When people are counted, no one is left behind

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In September 2015, a multi-sectoral group of experts met in New York from all over the world. Despite varied perspectives, each had previously been involved in some aspect of LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trasngender, Intersex) data work or were experts in data measurement. Their goal was to reach consensus on a definition of LGBTI inclusion and provide advice on what was necessary to measure it.

In September 2015, the Nepal Constituent Assembly approved a new Constitution that includes provisions protecting the rights of sexual and gender minorities. This would never have happened without the advocacy of LGBTI leaders, community activists, and allies and their efforts highlighting data, including violence against transgender people.

That same month, the world adopted an ambitious new development agenda that aims to reduce inequalities, promote peaceful and inclusive societies, and provide access to justice for all. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commit all of us to leaving no one behind.

However, in every corner of our world, experiences of stigma, discrimination and violence mark the lives of millions of LGBTI people every day.

These phenomena are manifested in both seemingly benign and obviously heinous forms, either being unfair. Gay men serve in the armed forces during conflict, surviving unharmed only to be violently attacked for visiting a gay club. Transgender and lesbian women are subjected to “corrective” rapes. From being kicked out, disowned and shamed by family, to being fired from a job when “found out”. From being unable to disclose one’s gender identity to a doctor out of fear, to dying from a treatable disease.

LGBTI economic, political and social exclusion remains pervasive, resulting in a lack of access to things like adequate education and health services. If LGBTI people continue to face exclusion, the SDGs will remain out of our reach. We must quickly sort out what it will take to ensure LGBTI inclusion. 

UNDP’s work includes a focus on providing the data and analysis that informs sustainable development. As the community in Nepal showed, it is development data and its analysis that can lead to policy and program changes necessary to underpin sustainable development and prioritize  investments.

But in most places, data and analysis specific to LGBTI people is drastically lacking, allowing the challenges faced by them to remain invisible.  UNDP is trying to change that with an initiative to address the data gaps and a new UNDP LGBTI Inclusion Index.

Measuring inclusion is not new to UNDP. We have long measured human development with the Human Development Index (HDI), and the more recently added Gender Inequality Index (GII). These indices help gauge how far countries have progressed in ensuring a long and healthy life, education, and a decent standard of living for all (HDI) and access to reproductive health, empowerment, and comparable economic status for women (GII).

The LGBTI Inclusion Index can assist governments, civil society and other development partners in measuring LGBTI inclusion, identifying data trends and gaps, and in providing evidence to help advance good policy.

The concept of inclusion in development is inseparable from the broader concept of human rights. Today, as we mark another Human Rights Day, UNDP reaffirms our commitment to ensuring LBGTI inclusion within the broader development agenda. We call on governments, civil society, research institutions, donors, and other partners to join us in producing the evidence necessary to strengthen policy, change lives, and secure achievement of the SDGs in a way that truly leaves no one behind.

About the author
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Clifton Cortez is the Team Leader, Gender, Key Populations, and LGBTI for HIV, Health and Development Group, UNDP.

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