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Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Jessica Stern participate in a Pride reception hosted by the State Department in Washington, DC, on June 29, 2023. Secretary Blinken is speaking from a podium in a room with chandeliers and a State Department flag is in the foreground.

Just this last week, the United States welcomed New Zealand as the 19th government to the Global Equality Fund. Together with the private sector, the Global Equality Fund has dedicated over $100 million to more than 100 countries – providing advocates training, giving them tools to prevent violence, to prevent discrimination.

Antony J. BlinkenSecretary of State

In late June, Secretary Blinken announced New Zealand as the latest donor partner to join the Global Equality Fund (GEF), during a Pride Month event at the U.S. Department of State.  The GEF is a  public-private partnership comprised of like-minded governments and private-sector entities dedicated to advancing and defending the human rights and fundamental freedoms of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons around the world.  Through the GEF, governments, companies, foundations, and NGOs work collaboratively to advance local initiatives spearheaded by human rights defenders and civil society organizations working to protect LGBTQI+ persons from violence and abuse, criminalization, discrimination, and stigma, and to empower local LGBTQI+ movements and people.

The New Zealand announcement follows the joining of another key ally to the GEF.  In May, the Secretary held a signing ceremony alongside Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares, announcing Spain’s commitment to join the Global Equality Fund (GEF) as a donor partnerSpain and New Zealand’s partnership strengthens the GEF’s ability to support human rights and representative democracies.


Secretary Blinken and Spanish Foreign Minister Albares participate in a signing ceremony announcing Spain’s commitment to join the Global Equality Fund as a donor Partner on May 10, 2023. Secretary Blinken is signing a document and a name tent that says "United States" is on the table in front of him.
Secretary Blinken and Spanish Foreign Minister Albares participate in a signing ceremony announcing Spain’s commitment to join the Global Equality Fund as a donor partner on May 10, 2023. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

GEF programs expand citizen access to full civic and political participation.  Promoting and protecting the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons is a year-round commitment of the Department and critical for strengthening democracy.  GEF programs have made significant impacts globally.  In just the past two years, GEF programs have:

  • trained and supported more than 6,600 human rights defenders globally;
  • provided emergency assistance to more than 470 human rights defenders and more than 90 civil society organizations, helping to provide safety and security so they can continue their critical work; and
  • improved legal assistance for more than 2,300 individuals from low-income or marginalized communities through legal and victim’s aid.

A telling example of the GEF’s impact is apparent in Botswana, where the sustained, flexible support of the GEF over 10 years contributed not only to the registration of the first LGBTQI+ organization in the country, but also to a historic decriminalization judgment.  Through a holistic approach, GEF support – coupled with efforts by other donors – enabled activists and partners to determine local priorities and to chart the best path forward.  The GEF supported projects to reduce stigma, discrimination, and violence by implementing an incremental strategy to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts.  However, LGBTQI+ community needs do not end with major court decisions; the GEF will continue to fund community-driven movement building in Botswana and globally in pursuit of a safer, more equal world for all.

Members of civil society in Botswana pose for a photo holding rainbow flags in front of the Court of Appeal of Botswana.
Members of civil society in Botswana held public dialogues on the implications of decriminalizing same-sex relations. In November 2021, the Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the High Court’s decision to decriminalize. [LEGABIBO photo]
As it enters its second decade, the GEF remains a leading global force to:   

  • Mobilize funding and resources that strengthen local LGBTQI+ movements and leadership that reflect the diversity of the community; 
  • Empower locally led and diverse movements leading efforts to mitigate violence and discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons; and    
  • Connect donors, international and regional institutions, and LGBTQI+ civil society groups to ensure that voices of local communities are heard, authentically represented, and affirmed. 

The critical work of the GEF is not possible without the support and leadership of its partners: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay, the Arcus Foundation, the John D. Evans Foundation, the MAC AIDS Fund, Deloitte LLP, Royal Bank of Canada, Hilton, Bloomberg L.P., Marriott International, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Out Leadership. 

About the Author:  Arshelle Carter is a 2022 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow and Summer 2023 intern in the Office of Global Programs in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 

U.S. Department of State

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