LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

The eleventh hour: it’s time to ask for more resources to support human rights work

Shrinking space
civil society

Björn van Roozendaal, ILGA-Europe Programmes Director

In January, ProtectDefenders launched a report that assesses how much funding is available for human rights defenders globally.

The findings are alarming.

At a time that human rights work across the world is under attack, the level of funding available is highly volatile. There are indications that important donor governments might decrease funding in the years to come.  At ILGA-Europe, we have spent significant time in recent years to make the case to increase resources for our movements.

Dealing with financial challenges is not how human rights defenders should spend their days whilst human rights and fundamental freedom are under attack.

We understand that in times of shrinking space, growing populism and (in many places) increased attacks on LGBTI communities, it is more important than ever our movements have the resources to address the challenges that they face. It is in these times that our movements need to grow and strengthen.

This May, we will publish the first-ever report about funding for LGBTI work in Europe and Central Asia. While you will have to wait until then to learn about the findings, I can already tell you that the findings underpin the concerns outlined in the report by ProtectDefenders. A total of 287 organisations participated in the survey that led to the upcoming publication: this impressive number in itself testifies to the fact that funding is a key concern to our movements right now.

As activists, we need to make a strong case as to how our work is ever more important in times like this. Part of the argument might be found in the creativity that we bring to making change. Human rights defenders show great resilience when times get tough. As seasoned defenders of freedoms and democracies we understand how sustainable change can come about for societies at large, not just for the communities that we directly represent. Compared to overall state budgets the potential return of investment is significant.

Political leaders, decision makers and foundations need to hear one clear message: supporting human rights work is now more important than ever. Resources have to increase, not decrease.

ILGA-Europe are asking the European Commission to establish a funding instrument to support civil society organisations working on human rights in EU member states. Such fund is not only necessary now that fundamental freedoms are under attack in countries like Hungary and Poland. It also keeps the EU fit for purpose, as it will help upholding the values on which the EU was founded.

But this is also the moment for companies and individuals (including within the LGBTI community) to step up. Our message to them is: put your money where your mouth is. Everybody can do their part. At ILGA-Europe we were encouraged by the many individuals that donated in response to the Chechnya crisis. But one-off donations are not enough: activists across the world need continued support for their work.

So as we are at the eleventh hour, let us join forces and not be shy to ask for money to support the critically important work that human rights defenders lead. 

Björn van Roozendaal is Programmes Director at ILGA-Europe. You can follow him on Twitter @bvroozendaal