February 24, 2015 at 1:57 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Acting USAID head: LGBT people ‘most victimized’ by poverty

Alfonso Lenhardt, USAID, gay news, Washington Blade

Acting USAID Administrator Alfonso Lenhardt (Photo courtesy of Patricia Adams/USAID)

The acting administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development on Tuesday said LGBT people are among those who are the most affected by poverty.

“When we talk about our mission statement which is to end poverty in our lifetime, some of the people who are most victimized by poverty are the LGBTI community because they were ostracized and they were cast aside,” said Alfonso Lenhardt as he highlighted a new initiative to enhance LGBT rights movements in Eastern Europe and countries within the former Soviet Union during an event at USAID’s headquarters in downtown Washington. “In my experience, in my life it’s all about fairness, it’s all about equal opportunity. It’s all about giving everyone an opportunity to be part of this great world, to make their unique contributions.”

A number of LGBT rights advocates attended the event at which Lenhardt spoke. Representatives of USAID missions in Kosovo, Moldova, Albania, Serbia and Georgia also took part from their respective posts.

“One of the great things about this toolkit is that the analysis it employs, the lessons it draws and the recommendations it makes are in most instances of universal relevance,” said USAID Senior LGBT Coordinator Todd Larson during the event. “That was one of my eureka moments in carefully reading this report – its universality.”

Lenhardt — who had been USAID’s deputy director — earlier this month became the agency’s acting administrator after then-Administrator Rajiv Shah’s resignation took effect.

Lenhardt was the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania from 2009 until 2013. He was appointed sergeant at arms and doorkeeper of the U.S. Senate in 2001, thus becoming the first person of color to become an officer in Congress.

USAID in April 2013 launched the LGBT Global Development Partnership, a $16 million public-private initiative with the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and other groups that seeks to promote LGBT rights around the world.

Dozens of LGBT rights advocates this past weekend attended a Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund-sponsored training in the Colombian city of Cali that focused on how they can become involved in the South American country’s political process. Gay Peruvian Congressman Carlos Bruce is among those who took part in a USAID-backed conference in Peru last September that drew hundreds of advocates from across Latin America and the Caribbean.

USAID and the State Department in November hosted a conference designed to bolster funding of global LGBT advocacy efforts. The U.S. government last summer faced criticism over reports that USAID sought to covertly undermine the Cuban government through an HIV prevention workshop and other means.

Tuesday’s USAID event took place one day after the State Department announced it had named Randy Berry as its special envoy to promote global LGBT rights.

“I’m excited that this toolkit will help agency staff, implementing partners, and stakeholders increase and improve the LGBTI community’s involvement in development programming — not only in the Europe and Eurasia region but across the world and sectors where we work,” said Larson after the event.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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