State-Sponsored Homophobia

A world survey of sexual orientation laws: criminalisation, protection, and recognition
May 2016

LGBT issues have gained support in the human rights arena but have received less momentum in discussions about development. This report compares the two approaches and examines how both could be used to evaluate policies and the activities of governments and improve the lives of LGBT people.

Neither human development nor economic development appears among the top
categories of funding for LGBT issues.
The human rights framework focuses primarily on state actors and social or economic institutions, while human development is people-centered.
The human rights and development frameworks are complementary and can
accomplish much that could not be accomplished by either framework alone.

Development and Human Rights: Two Complementary Frameworks

In the past few years, issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity have gained serious attention and increasing support in the human rights arena. However, these issues have not received the same momentum in discussions about development. This article compares the human rights approach to the development approach and suggests how a development approach may be useful to those seeking improvements in the lives of LGBT people.


Development and human rights constitute, along with peace and security, the pillars of the United Nations system. As discussed in more detail below, the development and human rights frameworks have close ties to each other, both conceptually and operationally. However, despite recent efforts to harmonize these two approaches, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has called them “ships passing in the night.”36 Below we argue that both are important for understanding and addressing the needs of LGBT people, and we suggest ways of drawing on the strengths of both approaches.

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State-Sponsored Homophobia

Andrew S. Park, Esq., Director, International Programs, Williams Institute UCLA School of Law.

Professor of Economics, Director, School of Public Policy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Distinguished Scholar, Williams Institute UCLA School of Law.

Philip Alston, “Ships Passing in the Night: the Current State of the Human Rights and Development Debate Seen Through the Lens of the Millennium Development Goals,” Human Rights Quarterly 27(3) (2005).