Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Sweden's $14M Grant to State Dept's Global Equality Fund

Last week, I attempted to start a meaningful conversation with the U.S. State Department employees responsible for the gay Global Equality Fund about donors and amounts.. Unfortunately, I was given the brush off with this reply:

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.  

I contacted one of the foreign government agencies in partnership with the GEF, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), asking a number of questions. Today, I received a substantive response with many details, facts and even hard numbers.

Additionally, I was directed to the site, which is in both Swedish and English, where SIDA shows genuine transparency in posts of hundreds documents about where their money has gone and how it was used for good. Searching for LGBT records, more than 60 reports of relevance turned up.

It's great to have such substantive info provided about a foreign ministry's LGBT funding, in a matter of days and no need to file a FOIA, and to learn that reports about the funding and work are readily available for public inspection on the web. My hope is that the GEF look at the Swedish model and begin to emulate it.

Here's the first part of the reply from SIDA:

Thank you for your interest in and questions about the Global Equality Fund. My name is My Dung Ho and I am currently the responsible programme manager for the Sida contribution to the Fund. Please find below my answers to your questions. You are welcome to contact me if you need any more information regarding the Sida support and please do also share the blogposts that you may post regarding this subject.

Many thanks to My Dung Ho for these answers and details:

1. When did Sida agree to be part of GEF?

In December 2013, a decision was taken at Sida to support the Global Equality Fund. In this support, Sida has entered into a partnership with US State Department and other donors to the Fund, to support LGBTI organizations and individuals worldwide. 

2. How much money have you donated to GEF?

In total, Sida has committed to the Fund 90 million Swedish kronor (approx. 14 million USD) over a three year period. Sida has earmarked its contribution to financing of projects and programmes under the Dignity for All Program and the Capacity and Technical Support programs. Only projects and programs in DAC listed ODA- countries will qualify for Sida- funding in this support. Sida sees the engagement in the Fund as a partnership with US State Department and other donors and will also as a partner be engaged in the strategic dialogue and steering of priorities in the Fund. The support is financed under the Swedish Government’s Strategy for Special Initiatives for Freedom of Expression and Democratization 2012-2014. 

3. Would it be possible to be provided with a list of projects funded with Sida money via GEF?

As we have just started the partnership and engagement in the Fund, no such information has been retrieved from our cooperating partners yet. 

4. Should other European govts and LGBT NGOs follow your example and join GEF?

The full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBTI- persons has been a priority in Swedish Foreign Policy, including in the development cooperation, for a long time. With the adoption of an Action Plan on sexual orientation and gender identity in 2006, Sida has since then prioritized LGBTI as an thematic area in Swedish development cooperation. 

Sida has been providing support to organizations working specifically for LGBTI- rights, or included such components in other development programmes. Sida has also contributed to capacity development and change processes through international training programmes on LGBTI- rights, that targets participants mainly from Sida’s partner countries. 

The Global Equality Fund, with its objectives and priorities, are highly in line with the priorities of the Swedish LGBTI- agenda, which is to strengthen locally defined LGBTI agendas, and to develop capacity of LGBTI organizations and groups to continue their work on LGBTI rights. Through the contribution to the Fund, Sida will take on a more systematic and strategic approach, by enhancing coordination and sharing and learning together with likeminded partners, to further the work on LGBTI rights. The are many like-minded donors in Europe, which Sida encourages to join hands with GEF partners in these efforts. 

5. Does online transparency exist for your work with GEF, so past and potential donors can easily learn about its work, and follow the money?


6. What key points should USA gays know about GEF and your organization?

The contribution to the Fund is not only a financial commitment but also a strategic partnership between Sweden, United States and other Governments and donors to work for the full enjoyment of rights for all LGBTIs around the world.  

Sweden/Sida has worked with LGBTI rights in development cooperation since 2006. In 2012 Sida’s direct support to organizations working with LGBTI rights was approx. 36 MSEK. Sida however also gives support to broad programmes such as general Human Rights and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights where LGBTI rights is included. Sida will soon launch a study on Sida’s work on HR of LGBTI persons.

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