Where are the global COVID-19 Resources for LGBTI Communities? An Interview with Dave Scammell

Launched in January 2021, Global Philanthropy Project’s (GPP) new report – Where are the Global COVID-19 Resources for LGBTI Communities – documented how the pandemic has “exacerbated the existing vulnerabilities of LGBTI people, driving many further into poverty and marginalization”. Notably, the report found that, while many LGBTI organizations have responded to COVID-19 by shifting form human rights-focused programs to providing more direct services and humanitarian relief, these communities have been largely left out of COVID-19 humanitarian resources. 

FCAA reached to the report’s lead author, Dave Scamell, to dive into the report and find out what learnings it can offer HIV-informed grantmakers.

1. Can you share some key findings from the report?

There’s really three main takeaways from the report. The first is that the vast majority of LGBTI organizations have shifted their focus in 2020 to address the urgent needs of their communities, and there’s reason to believe that at least some of them will continue that into 2021.

We deliberately asked questions that would allow respondents to discuss both the immediate and secondary impacts of COVID-19, and the case studies we included in the report highlight that work – from measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, to communication and education campaigns, to the impacts of lockdown and what that means for people’s access to food, shelter, and livelihood.

The second finding was that LGBTI funders are stepping up their resources and staying the course. In many cases, they are actually increasing from the levels that they’ve given over the last few years.

Finally, a third finding was LGBTI organizations have been able to do the kind of pivot this year because they have had flexible and ongoing support from LGBTI funders.  Many of these local organizations that work with marginalized communities – such as the LGBTI community and sex workers, for example – have most likely been doing this type of work for some time; while they may be resourced for advocacy and organizing work, they still understand how to help their communities access economic resources, or shelters.

 2. How has this pivot to direct services impact advocacy work?

Many LGBTI organizations are having to make some impossible choices, and possibly delay more broader, systems change work because they must address the emergency needs of their communities, or they are stretching themselves even further to do both things at the same time.

Sodomy laws,  regressive laws around legal gender recognition that significantly impact the lives of trans people and the practice of coerced surgeries on intersex babies  didn’t cease to exist because of COVID-19. At the same time,  authoritarianism and anti-gender conservative forces have only accelerated since the start of pandemic, creating a perfect storm facing our communities..

That makes that last finding even more pressing because there’s obviously a limit to the scale of resources that our network of existing LGBTI funders – including those within governments who are funding LGBTI issues but doing so through a democracy and human rights or gender equality portfolio – can put into the movement.

LGBTI organizations aren’t just doing human rights work, it’s also humanitarian service delivery and crisis response, so we worked to find if there was any coverage or recognition or flow of humanitarian response resources specifically to LGBTI communities, and there wasn’t. In fact, the report analyzes 4467 recorded COVID-19 humanitarian response resource flows and found only one that explicitly described funding to support LGBTI communities. [Editor’s note: please read PART II of the report for more on these flows and the report methodology].

3. What have the reactions been to this report? What do you hope some next steps might be?

It’s been really positive, but it’s also a difficult forecast. The globalization of the world means that pandemics are going to become regular aspects of our lives – and our communities – for some time. Given existing inequalities and marginalization, LGBTI communities are going to be disproportionately affected by humanitarian and environmental challenges

We hope this data can be a catalyst to help inform the conversations funders are having about humanitarian and direct service delivery, and responsive and flexible funding. We also hope it highlights the need for funders to have conversations with other fund streams – such as humanitarian resources – as well as to support communities themselves to be able to engage with those actors.

Importantly we also hope that funders take learnings from how the community used its resources – particularly the unrestricted money – during this time to help inform future funding strategies.

4. What would you like HIV-informed funders to take away from this report?

The invisibility or the lack of recognition of this particular community (LGBTI) within the humanitarian response has been applicable to a broader challenge around a lack of recognition of intersectional identities and how they are disproportionately impacted by humanitarian crises, and therefore not included in the response.

The other emphasis we tease out in the report is about the kind of connections and trust that LGBTI organizations and networks have built within their communities. This allowed them to pivot from more human rights- focused work to service delivery and information sharing. I think that underscores the importance of a community-based response within HIV as well. If funders do not protect resources for community-based infrastructure, that will have detrimental impacts – not just on the HIV response, but other pandemics and humanitarian crises in the future.

Learn more about this important research report – which includes numerous case studies and recommendations online:

About GPP

Global Philanthropy Project (GPP) is a collaboration of funders and philanthropic advisors working to expand global philanthropic support to advance the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in the Global South and East. 

Established in 2009, GPP’s 21 member organizations include many of the leading global funders and philanthropic advisors for LGBTI rights. As the first international cohort of LGBTI funders, GPP is internationally recognized as the primary thought leader and go-to partner for donor coordination around global LGBTI work. https://globalphilanthropyproject.org/