LGBTIQ activism on site at the UN

RFSLPhoto: UN 39th Human Rights Council 2018

RFSL’s new long term training program Rainbow Advocacy Program (RAP) held its first phase in Geneva from September 4-14, 2018. It coincided with the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council, and together the participants helped make LGBTIQ rights visible during the sessions.

Rainbow Advocacy Program is a unique opportunity for underrepresented LGBTIQ activists from the Global South and East to learn, network, collaborate and gain hands-on experience in UN advocacy. The 3-year-long program will run from 2018 to 2020 combining training sessions during the Human Rights Council sessions and the High-Level Political Forum on Agenda 2030. The training program combines theoretical and practical sessions introducing human rights mechanisms and the sustainable development agenda.

For the first cycle of the program, 15 activists were selected through a highly competitive process representing a diverse region and identities. The countries they represent are Armenia, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Macedonia, Namibia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Ukraine, Vietnam, and Zambia.

– I’m so proud of all the participants. With this program, we make LGBTIQ issues visible at the UN. There is no more powerful expression of our passion and commitment than being in spaces that so often are designed  to exclude us! We are there and we claim them to demand our rights to be respected, protected and fulfilled, says Micah Grzywnowicz International Advocacy Advisor at RFSL

The video above is from one of the statements made by the participants at the Human Rights Council. Dalziel Leone from Kenya reads a statement on trans rights during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation.


Over the years, the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) persons have gained substantial progress at the United Nations, thanks to the brave and tireless works of activists, civil society, diplomats and other individuals. LGBTIQ activists have also been utilizing various UN mechanisms to push for changes in the ground. However, there exists a considerable gap in terms of access, capacity, skills, resources and participation of underrepresented LGBTIQ activists from Global South and East when it comes to UN advocacy, according to an internal pre-study conducted by RFSL in 2018.

Moreover, currently, there is no training program, which caters exclusively to Global South and East LGBTIQ activists in a systematic, sustainable and effective manner on UN advocacy.

With this situation in mind, RFSL, the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer rights, has initiated the Rainbow Advocacy Program (RAP) aiming to address some of the manifold gaps and challenges.

The main objective of the program is two-fold: strengthen advocacy capacity of LGBTIQ organizations from Global South and East, and facilitate the participation of underrepresented groups in the international advocacy forums. The program contributes to the overarching objective of RFSL’s work to ensure SOGIESC-inclusive language and human rights of LGBTIQ persons being recognized in international forums. In doing so, the program aims to:

• Provide a learning-by-doing opportunity to activists

• Share knowledge, information, resources, network, and contacts

• Provide access to UN advocacy spaces

• Sustain UN engagement in an informed, effective and safe manner

• Create a pool of community experts to engage in international advocacy