For the first time, the Danish strategy for development cooperation from 2012 mentions discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
"The Right to a Better Life", the new Danish rights-based strategy for development cooperation, builds on the principles of non-discrimination, participation, openness, and accountability in all stages of the cooperation.
Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is widespread in a number of the Middle Eastern and African countries in which Denmark has partnerships and invests developmental focus.
LGBT people constitute one of the most exposed and persecuted groups. Legislation criminalizes homosexuality and thus contributes to justifying and exacerbating the very pervasive homophobia and transphobia among the populations.
The LGBTs do not enjoy the right to be who they are. Nor, then, are they granted the right to or prospect of a better life.
The rights-based approach, taking as its point of departure the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the conventions, principles, and obligations of the UN and other multi-lateral organisations, is an important tool to influence the governments and institutions of the partnering countries and thus change their policies, legislation, practice, and – in the long run – also attitudes.
Moreover, it is stated quite clearly in the new Danish strategy that lack of will or failure to collaborate on improving human rights and combating systematic human rights violations will have consequences for the development cooperation. Thus, Denmark is now on par with a number of other countries, e.g. Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK, which have long given LGBT rights a high priority in their development policies.
In June 2012, the EU adopted a very comprehensive and ambitious plan, namely the EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, which is to sharpen the EU profile vis-à-vis the foreign affairs and development aspects of human rights and democracy. Among other things, a designated EU human rights representative has been appointed, and a joint rights-based EU development strategy will be worked out.
Furthermore, EU guidelines within the LGBT field will be devised based on the tools and proposals adopted in 2010 under the rubric of Toolkit to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People. Denmark is already using these tools in connection with e.g. Danish embassies’ contact to local authorities and organisations.
However, like many of the other countries we like to compare ourselves to Denmark should also have our own independent LGBT strategy and policy within the realm of foreign affairs and development. It is important that Denmark’s attitudes are crystal clear to the governments, authorities, and civic societies of the partnering countries as well as to the many Danish NGOs engaged in development projects.