LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Our work supporting the LGBTI movement

The LGBTI movement is the driving force behind creating sustainable change for LGBTI people. This movement consists of paid activists, NGOs and community groups, volunteers and academics. But it also goes beyond that to include like-minded people working on our issues in other environments, such as policy-makers, journalists, trade unions or employers.

First and foremost, ILGA-Europe focus on empowering and training activists who work to advance the rights of LGBTI people in Europe. A strong movement that is able to adapt and respond effectively to changing environments is key to making the change we seek a reality.

By ‘change’ we mean both European level change, as well as the realisation of change domestically. European human rights standards can help drive change within countries, just as much as we also need strong domestic organisations to push for European level change.

Why is this work so important?

Put simply, without an invigorated LGBTI movement, change would not happen. ILGA-Europe’s main focus is on empowering LGBTI people in Europe. While we might use a range of approaches to achieve this aim, it is always at the forefront of our minds.

You might be wondering how we can possibly empower a movement that is spread across hundreds of thousands of kilometres. ILGA-Europe can help our members increase their legal knowledge, hone their strategic planning skills or organise educational opportunities. Anything we can do to assist our members in turn contributes to our own advocacy goals.

The European LGBTI movement needs equality champions at all possible levels. This could mean organisations working on legislative bills in capital cities or local organisations that support religious communities. All of these equality advocates need to be able to carry out their work in often complex and quickly changing environments. Ensuring that activists have access to the right set of skills to cope with this is crucial.

Equally important is to ensure that the movement is adequately resourced. Effectively implementing human rights based approach costs money, but so does the provision of services to the community.

What does ILGA-Europe mean when we talk about supporting the LGBTI movement?

In order for the movement to achieve its goals effectively, activists need a very wide set of skills, deep knowledge on a variety of issues and be able to engage an extensive network of allies. ILGA-Europe offers a diverse range of activities that strengthen our members and other relevant stakeholders to effectively realise political, legal, institutional and social change.

Tailored to the needs of the movement, ILGA-Europe provide various forms of capacity building, from community services to domestic and international advocacy. Need to understand how to litigate or undertake a public awareness raising campaign? We can help.  From fundraising tips to advice on managing an organisation or a group of volunteers, ILGA-Europe will support the movement in any way we can

Aimed at strengthening the movement, our ‘capacity-building’ activities take many different shapes and forms. In addition to supporting critical domestic advocacy efforts, ILGA-Europe offer regional training, coaching, re-granting, study visits and various methods of in-country support, to strengthen members skills, deepen their knowledge and expand their network. ILGA-Europe also advocate to ensure that appropriate financial resources are available for the European LGBTI movement. And above and beyond all of it, ILGA-Europe function as a large network of activists, as an important crossroad for exchanging experiences, and, perhaps most importantly, as a strong solidarity network for the European LGBTI movement. This type of support underpins all of our movement building work.

Who does ILGA-Europe define as the LGBTI movement?

There are many interpretations as to what ‘movement’ means. The LGBTI movement is widely understood as to reach beyond LGBTI organisations and their hard working activists and as such also include allies and supporters to the LGBTI cause too. However, in our work ILGA-Europe focus primarily on our 400+member organisations and secondarily on allies and supporters. Whilst ILGA-Europe occasionally works with individual activists, we focus mostly on organisations and initiatives as we believe that change is driven most effectively once we unite. 

What is the current situation of the movement in Europe?

The LGBTI movement in Europe has been around for a long time and has grown immensely over the past decades. However, the environments in which the groups operate vary significantly, from Italy to Finland and the UK to Azerbaijan; the needs of the movement are always unique and need individually tailored responses. 

Despite these differences, the movement overall has become increasingly professional.  NGOs are run on the basis of democratic governance principles, reflect the movement’s diversity and meet high levels of legal and other accountability standards. This has allowed an increasing number of organisations to carry out their work with paid staff, although many NGOs continue to depend on volunteers for the biggest part of their work.

At the same time, many new groups have emerged and therefore are still in need of more basic capacity building. For example, intersex activists only started to organise relatively recently. Similarly, there are a rapidly increasing number of initiative groups working in cities outside of capitals. Groups representing minority groups within the LGBTI community are also increasingly their engagement. Think for instance about religious groups or groups based on a certain ethnic background.

ILGA-Europe has invested heavily in building skills to allow other organisations to use a human rights based approach in their work. This approach combines the documentation of and reporting on human rights violations with advocacy work. Together with litigation work that advances the LGBTI rights agenda through the court, this approach has proved tremendously helpful in advancing domestic and regional agendas through an evidence-based approach.

In recent years it has become increasingly important to combine the human rights based approach with efforts that focus on winning the hearts and minds of people over to support LGBTI issues. The reason for this is simple: legislative debates on LGBTI issues have become highly visible battles, leading to greater involvement of both supporters and opponents. This means that the capacity of the European movement needs to grow to effectively mobilise its own supporters, to win the backing of politicians, allies and citizens.

The need to raise awareness and campaign has grown rapidly in recent years, combined with an increased pressure on financial resources. Effectively supporting the European movement therefore includes questions around finding sustainable resources to make sure the movement can carry out their work.

ILGA-Europe’s movement building work is very dynamic. We constantly adapt our work to make sure that it adds strategic value, either to the movement’s internal needs or in response to external developments.

ILGA-Europe’s movement building work is organised through various activities that respond to needs of the European LGBTI movement. The organisation has in place various programmes that together offer a broad variety of interventions to support the European LGBTI movement’s work.

When it comes to movement building, ILGA-Europe brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the table. The overall objective of ILGA-Europe's movement building work is to strengthen the organisational capacity of LGBTI organisations to achieve change. 

One of the tools developed by ILGA-Europe to support capacity-building is re-granting. Re-granting means that ILGA-Europe act as an intermediary, administrating and distributing money received from a large funder to a number of other organisations.