USAID launches partnership to promote LGBT rights

The U.S. Agency for International Development on Monday unveiled a public-private partnership designed to promote LGBT rights around the world.

USAID will work with the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law and Olivia Companies on the LGBT Global Development Partnership that will contribute $11 million over the next four years to advocacy groups in Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala and other developing countries. The Gill Foundation and the Levi Strauss Foundation will also participate in the initiative that seeks to expand the capacity of local LGBT rights organizations, further engage out people in their respective countries’ political processes and gather information on the impact of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

“This partnership leverages the financial resources and skills of each partner to further inclusive development and increase respect for the human rights of LGBT people around the world,” Claire Lucas, senior advisor of the USAID Office of Innovation and Development Alliances during a panel at the Ronald Reagan Building in D.C. “It can be a real game-changer in the advancement of LGBT human rights.”

Anne-Charlotte Malm of the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency echoed Lucas.

“We all, by being here today, share the common vision of a society without discrimination or harassment and equal rights and opportunities for everybody regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” she said. “This partnership is a step towards this tradition.”

More than 80 countries and territories continue to criminalize homosexuality — and seven of them impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of same-sex sexual relations.

Only 19 countries ban anti-transgender discrimination — the State Department has spoken out against anti-LGBT violence in Honduras, Jamaica, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other nations in recent years.

Argentina, Canada, Spain and South Africa are among the dozen countries that currently allow same-sex marriage.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011 proclaimed in a speech she delivered in Geneva to commemorate International Human Rights Day that “gay rights are human rights.” President Obama on the same day directed government agencies that implement American foreign policy to promote LGBT rights in the countries in which they work.

The planning for the partnership was already underway when the White House issued its directive, but Lucas said it “really helped us push this over the finish line.”

“I’m humbled by the challenges that you have faced and the sorrows and traumas you’re still sorting out,” Maura O’Neill, director of USAID’s Office of Innovation and Development Alliances, told the LGBT rights advocates and others who attended the panel. “I’m awed by the amazing lives that each and every one of you have created and the path you have called your own. This partnership will help millions of others walk in your proud shoes.”

Victory Institute, Astraea to train out Colombian officials

The partnership’s first training will take place in Bogotá, Colombia, from May 30-June 2.

The Victory Institute and Astraea will work with Colombia Diversa, a countrywide advocacy group, to encourage LGBT Colombians to become involved in the political process. Bogotá City Councilor Angelica Lozano; Blanca Durán, mayor of the Colombian capital’s Chapinero district and Tatiana Piñeros, a trans woman whom Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro appointed last year to run the city’s social welfare agency are among those expected to attend.

“We’re pretty excited about this and thrilled that we get to be out there helping LGBT leaders in other countries,” Victory Institute CEO Chuck Wolfe said.

He further cited U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) as an example of the impact he said an out elected official can have among their constituents and their country’s political discourse.

“That civic engagement we know changes the discussion,” Wolfe said as he further discussed what he described as the trainings’ long-lasting impact. “It changes everybody’s understanding of who we are as people and it changes the nature of the debate.”

by Michael K. Lavers
Source – Washington Blade