Germany is expected to have its first multi-ministerial LGBTI inclusion plan for development cooperation and foreign policy. The federal government is thereby addressing long-standing calls from civil society, and aligning with countries like Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands. At Forum 4 of the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation’s conference on 3 December 2020, representatives of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ), the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Foreign Office (AA) discussed the current state of the LGBTI inclusion plan with Sarah Kohrt from the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation.
The Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation’s online conference on December 2 and 3 in 2020 yielded what could be a sensational development: Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe at the Foreign Office, announced that the federal cabinet will finalize an LGBTI inclusion plan for German development cooperation and foreign policy in February 2021. Does this mean that now, in a federal election year, the inclusion plan we have long been calling for will finally become reality?
“Will it happen in the current legislative term?”
Similar to a good TV show, this story has already gone through three seasons. The first began in 2012 at the Rainbow Philanthropy Conference held by the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation (HES), Dreilinden, Hannchen Mehrzweck Foundation and Heinrich Böll Foundation. That was when the HES made its first public call for an LGBTI inclusion plan for German foreign policy and development cooperation – based on the Swedish model. Shortly thereafter the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation, TransInterQueer (TrIQ), Queer Amnesty, Discover Football, Dreilinden and many individuals founded the Yogyakarta Alliance – a civil society alliance with the core aim of achieving an inclusion plan. In cooperation with the Center for the Study of Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation (CSDSO), a concept was drafted and sent to the Foreign Office (AA) for commentary.
A 13-point paper formulates requirements
Season two of the story started with a cliff-hanger. In the “Crossings & Alliances” series of the HES, the Yogyakarta Alliance devoted extensive discussion to international policy issues, the importance of diaspora groups and migrant organizations for the alliance, the clear necessity of including trans and intersex groups, and internal organizational matters. The first proposal was then made in 2017. The HES and Yogyakarta Alliance released the “13-point paper: Preliminary considerations for an LGBTI* inclusion plan”. It laid out 13 concrete requirements for foreign policy and development cooperation in this area.
Two of the 13 points played a key role both in subsequent debates and in numerous events and meetings with activists from the Global South and East.
The first is the need for serious and self-critical examination of the colonial and missionary histories of donor countries, including Germany. This is the only way to credibly and legitimately promote LGBTI human rights in development cooperation and foreign policy. This requirement is formulated in point 10 of the 13-point paper as follows: “We propose that the BMZ launch a ‘Cultures and colonialism’ program to compile and document histories and traditions of regional ‘homosexualities, sexualities and histories of gender’.”
Need for critical examination of one’s own history
The importance of this point is evident upon considering the history of the criminalization of homosexual acts. Criminalization was introduced by the colonial governments, and was a component of colonialization. As such, efforts to decriminalize homosexuality are therefore part of the ongoing process of decolonialization. This work is being done in the respective countries and by their local movements. Taking India as an example, the legalization/decriminalization of homosexuality is an achievement of the Indian LGBTI movement. Following more than 16 years of strategic litigation, protests, and educational and informational work by activists, in 2018 India’s Supreme Court annulled section 377 of the penal code, a product of the British colonial period that prohibits sexual conduct between consenting adults of the same sex.
A second key point is the call for comprehensive and active collaboration with civil society and ongoing dialogue with LGBTI human rights defenders in the partner countries. The Do no harm principle states that undesired unintentional consequences of development cooperation can only be promptly identified, avoided or if necessary mitigated by working together with local groups and organizations. Active ties with LGBTI groups on the ground are needed in order to hear the voices of the people involved and affected (points 1 and 8). It is crucial to consult with civil society in the respective countries in order to utilize development cooperation in ways that make sense.
The BMZ and AA have worked on the plan for three years
The 13-point paper was presented to the Foreign Office (AA) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) at the first hearing with civil society in 2017. The two ministries have now been consulting on the content for nearly three years, including two hearings with civil society – which brings us to the start of the third season.
There is now an inter-ministerial, non-public draft paper, which was discussed at a second hearing with civil society organizations on 15 October 2020. This “LGBTI inclusion plan from the federal government for foreign policy and development cooperation” was the focus of Forum 4 at the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation’s conference on 3 December 2020.
Hosted by Helmut Metzner LSVD Board member, the forum was held with Dr. Wiebke Rückert, Division Head, Human Rights and Gender Issues at the German Foreign Office (AA), Dr. Bernadette Kalz, from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Dr. Anna Mrozek, from the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ), and Sarah Kohrt, from Hirschfeld Eddy Foundation and Coordinator of the Yogyakarta Alliance. There is a high level of interest in LGBTI issues and international development cooperation, as shown in this case by approximately 50 attendees.
What is in the federal government’s draft paper?
Bernadette Kalz (BMZ) sketched the contents, noting that it begins as usual with the legal foundation, namely references to the Grundgesetz (Germany’s de facto constitution), the European Convention on Human Rights, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the Yogyakarta Principles. An informational text lists the human-rights conventions that Germany has ratified, and explains why LGBTI inclusion derives from them. She noted that LGBTI concerns lack direct access to ratified human rights, which is in the fact the problem.
Wiebke Rückert (AA) explained that this document makes it easier to mainstream the issue and will become an important reference point for human-rights requirements in foreign relations. “The guideline is something we can refer back to. There is also expected to be an English version,” said Rückert. Of special importance in her view is that the plan is expected to play a role in education and further training (a long-standing call from German civil society), and that children and youth are mentioned as groups in need of special protection. A key factor is how the plan will be implemented, and clear monitoring will be needed. She noted that the draft plan includes reviews in collaboration with civil society in Germany.
Why is the process taking so long?
Why is this all taking so long? Bernadette Kalz addressed this question at the beginning with reference to an internal restructuring program called the BMZ 2030 Process. The human rights division now functions as a “quality stamp” (Qualitätsmerkmal) and checks all plans and processes for their foundation in human rights. LGBTI rights often cannot be protected directly and explicitly, she said, but this can be done indirectly, such as with projects that work to prevent violence or raise awareness – for example with the police. “These plans already exist, and Germany is neither the first nor last country to produce one.”
The vast number of touchstones for government action became clear when Wiebke Rückert listed just a few of the relevant documents, such as the EU’s LGBTI Guidelines of 2013, the federal government’s National Action Plan for the Economy and Human Rights for 2021–2022, and the new EU Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy for 2020–2024.
Rückert and Kalz noted that the plan will not be binding. Kalz emphasized the importance of the support of civil-society-based human rights work and the fact that it takes place both within German civil society and on the ground as well as through the workings of the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Rückert emphasized that the Foreign Office often works with local civil society organizations to support projects, and that the embassies have funds for this purpose. Although this is not the case in every country, local partners often receive project funding from the embassies.
Question of coherence
Another key concern of the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation (HES) and the Yogyakarta Alliance has to do with coherence, which affects the credibility of Germany’s efforts. As Sarah Kohrt put it, “There must be a way to ensure that development cooperation actors financed by the German government may not give government funds to organizations involved in persecuting and stigmatizing LGBTI people.” She added that this should also apply to project organizations and other recipients of government funding.
Anna Mrozek from the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Family and Youth (BMFSFJ), was asked whether the topic was being addressed in the context of Germany’s EU Council presidency. She reported that her department had hosted a conference on intersectionality and the lived realities of lesbian* women” in late 2020 within the framework of the German presidency of the EU Council, at which the EU’s LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020–2025 was presented. Member countries were not involved in the strategy’s contents because it is a document from the EU Commission, which means it was not the object of debate among countries. Mrozek provided an overview of projects supported by the BMFSFJ, with special attention to those that strengthen democracy and combat transphobia in Germany.
The HES and the Yogyakarta Alliance state the following: Germany is the second-largest development cooperation donor worldwide. As the most populous and economically powerful country in the EU, Germany also plays an important role in international policy. It needs to have a plan for upholding and promoting LGBTI human rights in foreign policy and development cooperation.
That makes it all the more important for the federal government to keep its word, for Michael Roth to be proven correct, and for the inclusion plan to finally arrive.
Sarah Kohrt, Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation
- 13-point paper: Preliminary considerations for an LGBTI* inclusion plan, presented by the HES and Yogyakarta Alliance
- Chronology of an LGBTI* inclusion plan for foreign policy and development cooperation ‒ from calls by civil society to a government paper
- All the blog articles on this topic under the tag “Inclusion plan”
- The fourth Rainbow Philanthropy Conference in 2012: “Building respect: Promoting human rights by means of donor practices, strategies and projects to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity”. Organizers: Dreilinden gGmbH, Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation, Hannchen Mehrzweck Foundation, Heinrich-Böll Foundation. Reports (in German) from the fourth Rainbow Philanthropy Conference are available here.
- The website of the Yogyakarta Alliance is here
The online conference was held as part of the project “Bringing international debates on human rights to Germany”. Complete documentation (German only) of the conference is available here. All blog articles and event reports for this project can be found under the tag HR-2020.