The UN’s ‘Bold’ Development Plan Won’t Include LGBTs or Abortion Access

Despite promising signs that at-risk groups like LGBTs and young women seeking pregnancy-related health care would get the vital protections they need under the United Nations new development plan, it appears that the next 15 years won’t see the UN make those goals a development priority.

The document on which this hinges, known as “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” sets out what the UN wants to accomplish in the next 15 years in terms of improving lives for global communities. The final text has just been voted on by the relevant committees and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called the plan “bold, ambitious and transformative,” and indeed in many ways it is.

This document is the first to outline a plan for future growth that puts specific emphasis on dramatically reducing climate change while helping to support under-privileged nations through funding health care initiatives and education programs. This plan extends the ambitions of the Millennium Development Goals and, according to the Secretary General, reemphasizes that, “We can be the first generation that ends global poverty, and the last generation to prevent the worst impacts of global warming before it is too late.” He goes on the say that, “The international community took a major step towards achieving this shared goal with this weekend’s agreement. Now we must sustain that momentum.”

However, on two issues the plan is anything but ambitious.

Earlier this year it was rumored that for the first time the development plan might contain specific references to sexual orientation and gender as protected classes. It was also hoped that rather than simply advocating for women’s rights, which is certainly a needed category but is often vague and allows member states to dictate their involvement, the document would stipulate that abortion access should be a priority.

The development goals comprise 17 “universal goals” that all member states must follow, so if that language could have been achieved it would have been a massive victory for, for example, North African states and India, among others. Sadly, it was not to be.

Reports say that nations had fought hard over these development goals, taking until two days after the deadline of July 31 to approve the development plan on August 2. Religious conservative groups have praised Kenyan Ambassador Macharia Kamau for being the “architect” of this agreement, and in particular how he has resisted calls to include LGBT rights. This isn’t entirely surprising, though.

Most of the goals had been settled by last year and, certainly, abortion access looked set to be entirely out of the question even then as new language was rejected for the previous working plan’s framework which specifically excluded mentioning abortion.

However, there appeared to be more wiggle-room when it came to LGBT rights due to the concerted push of some member states–and chiefly Brazilian Ambassador Guilherme de Aguiar Patriota who several times took to the floor to decry the lack of specific LGBT rights language. It was also hoped that the slight softening of the Vatican’s stance on LGBT rights might help convince some nations, particularly if the UN were to have annexed marriage rights and instead simply talked about nondiscrimination and saving LGBTs from hate crimes, these basic standards that while not perfect would have some countries been a significant start.

Indeed, it had been hoped that the sex classification in the development plan’s nondiscrimination mandate could be widened to include sexual orientation and gender, with the latter covering trans people. However, the language that has been agreed upon is said to make no explicit mention of sexual orientation and also maintains the rigid term “sex” which is understood under the UN’s current framework as meaning birth sex. This is after several nations, including the representative from Nigeria, Ambassador Usman Sarki, reportedly called on the text to be “cleaned” of earlier attempts to add LGBT rights and warned that any attempt to stray from the understood interpretation of language like “sex” so as to implicitly include gender would be resisted. 

As such, the final text reads that the UN pledges to uphold that “human rights and fundamental freedoms are enjoyed by all, without discrimination on grounds of race, ethnicity, colour, sex, age, language, religion, culture, migration status, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic situation, birth, disability or other status.”

The final text is also slated to say that the UN pledges to “end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere” but there is no mention of discrimination on grounds of gender or sexuality, and there are no explicit mentions of ensuring women’s health care in the form of abortion access, even in circumstances like rape.

The UN General Assembly will officially approve the text in New York next month, but that is largely a formality. So, while it should be highlighted that the sustainable development plan does manage to make firm commitments on key issues like climate change and wider health care, it is dispiriting to see that LGBT rights and basic bodily autonomy for women are still out of the question as development goals for the UN up to 2030, at least in terms of its sustainable development plan.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you!

Amanda M.
Amanda M2 years ago

*Sigh* The Religious Reich strikes again!

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago

the un, the biggest disappointment and failure since the league of nations.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

pam w.
pam w2 years ago

So DAMNED ''politically correct."

Miriam O.

Thanks so much for sharing!

Berny p.
berny p2 years ago

Forget the UN...they have no power..except ...talking!!!!

ERIKA S2 years ago


Vikram S.
Vikram S2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman2 years ago

It seems as if the United Nations, unfortunately like the United States, is being cowed by a small group of determined women haters and homophobes.

To live on the planet sustainably, we have to get human population under control. To me the best way to do this is to guarantee every woman safe affordable convenient legal access to abortion and birth control.

If humans do not manage our population numbers, nature will do it for us, and her methods, such as starvation, pestilence, and wars over dwindling resources, are likely to be quite cruel.