There have been few openly gay world leaders in recent history.

So when Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and his Serbian counterpart Ana Brnabić were photographed together with their partners, it was an important moment for diversity in power and politics.

The snapshot of Bettel and his husband Gauthier Destenay standing with Brnabić and her partner Milica Đurđić was taken in Luxembourg before a two-day state visit.

The meeting is one of a handful of occasions where two LGBTI world leaders have been pictured together.

While many on Twitter cited the picture as a sign of progress, others pointed out there’s still much work to be done to improve rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people around the world. Serbia does not legally recognize same-sex couples and Brnabić has said she wants to be judged as a politician rather than an activist.

Working to reduce discrimination is a key area for the World Economic Forum. This year it collaborated with global businesses on an initiative that aims to boost inclusion for LGBTI people. There’s an economic incentive, as well as a moral one, with a 2017 UNAIDS study estimating the global cost of LGBTI discrimination at $100 billion per year.

What is the Forum doing to boost inclusion for LGBTI people?

Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity not only violates universal basic human rights, it also adversely impacts the long-term economic prospects of individuals, businesses and countries.

In collaboration with the World Economic Forum, global companies (including Accenture, Deutsche Bank, EY, Mastercard, Microsoft, Omnicom and Salesforce) launched a multistakeholder initiative to help businesses accelerate the inclusion of LGBTI people globally.

closeup of a young caucasian man waving a small rainbow flag against a rustic blue wooden background
Discrimination against members of the LGBTI community continues to affect millions of people worldwide every day
Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Specifically, the partnership aims to:

• Enlist 50-100 companies from World Economic Forum members to join the Partnership for LGBTI Inclusion to operationalize UN LGBTI Standards.

• Create a due-diligence framework for corporations to use in assessing the alignment of their policies with the Standards and to better understand the practical impact of their policies on LGBTI people.

• Develop a repository of LGBTI best practices and case studies from companies across multiple sectors, sharing insights and information on effective strategies, policies and processes for gathering the information needed to ensure LGBTI people are not being discriminated against when it comes to hiring, retaining and promoting.

Follow the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality and help us advance this agenda, protecting and promoting human rights in the workplace.

Contact us to become a member or partner of the Forum.

Across Europe, some leaders offer a pathway. Bettel is the first head of government in the European Union to get married to a same-sex partner while in office.

Other LGBTI leaders include Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, elected prime minister of Iceland in 2009, Belgium's Elio Di Rupo, prime minister from 2011, and Leo Varadkar, chosen to lead Ireland in 2017.

“Progress often seems far too slow,” UK journalist Benjamin Butterworth posted on Twitter, alongside the photo of Bettel and Brnabić and a rainbow emoji. “But it’s real, and it’s worth celebrating.”