Archive for the 'U.S. Agency for International Development' Category

USAID Nominee Should Affirm that Investments in LGBT Development Have Real Impact

President Trump has nominated Ambassador Mark Green as the new Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  The Council looks forward to his confirmation hearing, where we trust he will affirm USAID’s commitment to inclusive development that recognizes LGBT citizens as both agents and beneficiaries of effective U.S. development assistance.

The Council has worked closely with USAID to ensure that LGBT individuals are included in the full range of human rights, health, economic empowerment and development assistance policies that the United States carries out abroad.  We are particularly pleased that the Agency has adopted new regulations prohibiting USAID and its partners from discriminating against LGBT or other minority communities when providing taxpayer-funded goods and services from the American people.

During his confirmation hearing, we hope Ambassador Greene pledges to uphold the principle that USAID must not discriminate against LGBT communities, and that he affirms the Agency’s ongoing commitment to integrating the needs of LGBT populations into all sectors of development support.

Please watch this video to hear how our investments in LGBT development can have real impact on human lives.

Engel Sends Bipartisan Letter to USAID Urging Funding for LGBT Rights in Central America

Rep. Eliot EnglePress Statement from Rep. Eliot L. Engel

MARCH 12, WASHINGTON, DC— Today, Representative Eliot L. Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was joined by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Richard Hanna (R-NY), David Cicilline (D-RI) and Chris Gibson (R-NY), in calling on the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide funding for the protection of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Specifically, the letter states that given the dangerous levels of crime and violence committed against LGBT individuals in these countries, existing Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) funding should be made available to LGBT human rights groups in the subregion. In Honduras alone, more than 90 LGBT people were killed between 2009 and 2012, and many others were victims of violence and harassment.

“As former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, ‘Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.’ As we ramp up our country’s investment in Central America, we need to protect the subregion’s most vulnerable populations. This means protecting the basic human rights of LGBT individuals and ensuring that citizens of these countries are not killed or assaulted just because of who they are,” said Engel.

Read the letter here

USAID Releases Report: “Toolkit for Integrating LGBT Rights Activities into Programming in the Europe & Eurasia Region”

Toolkit for Integrating LGBT Rights Activities into Programming in the Europe & Eurasia RegionUSAID recently released the report Toolkit for Integrating LGBT Rights Activities into Programming in the Europe & Eurasia Region, which contains resources to assist Agency staff and implementing partners to increase and improve the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community’s involvement in development programming. The Toolkit also provides guidance on how LGBT-specific concerns and interventions can be part of programming across the range of USAID sectors.

 

 

You can find other reports from various agencies on the Council for Global Equality’s website.

To consolidate an Obama legacy, entrench support for global LGBT rights

White HouseRepost from The Hill by Raymond Smith

With attention increasingly turning to the legacy of the Obama administration, one area of civil rights seems sure to be viewed as a breakthrough success: the recognition and advancement of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. And while this legacy is already on solid footing on the domestic front, many opportunities still exist to entrench support for LGBT rights globally.

In 2008, Obama ran as a “fierce ally” of the LGBT community, yet many were unimpressed by the early months of his administration. In 2009, the LGBT magazine The Advocate ran a parody of his iconic “Hope” poster with the caption “Nope?” Shortly before the 2012 election, however, the same magazine ran a cover with his face superimposed on the grand seated statue in the Lincoln Memorial.

What changed so drastically over time? The evolution of the administration began with a host of incremental steps, such as ensuring hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners and lifting the ban on entry to the U.S. to people with HIV. Over time, Obama led the successful repeal of the ban on “gays in the military” and ensured the enactment of an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill. Using the bully pulpit, he filmed a segment for the “It Gets Better” campaign in support of LGBT teens, and in his second inaugural address, he cited the landmark Stonewall Riots of 1969 alongside Seneca Falls and Selma as turning points in civil rights history.

Perhaps most of all, Obama personally endorsed same-sex marriage and his administration refused to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Since the Supreme Court overturned DOMA in 2013, the administration has been diligent and proactive in extending the full range of marriage equality rights with regard to immigration, access to federal programs, taxation and more. At the same time, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act this year has begun to be interpreted, for the first time, to confer federal anti-discrimination protections on transgender people.

Much less noticed has been an equally impressive parallel track taken with regard to promotion of LGBT rights around the world. Three years ago this week, in December 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech emphasizing that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” The phrasing echoed her famous speech as first lady on women’s rights, given in Beijing 15 years prior, which signaled the inclusion of gender equality as a central focus of U.S. foreign policy.

Concurrently, Obama issued a “Presidential Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.” Unlike on the more scattered and improvised domestic-policy side, this one landmark document has served as a coherent strategic blueprint for action by the federal government.

The memorandum contains several major elements, including combating anti-LGBT criminalization abroad, protecting LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, responding to anti-LGBT human rights abuses internationally, providing targeted foreign assistance and engaging international organizations to secure LGBT rights. In all of these areas, the State Department has outlined a range of accomplishments.

For example, a Global Equality Fund has been established to bridge government, companies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to provide emergency and long-term assistance. The fund promotes LGBT rights through a small grants program, an emergency protection rapid response mechanism, and long-term capacity-building efforts for human rights organizations overseas. Protections for asylum seekers has also been expanded; in one notable case, a Ugandan LGBT rights activist was recently provided asylum rather than being forced to return to a potentially fatal environment in his home country.

Likewise, embassies around the world have begun proactively engaging with governments and human rights organizations. And at the United Nations, the U.S. is a charter member of the LGBT Core Group, which in September issued a ministerial declaration on “Ending Violence and Discrimination against Individuals Based on Their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”

Despite these crucial steps, much more work remains to be done. “The U.S. blueprint for action can be a powerful force, but only if its approach is consistent and guided by the understanding that all rights are indivisible and universal,” said Jessica Stern, executive director of the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

“Achieving change will demand focused attention. One crucial step forward would be the immediate creation of a Special Envoy for LGBT Rights at the State Department,” Stern noted. Such an envoy would act as a high-level advocate for LGBT concerns, working within the State Department, bilaterally with other countries and through multilateral organizations. The position of special envoy is the focus of bill introduced last summer by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

Likewise, the Council for Global Equality, a Washington-based NGO with the goal of advancing an American foreign policy inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, “has identified a series of actionable next steps that could advance the Administration’s commitment by moving the government from a reactive posture to a longer-term human rights protection agenda,” according to the council Chair Mark Bromley. These objectives, added Bromley, “are designed to harmonize the Administration’s commitments into a coherent human rights policy — and an enduring legacy of President Obama.”

In addition to creation of the special envoy position, other priority areas include:

  • Requiring automatic policy reviews whenever foreign countries enact new anti-LGBT policies. The review could be triggered by legislation, changes in enforcement patterns or failure to protect LGBT populations. Such a thorough review was conducted after the passage of a particularly repressive anti-gay law in Uganda last year, but it’s unclear that comparable reviews have been undertaken in the case of similar laws enacted in Nigeria and, most recently, Gambia.
  • Mandating that government contractors and grantees globally have LGBT non-discrimination policies as pre-conditions for contracts or assistance. Such a move would parallel an executive order issued last summer banning anti-LGBT discrimination policies among government contracts within the U.S. for domestic contactors.
  • Strengthening policies to protect LGBT rights in multilateral organizations such as the U.N., the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Organization of American States. The U.S. should also advocate for adequate funding and staffing for such policies to be enforced and monitored.
  • Establishing annual reports and other mechanisms to make information more widely available about federal effort in the realm of global LGBT rights, and also holding more extensive consultations with a range of stakeholders about how best to implement the memorandum.

Whatever further steps the Obama administration takes, some critics will inevitably dismiss the relevance of LGBT rights, or consider LGBT rights a marginal issue when it comes to the forging of a presidential legacy that will stand the test of time.

But such voices have been proven wrong before. They’re the same ones that in the 1960s saw no need for the Civil Rights Act, in the 1970s resisted signing the Helsinki human rights accords, in the 1980s rejected sanctions against apartheid South Africa, in the 1990s mocked steps to advance a global women’s rights agenda and in the 2000s endorsed human rights abuses in the name of fighting terrorism.

Yet, today, each of these incidents is recalled as a badge of honor — or a mark of shame — for the president who presided over them. So, too, will today’s struggle for LGBT rights, both at home and abroad, be recalled as a substantive and productive element of the Obama legacy.

 

Smith is a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute; an adjunct assistant professor of political science at Columbia University and New York University; and author of Importing Democracy: Ideas from Around the World to Reform and Revitalize American Politics and Government.

 

Obama’s Evangelical Gravy Train

HIV Billboard

Photo: Andy Kopsa

Repost from The Nation by Andy Kopsa

Despite the president’s promise to cut funding to discredited HIV and pregnancy prevention programs, taxpayer dollars are still bankrolling anti-gay, anti-choice conservative religious groups.

On March 24, just a month after Ugandan President Museveni signed a bill making homosexuality a crime punishable by life in prison, Obama administration officials announced that they were increasing military aid to Uganda in its effort to quell rebel forces. Human rights groups criticized the move, arguing that the aid offered Museveni “legitimacy” after he supported a law that has been widely condemned for violating human rights. The same day, a State Department spokesperson quietly announced that the administration would also “demonstrate our support for the LGBT community in Uganda” by shifting $6.4 million in funding away from the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, whose actions, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said, “don’t reflect our values.” That may be the understatement of the year.

According to Ugandan AIDS activists, administration officials had been told a year and a half earlier that the Inter-Religious Council and other State Department grantees were actively promoting the antigay bill. In September 2012, several LGBT and AIDS advocates in Uganda were invited to a call with representatives from USAID, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator and other US officials to discuss HIV service delivery to vulnerable communities. According to minutes taken by one of the participants and conversations with others on the call, the US officials were warned that several grantees and subcontractors through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, commonly referred to as PEPFAR, were visibly supporting the bill, undermining service delivery to men who have sex with men, or otherwise fomenting anti-gay activities. US officials asked the Ugandan activists to provide information on these actions by the US government’s so-called “implementing partners,” and told them that such evidence might lead to an investigation by US officials. Continue Reading

 

U.S. Agency for International Development Releases its LGBT Vision for Action

USAID“This Vision outlines our Agency’s commitment—both in Washington and abroad—to include LGBT considerations in every area of our work, and in every place we work.” – Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID

This past May, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) released its LGBT Vision for Action, a first of its kind U.S. Government policy document designed to demonstrate the Agency’s commitment to LGBT inclusion. The Vision provides a set of overarching core principles for engagement and further socializes LGBT inclusion throughout the Agency. USAID’s vision is a “world in which the human rights of LGBT persons are respected and free from discrimination, persecution, and violence—because all people should have access to basic education, health, and sustainable livelihoods.”

Learn more about USAID’s LGBT Vision for Action, its LGBT inclusive development work, and updated fact sheet on the Agency’s LGBT programs and policies.

Global Equality Fund Advances Human Rights of LGBT Communities

2013_0619_pride_ukraine-apphotoRepost from DipNote

PRIDE events abound in the month of June, especially here in the nation’s capital.  John Kerry has championed LGBT equality for over 30 years, and now as Secretary he is leading the Department’s global fight to promote the human rights of LGBT individuals across the world.  Today, Secretary Kerry delivered keynote remarks at the Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) Pride event at the State Department.  During his speech, the Secretary acknowledged and thanked the governments and organizations that have partnered with the Secretary’s Global Equality Fund.  Launched in December 2011, the Fund represents a unique collaboration bridging governments, companies, foundations, and NGOs with the objective of advancing and protecting the human rights of LGBT persons worldwide.

The Fund currently provides critical emergency and long-term assistance in over 25 countries through small grants, capacity-building, and emergency protection.  Our staff in U.S. embassies and consulates around the world play a strong role in helping to manage the Global Equality Fund, providing assistance and resources to local communities, as well as oversight to ensure grants are implemented appropriately, maximizing the impact of small investments.  For example, the Fund supports regional workshops on legislative advocacy, human rights documentation and monitoring, and other capacity-building activities that strengthen the ability of local organizations to respond to the anti-LGBT legislation recently introduced in a number of eastern European countries. Continue Reading


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