Watching on the ODI’s live video feed last week for the panel debate “Can aid donors help support LGBT rights in developing countries?” was an interesting experience. Cat by my side and cup of tea in hand, I got my twitter feed open and my notepad to hand ready for all those key points.
For me, Elisabeth Mills (Research Fellow from the Institute of Development Studies) was the standout speaker on the panel in the first half. Like most development-centred debates, the issues other speakers were bringing up were starting to fixate purely on problems: less than 0.1% of foreign aid going to LGBT causes for example; or the overestimation of results from donors towards short-term projects dealing with systemic issues.
That’s not to say that the global backlash we are currently witnessing, in retaliation to gains made by activists across the world, should be ignored. Focusing on solutions though is what will enable us to overcome what increasingly appears to be a global movement strategised by the conservative right to use LGBT communities as scapegoats to hide other problems.
Ms Mills however presented a practical three-pronged approach which emphasised using strategic and alternative entry points, such as HIV healthcare, to circumnavigate restrictions on working with LGBT communities. In some countries particularly, promoting values is a crime…. She saw economic entry points as key to realising the everyday problems faced by LGBT individuals, whose basic needs continue to be ignored by legislation.
Elisabeth’s second point was to generate more data and monitor evidence on these types of entry points in order to encourage future funding on proven successes. Lastly, she advocated for more solidarity and partnerships – a refrain heard the world over, but unfortunately still a goal to be attained.
Part of this gap in collaboration and global unity was emphasised by Women’s rights activist, Jessica Horn when she highlighted the lack of attention given to outspoken African activists on the global stage. Part of our efforts to support the wider movement should be amplifying the voices of those speaking from experience and passion.
The other standout speaker for me, from the second half of the discussion, was Fabrice Houdart from the World Bank. Speaking from the World Bank’s position in Washington, he not only emphasised the miniscule volume of funding given to researching LGBT issues (from the World Bank, only $200,000), and hence the absence of evidence, but also the comparitive lack of non-LGBT actors involved in the LGBT movement.
Alike to the need for mainstreaming women’s rights through the inclusion of men into programmes (see my other blog post), we should be bringing people of all sexualities, genders, gender identities etc into the debate – there’s no point preaching to the converted.
Overall an informative debate, but I’d like to see how DfID’s policy documents progress in relation to this issue, particularly in regards to the post-2015 agenda. As mentioned during the discussion, sympathies previously expressed by DfID have not translated into written commitments, and so the stance UK government will take is yet to be seen.