Saturday, February 01, 2014

State Dept's $7.5M Global Equality Fund - Transparency Now!

Since December 2011, the State Department under Hillary Clinton's leadership, launched the Global Equality Fund and it's been an opaque operation without producing a single page of transparency for the $7.5 million raised since then from the federal government and private donors. The GEF has a harsh-on-the-eyes graphic, a web page lacking any fiscal accountability, and there are two analysts running it named Robert Haynie and Jesse Bernstein. I want loads more info about the fund. Haynie and Bernstein were sent these questions this week:

I wish to learn about the transparency of the Global Equality Fund and need to know where I can find a list of all donors, amounts contributed, expenses, and grants made to LGBT groups since the fund's inception. Where do I obtain this info on the web?

Looking around the State Department site and various government and independent watchdog sites, has not turned up a financial accounting for the public and taxpayers. As both a global gay advocate and transparency activist, I very much wish to see documentation about the money that has flowed in and out of the fund.

From the addy came this bland reply:

Thank you for your email. The Global Equality Fund provides an important platform for like-minded governments and other partners to stand together in support of LGBT persons and their universal human rights. For further information, please find attached a fact sheet.

Total dismissal of my concerns and a brush-off with a useless attachment of info I already knew. My followup to Haynie and Bernstein's addies has not received a reply and considering that State lists dialogue on its graphic and a major component of the GEF, the absence of substantive dialogue with me shames their in-name-only commitment to communication. Let's bring sunshine to what is out there regarding GEF explaining itself. In June 2013 they said, bolding added:

The Fund currently provides critical emergency and long-term assistance in over 25 countries through small grants, capacity-building, and emergency protection. [...] All contributions to the Global Equality Fund are applied directly to supporting local LGBT communities.

The question before us is how do we follow the money and learn who verifies that the contributions are reaching their intended beneficiaries. In December 2013 GEF shared this info, notice the number of countries has doubled:

Since its launch in December 2011, the Fund has allocated over $7.5 million to civil society in over 50 countries worldwide [...] The Fund has provided capacity building and technical assistance around the world to local and national civil society organizations, and its rapid response mechanism, Dignity for All, even provides emergency and preventative assistance to civil society organizations and activists to enhance their ability to respond to security concerns, assist victims of abuse and implement advocacy initiatives.

Which is it, 25 or 50 countries? Now that it's been in existence for two years, the governing body of donors and partners has grown:

We are proud to collaborate with public and private sector partners such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the governments of Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, the John D. Evans Foundation, the Arcus Foundation, the LLH: the Norwegian LGBT Organization, the M.A.C. AIDS Fund, and most recently Deloitte, LLP, in support of such an important global mission to advance LGBT rights as human rights.

Yes, it's wonderful to see these entities stepping up but with more of them there desperately needs to be a full disclosing of how $7.5 million has been handled. This LGBT fund at State will only grow larger in the remaining years of  President Obama's administration, I believe, even though the fund has disclosed nothing about who's contributed and how much for the past two years. Growth or not, the GEF has to engage in respectful dialogue with transparency advocates and immediately release a financial accounting to the public.

We know that the Arcus Foundation, which has been in the news in recent months because of its donations to LGBT Russian groups via the newly established Russia Freedom Fund, has much funding to throw around. That Russian fund is coordinated by Julie Dorf of the Council for Global Equality (CGE), she is a behind-the-scenes liaison for the State Department and it is no coincidence that her group's name is so close to the GEF's.

From 2009 through 2011, Arcus has donated at least $450,000 to the CGE, and the Arcus site shows the foundation in 2012 contributed a robust $1,000,000 to GEF:

One year of support for the United States Department of State’s Global Equality Fund, to expand the efforts of local, national, and regional human rights organizations to advance public awareness and dialogue in support of the human rights of LGBT individuals around the globe.

There's that word dialogue again and sure wish I could get some from GEF. Also, I mention the overlap of Arcus, the Russian Freedom Fund, Dorf, CGE and GEF because when following the money it's important to keep track of how incestious all the players can be. What happened to that money through the GEF from Arcus? Will any of the players give us an accounting?

(Seated, L-R: Steve Wozencraft, CEO, John O’Donnell Associates; Adrian Coman, Arcus Foundation; Frédéric Doré, Embassy of France; Lajla Brandt Jakhelln, Embassy of Norway; Ambassador Gudmundur Stefansson, Iceland; Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronda, Finland; Marcel de Vink, Embassy of the Netherlands; Jens Hanefeld, Embassy of Germany; Erin Eriksson, M∙A∙C AIDS Fund; J. Alexander Their, USAID Assistant Administrator. Standing, L-R: John Evans,John D. Evans Foundation; Acting Assistant Secretary Uzra Zeya; Secretary of State John Kerry; Andrea Flynn, M∙A∙C AIDS Fund. Credit: State Department,

Secretary of State John Kerry convened a meeting of the GEF partners in June 2013, pictured, and the release give a lower figure for how much money has been allocated:

The Fund is providing over $6 million in assistance in more than 25 countries worldwide.

More numbers to digest about where the money is going. Last March, GEF was granting funds specifically to assist transgender people:

Protecting Transgender Persons from Violence and Combating Impunity (approximately $450,000, pending availability of funding): DRL seeks to support programs that increase protection of transgender persons who face acute forms of violence and harassment. DRL’s overall goal is to ensure that incidents of violence are documented and investigated and that victims receive appropriate legal redress through domestic, regional, or international human rights mechanisms.

Even more funding was put on the table a few months later. State announced in December around $3 million was being made available:

The US State Department [...] has issued a Request for Statements of Interest (SOI) for ‘The Global Equality Fund: Programs to Protect the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Persons. [...] Approximately $3 million in funds are available for programs of the Global Equality Fund, pending funding availability. To support direct and indirect costs required for implementation, DRL anticipates making award amounts of $100,000-$500,000.

So many stakeholders around the world including the American taxpayer, LGBT people, bloggers and legacy media reporters, corporations and foundations, and foreign governments deserve a genuine dialogue and full transparency from the Global Equality Fund - and soon.

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