Interview with Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe

What is special about the Program-Cooperation between ILGA-Europe and the EVZ Foundation?

It’s giving us the opportunity to offer multi-year support to give more perspective to LGBTI groups and to give grants that are tailored to the country situation and aimed at providing the type of flexible and context-specific support that LGBTI organisations need to carry out their activism in increasingly difficult contexts. Through our partnership with EVZ, we have developed this new approach which we are now proposing to other funders. We will also be completing this country-specific approach with peer learning and exchange of knowledge among the grantees across countries, and share learning more widely within ILGA-Europe’s vast network.


What is the situation of LGBTIQ self-organizations in Central and Eastern Europe?

In January 2022, ILGA-Europe launched ‘Funding to Meet Changing Realities’, our second report on the state of LGBTI organisations in Europe and Central Asia, which clearly showed that LGBTI activists are struggling to resource their work amid a number of challenging factors. About three-quarters of LGBTI organisations identified a lack of funding for the activities that are most important to their organisation as a barrier to implementing projects. They often do their most important work without funding. About one third of LGBTI organisations operate on yearly budgets under 20,000 Euro. That’s approximately 55 Euro per day, all the while engaging in a vast variety of activities to simultaneously serve community needs and advance laws and policies to protect LGBTI people's human rights. On top of this, 85 percent of organisations say that they have been faced with burnout issues. The most common cause of stress and burnout across was not being able to meet the needs of LGBTI people coming in for help and having to respond to external threats from right wing, anti-LGBTI or “anti-gender” groups or individuals.

The report also indicates that the despite mounting workloads, burnout and growing threats and attacks, LGBTI organisations continue to widen their work, focusing on a variety of highly vulnerable groups within the LGBTI community, such as migrants, young people, and trans and gender and non-conforming people, and are in dire need of additional resources to ensure that they can strengthen these efforts. As our Programmes Director when the report was launched said, “The stark findings of this report should be a call to action to anyone who can and wants to support or step-up their commitment to support LGBTI organisations.”


Is it necessary to strengthen the rights of LGBTIQ people in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe rather by national or transnational and European approaches? (And, are there best practices for empowerment-work?)

Strengthening rights needs to happen at all levels, but it is certainly crucial to start where people and communities are. We consider that increasing skills and knowledge on documentation, evidence-based advocacy, strategic litigation, community mobilisation, campaigning and communication, good organisational and financial management is an essential building block that contribute to achieving social and legal changes for LGBTI people. As a result of increased capacity, LGBTI people are enabled to exchange experiences across the region, advocate for setting standards and achieving legal and political change at both national and European levels. Moreover, increased visibility and legal protection significantly empowers more LGBTI people to claim their rights and to be themselves.

In turn, more empowered communities are more enabled to raise awareness and to speak up about the realities and needs of LGBTI people, thus ultimately contributing to fostering better understanding in society and greater respect for diversity. ILGA-Europe’s activities are designed on the basis of this ‘Social Justice Advocacy’ model, enabling our members to bring forward information about the realities of their communities and to understand how to contribute effectively to regional policy-making and political processes. So, the answer to your question is that it’s all important and interconnected, working with communities in European and Central Asian countries and bringing that work to the European level.