Acknowledged but unequal: Addressing socio-economic and political rights of LGBTI people in the Western Balkans

As of 2020 ERA is running a new regional initiative with the support of Olof Palme International Center and in partnership with Swedish organization HBT-Socialdemokrater

The 4-years project, aims to address in particular the socio-economic and political rights of LGBTI+ people in the Western Balkans region, and in line with other beneficiaries and project partners of Olof Palme International Centre in the region counter threats to democracy and human rights, advance equality and LGBTI worker’s rights and further contribute to increased gender equality. 

While in the last 15-20 years LGBTI+ rights have entered the public domain and some legal and social rights have been achieved, the socio-economic and political rights of LGBTI people are far from fulfilled. The community still lives in fear of violence and discrimination and the movement across the region still struggle to have meaningful and deep cooperation with state institutions and other relevant stakeholders. EU integration remains an important incentive for furthering legal rights of LGBTI people, but it can do so much when it comes to a more robust socio-economic and political integration of the community. As such more specific initatives are required to address this gap.

Keeping in mind that the above situation and ERA’s overall mission and specific goals, the initiative has the following specific objectives: 

1) to increase regional alliances between the LGBTI movements and labor movements (unions in particular) as well as political parties, with the main aim of facilitating dialogue and creating opportunities for mobilization and collective organizing for progressive social change;

2) to create collaborative strategies of solidarity and build the capacities of the LGBTI movement, trade unions movements and progressive political parties to jointly counteract the shrinking space for civil society and the rising populist, nationalist, right-wing, anti-gender and anti-LGBTI movements in the region;

3) To move beyond the prevailing narratives about LGBTI rights that focus only on rule of law and to push for a more holistic narrative on the lived realities of LGBTI people, as they intersect with class, race, gender, etc. and in relation to the socio-economic dimensions of homophobia and transphobia;

4) To bridge the gap between LGBTI organizations, unions and political parties.

Both topics, that of political participation of LGBTI people and that of socio-economic rights, remain under-addressed in our region and they represent great opportunity for further advancements as well as a responsibility to encourage political parties and unions to address the rights of LGBTI people in a fundamental, thorough and fully inclusive manner. 

As part of its first year of activities, ERA will work together with its members on establishing dialogue with political parties and unions in the region, develop a baseline assessment of existing practices within unions and political parties in the Western Balkans region, mapp the wider labor movements in the region and conduct a needs assessment for member organizations,  political parties and unions. The project includes also a study visit of ERA staff in Sweden, which was held in March 2020 and an online regional strategic meeting of above-mentioned stakeholders in the second half of 2020. 

Keeping in mind the travel restrictions and social distancing measures and protocols due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the safety of our own staff and the stakeholders we are working with, all remaining project activities for the year 2020 will be conducted online.

For questions or comments regarding the project please send an email at [email protected]