By Matthew Hart, Executive Director, GPP

As the Covid-19 pandemic develops, we have witnessed quickly expanding political and socio-economic implications beyond the public health crisis. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) organisations have stepped up to meet these challenges around the world, aware that legal and social discrimination and marginalisation would make their communities particularly vulnerable to the pandemic. LGBTI community response around the world has been varied: delivering essential food to communities of unemployed trans men in rural Guatemala; providing housing for LGBTI communities escaping unsafe living environments in Macedonia; ensuring that lesbian, bisexual, and queer female sex workers have access to essential medicines in Uganda. These are just a few examples from communities around the world. 

As many governments, donors, and service providers have failed to acknowledge the specific needs of LGBTI people in Covid-19 responses, LGBTI organisations have filled the void to provide basic protection and support for their communities. Organisations traditionally focused on advocacy and community organising to advance and protect the human rights of LGBTI people have become direct service providers out of necessity – albeit with limited resources and capacity. 

In April 2020, Global Philanthropy Project (GPP) launched a short survey to document and assess the initial pandemic response of top global LGBTI funders. We found that, as in many other funding fields, grantmakers supporting LGBTI communities were moving quickly to offer flexibility in the requirements for existing grants and developing opportunities to move additional rapid response funding. (Read the full briefing here)

Six months into the pandemic, GPP conducted a second phase survey, this time including the leading government, multilateral, and philanthropic funders of global LGBTI issues. Survey participants represented almost half (47%) of all funding awarded on LGBTI issues globally (excluding domestic U.S. funding) in 20181. The resulting report, Where are the Global COVID-19 Resources for LGBTI Communities?, is now available on the Global Philanthropy Project COVID-19 resource site and includes a number of case study examples of LGBTI organisations’ response.

Despite LGBTI persons being named as an at-risk group in the July 2020 update of the United Nations’ Covid-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP), our report analyses 4467 recorded Covid-19 resource flows2 and finds a shocking lack of LGBTI funding. Indeed, only one explicitly described funding to support LGBT communities. None of the almost 3,000 recorded resource flows tracked to the GHRP explicitly described funding to support LGBTI communities. 

Yet, the vast majority of LGBTI groups are shifting to meet the urgent needs of their communities. In our survey, more than 80 percent of the responding LGBTI funders reported that their grantees had shifted focus from existing programmes to providing livelihood, shelter, legal assistance, or other forms of humanitarian/emergency support to address the impact of Covid-19. 

While we celebrate this ongoing commitment of LGBTI human rights funders, who have largely offered flexible support to their grantees in this time, we also note a dangerous emergent funding gap. As already-overburdened LGBTI organisations and their funders shift to support the urgent needs of LGBTI response to Covid-19, the work – and funding – of ongoing campaigns for essential LGBTI human rights and other long-time priorities will be dangerously under-resourced. 

Where to from here?

The inclusion of LGBTI persons as an at-risk group in the Covid-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan provides a framework and mandate for global leadership. 

In response, humanitarian donors and implementing agencies must acknowledge and address the needs of LGBTI communities within the global Covid-19 response and more broadly, the international humanitarian system. Lack of humanitarian action in this moment will not only lead to greater suffering among LGBTI communities, but it will also impact their capacity to advance human rights and respond to anti-rights attacks.

At the same time, funders already supporting LGBTI organisations must stay the course and maintain or increase funding, and remain flexible with grantee partners as they adjust to emerging on-the-ground community needs. 

In the broader funding field, join LGBTI funders to advocate. Join in efforts to mobilise LGBTI-specific inclusion in humanitarian funding flows. LGBTI communities include people in every world region, of every age group, religion, and life experience. Whatever your funding stream, LGBTI people are likely to be part of its scope. Work with your funders and grantees to ensure that LGBTI individuals, communities, and organisations are included in all Covid-19 responses.

About GPP

Global Philanthropy Project (GPP) is a collaboration of funders and philanthropic advisors working to expand global philanthropic support to advance the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in the Global South and East. 

Established in 2009, GPP’s 21 member organizations include many of the leading global funders and philanthropic advisors for LGBTI rights. As the first international cohort of LGBTI funders, GPP is internationally recognized as the primary thought leader and go-to partner for donor coordination around global LGBTI work.

1. Based on funding data disaggregated from the 2017-2018 Global Resources Report: Government and Philanthropic Support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Communities (Global Philanthropy Project, 2020).

2. Through the UN OCHA’s Financial Tracking Service, as of November 11, 2020. 

Matthew Hart, Executive Director, GPP


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