security and justice. We will insist that no one should be discriminated on the basis of race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

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Sadly, there are still many places in world where people are discriminated for expressing their sexual orientation or their gender identity. In the worst cases, we have witnessed that people who have expressed their sexual orientation or gender identity have paid the highest price – their life for standing up for their rights. This is unacceptable.
Today 76 nations - 76 countries more than 1/3 of all countries in the world - criminalize consensual sexual acts between persons of the same sex in private over the age of consent. In seven of these countries gays and lesbians can be punished with the death penalty. I believe they should be named - and shamed - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Nigeria, and Mauritania.
 

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But we cannot let these worst case scenarios stop our daily fight for LGBT-rights. People are discriminated at many levels because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. And we have to carefully consider how we can best help improve the situation for LGBT.
It is an on-going challenge, it is not easy, it can be very sensitive and it will take time. But it has to be addressed - also in countries where the legislation respects core principles of non-discrimination. Even in Denmark, where it is not legal to discriminate anyone because of their sexual preference, we know that ensuring non-discrimination of LGTB takes time and a lot of dialogue. The recent legalization of marriage for homosexuals in churches is a good example, which the Danish Government is very proud of. As Minister for Development Cooperation I have been asked how Denmark reacts to the discrimination of LGBT-people in our priority countries. Will it have an effect on Danish development assistance to that country? Will Denmark stop being a valuated development partner?
Well - where other partners threaten to stop their development cooperation with these countries from one day to another, the Danish Government has another approach.

 
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We threaten to stay and continue the critical dialogue with the country. We threaten to increase the support of LGBT organisations and other civil society organisations, which fight for human rights. We do not wish to slam the door shut, since this would not help the sexual minorities. Quite the reverse. That would put a stop to our long term work with securing clean drinking water to the poor, getting children to school etc. That would not promote the understanding of human rights nor minority rights. Furthermore, there would be a serious risk that the poor people we help with our development programmes would blame the LGBT-people and make their situation even worse than it already is.
 

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This is also what I hear from the sexual minority groups themselves. They have requested donors NOT always to use development assistance as pressure on LGBT-rights, since it will not promote their cause.
I am convinced that by being present in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Nepal and other countries where this occurs, Denmark will help safeguard human rights for sexual minorities and over time contribute to strengthening the democratic processes. But it is not all bad. South Africa - for example - has shown to have a very constructive role when it comes to LGBT-issues, both in multilateral fora and on the African continent.
Also in other countries - from Uganda to the US - we now finally see that popular opinion is moving in the right direction - towards tolerance, trust and mutual understanding. This is encouraging. An entry point that Denmark certainly will explore further.

Another question I am often asked is how best to promote LGBT-rights in development assistance: By focusing specifically on LGBT or by mainstreaming LGBT into projects and programmes? I do not have the final answer, but can say for Denmark that we actively support LGBT in several ways. For example through bilateral health and HIV/AIDS programmes, where we build capacities and support the coordination and establishment of networks for ‘most-at-risk’ population groups, including stigmatized and discriminated groups such as LGBT. Further, Danish support to the justice sector has shown to have positive effects on human rights and non-discrimination. The Human Rights Commission in Uganda is just one promising example.

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Multilaterally, we support International Planned Parenthood Federation, who also works with sexual minority issues. We give general support to International HIV/AIDS Alliance and I have a proposal at the next Finance Board meeting for targeted support to the Alliance’s work with Men who have Sex with Men. We support UNAIDS who is increasingly focusing on sexual minorities - their rights and problems. Also, we have recently commissioned the Danish Institute for Human Rights to make a study that will broaden the factual foundation for a constructive dialogue with African countries about sexual minority rights. Thereby also contributing to the Danish debate on the issue. The study will propose concrete suggestions to how Denmark 1) in the political dialogue with African countries, 2) in multilateral fora and 3) through the broader development work best can promote the understanding and support for sexual minorities and their rights. I know that Fergus Karrigan will talk more about this later today
Finally we need to safeguard and strengthen the rights of sexual minorities. There are worrying trends regarding attacks on women’s rights and gender issues, the rights of sexual minorities that we are increasingly experiencing in international negotiations and fora.

When the Vatican, right-wing organisations and conservative countries team up to fight against any language in negotiations that can be interpreted as ‘gender’ being anything else that man/women and the values that they subscribe to the two sexes, we have a great challenge in front of us.
Just last month we witnessed the adoption of a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council, which opens up for the discrimination of – amongst others – homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered. The purpose of the resolution is to promote ‘traditional values’. What exactly this means is open for interpretation, but one can only fear that sex between two men or two women is not what many countries will define as traditional values!

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At the same time, we have seen quite good progress in ensuring LGBT equal rights. We have seen a UN General Assembly Statement on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which condemns violence, harassment, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Furthermore, last year the Human Rights Council passed the first UN resolution focused solely on LGBT highlighting violence human rights abuses faced by LGBT all over the world. This resulted in the first ever UN report on the challenges faced by LGBT. But no denying that there are still many challenges ahead.

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I will end this speech by making a promise: Denmark will be at the forefront when it comes to fighting for human rights and non-discrimination. We will stand in the first line when it comes to building tolerance and trust between people regards of whom they are, whom they love, what they believe in. We will stand in the forefront when it comes to each and every individuals: The Right to a Better Life.

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