Learn all about our history, goals, and visions.
The Rainbow Cities Network is a network in motion. Political shifts in the local government can mean an increased attention for LGBTI citizens, but it can also have the opposite effect. New members joined, while other members decided to prioritize differently.
The history of our network is living proof of these changes, the Network remains an interactive, inspiring platform to discuss, exchange, and work together on increasing social inclusion and equality for all.
The network was founded by the cities of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Cologne, and Turin as an informal network.
In 2012 some new members such as Berlin, Bologna, Geneva, Munich, Madrid, Torino, Vienna, and Zurich joined the network,making a total of 12 cities. At this point the organization remained as an informal network for exchanging ideas among their members but it was in 2013 when Bergen, Hannover, and Ljubljana also joined.
The first annual meeting took place in 2013 with a more structured organization and clear goals, thanks to the great leadership of the Dutch government, the RCN received funding for the first time to operate. As a result of this, it’s first annual meeting was hosted in Amsterdam and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands played the guest of honor.
2014 was an exceptional year for the Network when seven new cities such as. Bruges, Brussels, Esch Zur Alzete, Ghent, Hamburg, Leuven, and Mexico City became members. This marked the year where our network stretched beyond the European borders, becoming truly international.
In 2015, the third edition of the annual meeting hosted by the city of Geneva, welcomed 18 cities including Brighton & Hove in the United Kingdom. By 2016, 25 cities from 14 countries were exchanging “best practices” and started the first edition of the IDAHOBIT photo exhibition. This year all memebers were pleased to welcome Şişli, in Istanbul and Sao Paolo, Brazil.
Beşiktaş, Oslo, and Paris joined in 2017. At the end of this year the Dutch government informed that the funding for the organization would be suspended, Therefore, at the annual meeting in Ljubljana, the members decided to form an independent and self-sustainable international organization. In 2018, in Barcelona. The members set the by-laws that paved the way for Rainbow Cities Network to be registered as an organization on July 8th, 2019.
At the annual meeting in October 2019 in Esch Zur Alzete, 28 members welcome the new coordinator, Manuel Rosas Vazquez and that marked the onset of a new chapter for the organization.
Since discrimination of LGBTI people often takes place in their direct surroundings, municipal and regional authorities have an important role to play in combating discrimination of LGBTI people. Discrimination of LGBTI people is seldom explicitly dealt with by most local administrations. The Rainbow Cities are the exceptional in this regard as they consider it their responsibility to protect and support their LGBTI citizens.
Exchange of good practices, joint activities, and initiatives among these cities are important ways to increase the impact of local approaches and to allocate budgets effectively, resulting in greater social inclusion, contributing to the goal of creating sustainable and liveable cities for all.
Our network finds strength in its 45 members from 22 countries and continues to accept new adherents.
Rainbow Cities Network is managed by a Managing director and administered by the board, consisting of 5 active member cities. Currently, the board is composed of Hannover (Chairperson), Mannheim (Deputy Chair), Reykjavik (Secretary), Bergen, and Cork (both general board members).
How we work
Cities are represented by a staff member (max.2) of the administration and not by politicians or NGO representatives. However, we work closely with both groups. By organizing the RCN in this manner, the members aim for sustainability and commitment with regard to policymaking and implementation. The Mayor, or Deputy Mayor, of a member city, needs to guarantee political support by signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), committing to the goals and activities of the Network.
The Rainbow Cities Network meets once a year, each time hosted by another member city. The cities communicate via an internal email list, to which only member cities have access.
The board is composed of a minimum of three to a maximum of five active members of the network. They are elected for a period of two years at the annual meeting and act as guardians of the by-laws and administer the coordinator’s management.
The Managing Director
The managing director manages the activities and communications of the network internally and externally. The managing director promotes the RCNwith other networks, and is a spokesperson for the network as well as contact person for interested cities
The Audit committee
The audit committee board is composed of two active members (different from the board) to supervise the finance-related issues of the network, they are appointed every year at the annual meeting.
Manuel Rosas Vazquez (He | Him)
Manuel is the Managing Director of RCN. He works with the Board to set the strategy and direction of the network. Manages relationships with our members and other international bodies, and represents the network on platforms around the world. He is a specialist on international relations and strategist on LGBTI policies.
Juliane Steeger (She | Her)
Chair of the Board
She is the representative for sexual and gender diversity at the state capital Hanover since 2012. There she works in the areas of (queer) women, seniors, and in the focus on rainbow families. Also on the Rainbow Cities Network, of course. In addition, a larger proportion of administrative work is one of her tasks.
Johannah Illgner (She | Her)
Johannah is the representative for Mannheim and board member since 2021. She comes from an activist background and focuses on the local and international level on building a more safe and queer-inclusive world. The international connections through the RCN are a big step to get closer to this goal.
Svandís Anna Sigurðardóttir(She|Her)
Svandís works as a specialist in the field of gender and LGBT+ issues at Reykjavík City‘s Human Rights Office. She believes that LGBT+ issues should be both highlighted as well as mainstreamed so that they have an impact and make a positive change in society.
Tale Nesmann Berntsen
General Board Member
She has been the representative for the City of Bergen in the network since 2016 and became a part of the board in 2022. Works as a policy advisor for the city government, with a special responsibility in the areas of diversity and inclusion. Sharing best practices in the Rainbow cities network is an important part of the city’s work for human rights and an inclusive society, both locally and internationally
Siobhán O’Dowd (She | Her)
General Board Member
Siobhán is the representative for Cork City who joined the Rainbow Cities Network in 2020, and was elected to the Board in 2022. She chairs the Cork LGBTI+ Inter-Agency Group which leads out on LGBT+ Inclusion on behalf of Cork City Council. Siobhán has been involved in early Aids Activism, and the creation of a Lesbian community space in the city. She is deeply committed to building coalitions that promote equity and inclusion, here in the city and internationally , Cork is delighted to serve on the Board of the RCN and to share and learn from our colleagues in cities across the globe.