For APCOM and our country partner organizations in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, and the Philippines, this was the most important question when we were starting to implement our project Finance, Inc. in 2018 supported by Voice. Prior to this project, our experiences were mostly with governments, civil society organizations, development agencies – APCOM and our country partner organizations did not have extensive experience in engaging multilateral development banks (MDBs) and the private sector.
The programme anchored in our advocacy for LGBTQI social and economic inclusion, in their spaces, programmes, and policies of financial institutions and the private sector, both ‘non-traditional’ stakeholders for SOGIESC inclusion.
We were coming from a collective conviction that engaging the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the leading multilateral development bank in Asia and the Pacific, where APCOM operates, will greatly contribute to the collective goal of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals ‘leaving no one behind.’ Further, there have already been movements in other MDBs for LGBTQI inclusion, specifically at that time, at the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework.
APCOM did a secondary literature scoping research which looked into the LGBTQI situation in four countries, and into SOGIESC and LGBTQI inclusion developments in other multilateral development banks. The research identified possible entry points for engaging the ADB on LGBTQI issues, including ADB’s Strategy 2030: Achieving a Prosperous, Inclusive, Resilient, and Sustainable Asia and the Pacific.
APCOM and our country partner organizations had conversations with various experts who had experiences in SOGIESC inclusion in the context of multilateral development banks. We also convened an Advisory Group whose expertise range from research, advocacy, SOGIESC inclusion in financial institutions.
Advocacy meetings with various specialists at the Asian Development Bank headquarters in Manila including gender specialists and the ADB NGO and Civil Society Center were conducted. These meetings were very instrumental in APCOM knowing more about how the ADB operates, and building collaborations between APCOM and the ADB NGO Center.
It was during these meetings that the idea of the first ever commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Homophobia (IDAHOTB) at ADB headquarters in 2019 was hatched. APCOM and our country partner organization in the Philippines, Babaylanes Inc, were part of the panel discussions at the commemorations. Since then, ADB has been commemorating the IDAHOTB at their headquarters, where APCOM has been part of. IDAHOTB commemorations at the ADB headquarters are very important to provide platforms to discuss and raise awareness about LGBTQI issues, and identify possible ways forward for ADB on LGBTQI inclusion. This is also an opportunity to bring community voices to the ADB.
Since then, there have been developments at ADB on SOGIESC inclusion. And even as we know that we are not the only organization working on this, we are convinced that our engagements have contributed to these movements.
APCOM took part in the 56th Asian Development Bank (ADB) meeting, 2-5 May 2023 which took place in Incheon, South Korea, the first physical gathering since the pandemic, to bring in LGBTQI voices at the Annual Meeting. APCOM and ILGA Asia/Korean Sexual-minority Culture & Rights Center (KSCRC) were the only representatives there for LGBTQI, and took part in some sessions:
The highlight was the CSO session with the ADB President. APCOM and ILGA Asia were able to submit letters from the LGBTQI community to the President of ADB calling for the Asian Development Bank to include SOGIESC in its Safeguard Policy.
With support of Global Affairs Canada on the project Supporting LGBTQI Rights in Asia: Connecting Voices for LGBTQI Socio Economic Inclusion and Human Rights in Asia, which will help enhance engagement with the ADB as the project aims to strengthen local LGBTQI organizations’ ability to represent and advocate for LGBTQI persons’ welfare towards shaping gender-sensitive policies and programs in five countries in Southeast Asia; Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, and Thailand.
APCOM is actively advocating for SOGIESC inclusion in the ongoing review of Asian Development Bank’s safeguards.
We are looking forward to more of these actions from ADB particularly in its Safeguards Policy Statement which is currently undergoing review.