December 6, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
LGBT activists call for more global funding at Berlin conference

Bogota, Colombia, gay news, Washington Blade

A USAID-sponsored training in Bogotá, Colombia, in May drew 30 LGBT activists from across the country. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

LGBT activists from around the world gathered in Berlin this week to discuss ways to increase funding and support for the global gay rights movement.

Astraea Foundation Executive Director J. Bob Alotta, Transgender Europe Executive Director Julia Ehrt, ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradise, Axel Hochrein of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, Gift Trapence of the Centre for the Development of People in Malawi and Simón Cazal of the Paraguayan LGBT advocacy group Somosgay are among those who traveled to the German capital. Patricia Davis of the U.S. State Department, senior USAID advisor Claire Lucas, Katharina Spiess of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Keyvan Sayar of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government officials also took part.

The Berlin conference followed a similar gathering the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency (SIDA) and the Netherlands-based Humanist Institute for Cooperation (Hivos) co-hosted in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2010. U.S. Ambassador to Germany John Emerson announced during the conference that the next meeting of this kind will take place in the U.S. next year.

“USAID along with the State Department is happy to represent the U.S. government and participate in the Dec. 5 and 6 Berlin conference on increasing support and resources for global LGBTI rights and development,” Jay Gilliam of USAID told the Washington Blade.

“The cross-sector dialogue slated to take place among government officials, NGOs, local activists and LGBT organizations has the potential to be catalytic — both in terms of increasing the resources available and in achieving a level of coordination that will accelerate advancement of the human rights of LGBT people everywhere,” added Arcus Foundation Executive Director Kevin Jennings before the conference began.

Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, a Canadian LGBT rights group, told the Blade on Friday she feels it was important for her organization “to be present” at the conference “in order to contribute to the conversation of how funding and resources can be increased and broadened.” Staffers from the Canadian Embassy in Berlin attended the gathering, but Kennedy said Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration can do more to support the global LGBT rights movement.

“It’s important for a strong message to be delivered to our government that we are sadly missed as a leader in these discussions at the international level,” Kennedy told the Blade.

The Berlin conference began a day after National Security Advisor Susan Rice stressed during a speech she gave at Human Rights First’s annual summit in D.C. that LGBT rights remain an essential part of U.S. foreign policy.

USAID, SIDA, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and the Ford Foundation on Sept. 24 hosted a meeting of funders of global LGBT advocacy efforts in New York that coincided with the beginning of the U.N. General Assembly. Secretary of State John Kerry and representatives from 10 countries two days earlier issued a declaration that calls for an end to anti-LGBT violence and discrimination.

USAID earlier this year announced a public-private initiative with SIDA, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute and other groups that will contribute $12 million over the next four years to LGBT advocacy groups in Honduras and other developing countries. The LGBT Global Development Partnership’s first two trainings took place in the Colombian cities of Bogotá and Cartagena in May and August respectively.

Uzra Zeya, acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, told the Blade during a June interview that her agency’s Global Equality Fund since 2011 has spent more than $4 million in 25 countries to directly support LGBT advocates and underrepresented groups.

“Participating in the Berlin conference allows the agency (USAID) to continue discussions with stakeholders like agencies from donor countries and non-governmental organizations in this space on progress made and how to move the advancement of international LGBTI rights forward,” Gilliam said.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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