Hirschfeld-Eddy-Stiftung Projekte Veranstaltungen Verband

Call for LGBTI inclusion in development cooperation: The Yogyakarta Alliance

What does development cooperation have to do with lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, trans and intersex people (LGBTI)?

Online talk with Doug Kerr, Dignity Network Canada, Dr. Arn Sauer, researcher, Sarah Kohrt, Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation, and Helmut Metzner, LSVD (host) on 2 July 2020


For many years the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD) and the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation have been calling for Germany to support more LGBTI projects in the Global South and eastern Europe. LGBTI human rights need to play a greater role in our foreign relations in general. This is the aim of an inclusion plan under development by the Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) for which the LSVD, the Yogyakarta Alliance and other civil society organizations have formulated requirements. And it was the subject of an online talk on 2 July 2020, the second event in the series “Leave no one behind! Development cooperation and LGBTI perspectives”.

Successful pressure on the Canadian government


Doug Kerr from Dignity Network reported on how the Canadian government came to allocate millions of dollars from its federal budget to LGBTI projects. Founded in 2014, Dignity Network is part of the Amsterdam Network, as is the LSVD. It consists of 37 Canadian organizations that promote global cooperation and LGBTI rights. And it succeeded in raising the Canadian government’s awareness for its concerns. The hardest part, however, was to increase the level of financial support for LGBTI projects. The breakthrough came one and a half years ago when 30 million dollars of support for LGBTI projects were approved.

For the next elections Dignity has submitted a new list of requirements for the subsequent five years.

The recipe for success lies in Dignity’s international and heterogenous alliance consisting not only of LGBTI organizations. Its members are active in all parties. They highlight the work of other countries that provide greater support for LGBTI people, and thereby exert pressure on the Canadian government.

Two mechanisms are involved in distributing the funds. One is the Canadian embassies, which maintain contacts with LGBTI groups even in countries where they are criminalized, such as Uganda and Kenya. The second consists of civil society organizations that are already working together with the Canadian government. Collaboration with other countries such as Germany is also sought. A premium is placed on a continuous exchange of information with actors in the Global South and on having them make the decisions on project content.

There’s still room to improve”


Dr. Arn Sauer, a researcher and instructor, led two influential pilot studies in 2011 and 2012 commissioned by the Dreilinden Foundation on funding LGBTI projects in development cooperation. He was also involved in founding the Yogyakarta Alliance with TRIQ. His presentation showed that funding has increased somewhat, but is still very low compared to Canada’s level and that little account is taken of lesbians, trans or intersex people.

The Yogyakarta Alliance

Sarah Kohrt coordinates the Yogyakarta Alliance. She presented its work and invited people to join. The Alliance was founded in 2012. Many NGOs are involved and the aim is to have Germany take greater account of LGBTI concerns in its development cooperation and foreign policy. In 2017 the alliance initiated the “Time to react” international conference at the Foreign Office on the topic of “shrinking spaces”. It maintains regular contact with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Foreign Office, the GIZ and other donor organizations. An important part of its work consists of direct dialogue with activists from the Global South.


In late 2017 the Yogyakarta Alliance presented a 13-point list of requirements as a proposed LGBTI inclusion plan for the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Foreign Office. Kohrt described three of the requirements: 1) strong participation by local LGBTI organizations and their involvement in project planning; 2) critical examination of colonial history, including launch of a special BMZ program on “Cultures and colonialism”; and 3) simplification of public funding law to enable small organizations to submit grant applications.

Finalizing the LGBTI inclusion plan for development cooperation this year?


Representatives of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the GIZ organization also attended the online event on 2 July 2020 and joined the discussion. Dr. Heike Kuhn, the BMZ division head for human rights, equality and inclusion, gave her assessment of the plan’s status. She is confident that the Foreign Office and the BMZ will be able to agree on the LGBTI inclusion plan this year (2020).

Background information: civil society has been calling for an LGBTI inclusion plan for development cooperation for years. In 2017 the BMZ and the Foreign Office responded and began developing a joint policy paper. In 2017 and 2018 representatives of civil society were invited for talks. More information is available here.

There are still too few development cooperation projects with LGBTI people. Public funding law needs to become more flexible to enable smaller organizations like the LSVD and filia to have the chance to apply for grants. Often precisely the smaller organizations have strong and trust-based contacts with groups in partner countries but are unable to come up with their share of the requisite joint funding.

Dr. Kuhn noted the wish for a workshop with NGOs on public funding law and promised to have the ministry consider this.

GIZ pilot projects include LGBTI perspectives

There has been some progress in German development cooperation since the first survey. The GIZ international cooperation organization is currently running some pilot projects with LGBTI inclusion. Located in Cameroon, South Africa, Bosnia and Guatemala, they are smaller-scale projects docked onto larger programs.

Greater attention to lesbians


Support for LGBTI groups only rarely takes lesbians into account. Other development cooperation projects in general pay closer attention to the percentage of women involved. By contrast, LGBTI projects have focused primarily on gay man and HIV. Dr. Kuhn also spoke in favor of greater support for projects by lesbians. The Masakhane project to empower lesbian women in southern Africa, which the LSVD and “filia the women’s fund” applied for with great enthusiasm and commitment in 2013, was the first development cooperation project to focus directly on lesbians and trans people.

Three further events in the series “Leave no one behind! Development cooperation and LGBTI perspectives” will discuss additional aspects of this topic. They will include postcolonial approaches and critical issues and a presentation of the Masakhane project in autumn 2020.

Naana Lorbeer, Yogyakarta Alliance, project coordinator

with funding from the BMZ


The LSVD bears sole responsibility for the content. The positions described do not necessarily reflect the views of Engagement Global or the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Informative links and presentations:

  • Multiple articles calling for an LGBTI inclusion plan for foreign policy and development cooperation here (scroll ldown to find some posts in English)
  • List of requirements for including LGBTI concerns in development cooperation, 13-point paper

Links from Doug Kerr:

  • Andrea Kämpf: “Just head-banging won’t work” How state donors can further human rights of LGBTI in development cooperation and what LGBTI think about it (2015)

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