Post submitted by Ashley Fowler, former HRC Global Coordinator
Post contributed by Jean Freedberg, Deputy Director, HRC Global
Yesterday, HRC joined the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for a panel discussion on advancing LGBTI rights through political inclusion. The event marked the release of the results of a public opinion poll on LGBTI issues in the Balkans that NDI and partner organizations conducted this past summer. It was also the first event HRC and NDI have collaborated on since announcing their partnership which will focus on fostering the political inclusion of LGBT individuals and communities around the world.
The poll extended to six Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) and provided unprecedented data on attitudes towards LGBTI rights and the community. Among other findings, the poll revealed that while many people living in the region know little about the LGBT community and are hesitant to extend equal rights to this group, poll respondents roundly disavow physical violence against LGBTI people.
The first panel featured Belgrade Pride leader Boban Stojanovic and NDI/REAPPS Director Marko Ivkovic. They discussed the poll findings and explained how local advocates plan to use the data for public outreach and engaging elected leaders and the media. The poll data revealed that many people living in the Balkans region know little about the LGBT community and most are hesitant to extend equal rights to this group.
The second panel focused more broadly on how polling can be used to advance LGBTI movements around the world. HRC Deputy Field Director Jeremy Pittman explained how HRC has previously used public opinion polling data to design and execute national or regional campaigns. He cited Project One America’s (POA) “All God’s Children” campaign as an example of how public opinion polls help shape campaign messaging. Prior to launching POA, HRC conducted polls that revealed that many southerners responded positively to religious messaging when discussing LGBT issues. It was based on this data that HRC created a robust campaign based on religious messaging.
In the Balkans, attitudes are changing. NDI’s Central and Eastern Europe Regional Director Robert Benjamin explains, “This poll suggests that homo/transphobia is not a fixed prejudice in the Balkans and that LGBTI rights are beginning to receive public recognition.” He went on to say, “Research of this kind is a critical tool, but to be effective the data needs to be integrated into communication and advocacy strategies that promote equal rights for LGBTI people.” NDI will continue to work with local advocates to find ways to utilize this data to advance the LGBT movement.
HRC looks forward to working with NDI in the future to continue to support advocates around the world in their efforts to advance the global equality movement.