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The journey towards inclusive financial institutions.

Progress on Finance INC.

By Ramil Andag, SOGIESC Rights Officer – APCOM

Engaging the Asian Development Bank

Engaging financial institutions on LGBTI inclusion, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the private sector, and ensuring LGBTI voices are at the table are overarching goals of Finance Inc., a. influencing project being implemented by APCOM and our country partner organisations 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 backgrounds 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.’ Furthermore, as an international development finance institution whose focus includes health, education, and gender and development, engaging the ADB on LGBTI inclusion can be instrumental to achieving the long-term goal of improving access of people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, expressions, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) to these economic and social services, and ensuring their participation in the development process.

First IDAHOT Commemoration at ADB

APCOM and our country partners 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 engage the ADB on LGBTI 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 marginalisation based on SOGIESC and how these affect access to employment, livelihood and other basic services. It also aimed to explore possible entry points for LGBTI inclusion within ADB’s operations. The panel delved into issues being experienced by LGBTI communities, the present state of data related to LGBTI inclusion, and possibilities of integration of LGBT+ issues in the work that the Asian Development Bank is doing.

In picture are (from left to right) panel moderator Cleo Kawawaki (ADB Director General, Southeast Asia Department), and panelists Emma Veve (Director, Social Sectors and Public Sector Management Division, ADB Pacific Department), Mark Kunzer (Director, Private Sector Transaction Support Division, ADB Private Sector Operations Department), Midnight Poonkasetwattana (Executive Directo, APCOM), and Atty. Claire de Leon (Executive Director, Babaylanes).

Over a hundred ADB staff and personnel and representatives from various LGBTI organisations based in the Philippines attended the panel discussion. The panel was moderated by Cleo Kawawaki, Deputy Director General, Southeast Asia Department of the ADB, 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 in 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 LGBTI communities in the Asia Pacific region including the challenges presently facing the LGBTI population including stigma, discrimination and laws which criminalise homosexuality. He also highlighted the need to ensure participation of LGBTI organisations and communities in data generation related to LGBTI 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 the 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 LGBTI 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 engagement as a key strategy for LGBTI inclusion at the ADB, the panel highlighted the need for ADB to share knowledge more widely on their operations and investments.

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 organisation. 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 recognise that the promotion and strengthening of diversity, inclusion, and equality at ADB is critical to our effectiveness as an organisation,” he said.

Finding resonance and possible entry point for LGBT+ inclusion in their Strategy 2030, ADB also recognised 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 organisations are excitedly looking forward to more engagement 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 finds resonance in the 2019 IDAHOT theme of ‘Justice and Protection for All.’


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