Engaging financial institutions including the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the private sector towards LGBTQI inclusion, and bringing the voices of the LGBTQI communities to these discussions are overarching goals of Finance Inc., a project being implemented by APCOM and our country partner organizations in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, and the Philippines.
Anchored on the principles of equality and non-discrimination and the sustainable development goal’s mantra of leaving no one behind, APCOM is convinced that such inclusion can contribute to improved access of persons of diverse SOGIESC to economic and social services specifically health, education and financial resources and services.
APCOM aimed to engage the Asian Development Bank as LGBTQI inclusion is aligned with their inclusive growth agenda and vision of ‘a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty in the region.’
Further, as an international development finance institution whose focus include health, education, and gender and development, engaging the ADB on LGBTQI inclusion can be instrumental to achieving the long-term goal of improving access of people of diverse SOGIESC to these economic and social services, and ensuring their participation in the development process.
First IDAHOT Commemoration at ADB
APCOM and our country partner in the Philippines, Babaylanes, had the opportunity to meet with specialists from the Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department of the ADB at their headquarters in Manila. We were also able to meet some of their gender consultants.
These meetings allowed APCOM to initially discuss our aim to engage the ADB on LGBTQI inclusion. One of the possibilities discussed was to conduct a learning activity at the ADB headquarters to coincide with the commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOTB).
Fast forward to May 17, 2019, after a series of online brainstorming and discussions between APCOM and ADB, and internal discussions and processes within the Asian Development Bank, a panel discussion titled ‘LGBT+ as a vulnerable population: Entry points at ADB operations’ was held. A first for ADB.
The panel discussion aimed to discuss marginalization based on sexual orientations, gender identities, expressions, and sex characteristics and how these affects access to employment, livelihood and other basic services. It also aimed to explore possible entry points for LGBT+ inclusion within ADB’s operations. The panel delved into issues being experienced by LGBTQI communities, present state of data related to LGBTQI inclusion, and possibilities of integration of LGBT+ issues in the work that the Asian Development Bank is doing.
Over a hundred ADB staff and personnel and representatives from various LGBT organizations based in the Philippines attended the panel discussion. The panel was moderated by Cleo Kawawaki, Deputy Director General, Southeast Asia Department of the ADB. were Emma Veve, Director for Social Sectors and Public Sector Management Division, Asia Pacific Department, and Mark Kunzer, from the Private Sector Operations Department of ADB.
Bringing Community Voices to the Discussions
The panel discussion was a very important activity which will contribute to how ADB will eventually move forward in relation to LGBT+ inclusion at their operations. As such, it was important to bring community voices to the discussions. Midnight Poonkasetwattana, Executive Director of APCOM, and Claire De Leon, Executive Director of Babaylanes, country partner of APCOM for Finance Inc. were part of the panel.
Midnight discussed the situation of LGBTQI communities in the Asia Pacific region including the challenges presently facing the LGBTQI population including stigma, discrimination and laws which criminalizes homosexuality. He also highlighted the need to ensure participation of LGBTQI organizations and communities in data generation related to LGBTQI situations. “We need to be able to tell stories and not just present numbers. We need to ensure that it is about winning the hearts and minds of general public,” he said.
Meanwhile, Claire de Leon presented experiences of discrimination of young LGBT+ persons in the Philippines in the education and work settings. She also highlighted the need to policies which protect LGBTQI population from discrimination and the importance of reaching a wide range of the public to raise awareness about SOGIESC as according to her “exclusion can be related to lack of understanding about SOGIE.”
To highlight the importance of engaging LGBT+ organizations in the future towards LGBTQI inclusion at the ADB, the panel highlighted the need for ADB to engage more with LGBT+ organizations in terms of knowledge building and broadly, towards LGBTQI inclusion at their operations.
ADB commitments for LGBT+ inclusion
In a news release on the IDAHOT commemoration of the Asian Development Bank, ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao expressed support for LGBT+ inclusion. “ADB supports LGBT+ inclusion within and outside its organization. We are committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce where everyone is treated with respect regardless of gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, and thinking style. We recognize that the promotion and strengthening of diversity, inclusion, and equality at ADB is critical to our effectiveness as an organization,” he said.
Finding resonance and possible entry point for LGBT+ inclusion in their Strategy 2030, ADB also recognized that the inclusion of vulnerable groups in societies, including LGBT+ people, is critical to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable region, as envisioned in ADB’s Strategy 2030.’
APCOM and our country partner organizations are excitedly looking forward to more engagements with the Asian Development Bank and the private sector in the future towards the collective goal of LGBTQI inclusion.Inclusion of LGBTQI concerns at multinational development institutions certainly find resonance in the 2019 IDAHOT theme of ‘Justice and Protection for All.’
News Release: ADB Marks International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia