"We are in this together": our end-of-year message

 

Dear friends, fellow activists and partners,

At the end of this year and decade, we look back 12 months and 10 years. So much has changed.

In 2010 it was a challenge to have LGBTI persons even mentioned at the United Nations, and yet this year we celebrated a successful UN Human Rights Council vote to renew a UN Expert fully-dedicated to protecting our rights. Authorities at multiple levels and in all regions are starting to take action to stop unnecessary surgeries on intersex children. Countries continue to decriminalise same-sex love. And laws protecting, recognising and decriminalising trans persons are being passed and implemented.

As the collective impetus for this global change, the global LGBTI movements never cease to inspire us. Hundreds of LGBTI activists gathered in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand in March for our biennial World Conference. It was a moment of powerful inclusion with indigenous, lesbian, trans, women, youth and sex workers taking centre-stage to share of their struggles and victories against lesbophobia, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and interphobia, misogyny, racism, sexism and more. We heard stories, crafted strategies, developed campaigns, and connected across our identities, regions, class, colours, abilities and age. It was a powerful moment of global movement-building.

The conference opened in the immediate aftermath of the horrific attacks in Christchurch, and as we stood in grief and solidarity, it was a sobering reminder of where we stand at the end of this decade: a planet that seems more divided and polarised than ever before.

Open hate speech by politicians against LGBTI persons is common in places that ten years ago we would have thought impossible. Our communities remain excluded from employment and economic opportunities. Some countries are for the first time criminalising same-sex love, in a hugely disappointing setback. Sports federations imposed dehumanising conditions on trans and intersex elite athletes, contributing to a rhetoric of mistrust and hate. Religious leaders preach exclusion and intolerance rather than love and acceptance.

Yes, the decade ends with mixed signals and much heartache. But we are not alone. YOU are not alone. We are in this together, a global community working in solidarity towards a world where the human rights of all on our diverse and precious planet are respected.

And over this year, ILGA has played its part, working with our partners and stakeholders towards that dream, that vision, of a planet that is truly free and equal for all!

We see hundreds of people cheering: the ILGA World banner is in the background

Wonderful 40th anniversary celebrations at the ILGA World Conference!

 

Our global and democratic family

At our World Conference in March, the celebrations for our first 40 years saw 594 persons from 93 countries gathered together in Aotearoa New Zealand for a truly transformative experience.

We left Wellington not only with a new name (we are now ILGA World!), logo and visual identity, but also with a renewed Constitution, Standing Orders and strategic plan, setting exciting directions for our years ahead. We also have a more visionary and inclusive governance structure: 35 activists were appointed to our five new global democratic Steering Committees: Bisexual, Intersex, Trans, Women and Youth, allowing our whole global family to be better represented when ILGA World works on  issues relevant to these groups.

Hundreds of activists continued to come together during three ILGA regional conferences: ILGA Asia in South Korea, ILGA-Europe in the Czech Republic and ILGA LAC in Colombia - important occasions to learn from each other, and places where ILGA World conducted training and supported the democracy of ILGA.

Indeed, it is at ILGA conferences where ILGA’s unique and powerful “Queer Democracy in Action” takes place, with dozens of grassroots activists elected into LGBTI movement governance positions across the ILGA family and the rules set for how our diverse global movement operates.

In a first for ILGA, ILGA North America also held their first elections online. They also hosted an historic first convening in Saint Lucia with organisations from the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean, as they together planned for deeper collaboration in the future.

In 2019 we grew to 1,637 member organisations from 159 countries and territories: this is how global our community has become! The process for becoming a member organisation has also been streamlined and a lot of work done to ensure that our membership approval systems are robust, fair and secure.

 

The picture groups together five different photos, showing Activists engaging with ILGA World in 2019

Welcoming LGBTI activists from all over the world to Geneva

 

Our advocacy

At the United Nations we helped lead a global advocacy campaign to persuade governments to protect our rights. Helping bring civil society together, 1,312 organisations from 174 countries called on the Human Rights Council to #RenewIESOGI: the United Nations listened to us, and our communities can now continue to rely on a crucial mechanism addressing violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

We also co-organised four Advocacy Weeks, bringing activists to Geneva from all over the world to engage in the Universal Periodic Review and to address trans-specific issues on the global stage.  We provided key input and guidance on the work of many UN Special Procedures, and supported activists worldwide as they raised important human rights concerns with the UN Treaty Bodies.

And we made sure LGBTI issues were high on the agenda in key international spaces – from a historic meeting in the Vatican to business and human rights fora, from the world of sports to the International Conference on Population and Development, where we ensured that LGBTI youth voices were heard loud and clear.

We have a renewed commitment to raise the voices of those who are most marginalised within our communities: this year, our global family passed a resolution to oppose criminalisation and legal oppression of sex workers - an historic first for ILGA World – and we brought together Indigenous peoples of diverse SOGIESC. This is how we help make sure that in LGBTI activism and beyond we leave no one behind!

The photo groups together the covers of the publications released by ILGA World in 2019

Our publications in 2019

 

Our resources for activism

Empowering our members and other organisations in promoting and protecting human rights is at the core of what ILGA World is about.

In 2019, we published two updates to our landmark State-Sponsored Homophobia report and sexual orientation laws map, and a ground-breaking Toolkit focusing on strategic litigation with the UN Treaty Bodies – the first one to ever address SOGIESC issues specifically. These are powerful resources that human rights defenders are using to bring about justice and change for their communities. 

We know that our voices must reach way beyond our communities if we want to change hearts and minds for good. This is why made sure that LGBTI issues remain visible and sensitively represented in global media, while continuing to offer technical advocacy resources for engagement at the UN: factsheets on Special Procedures, reports on Treaty Body sessions and helping activists navigate complex but powerful UN mechanisms.  We also provided inputs to numerous publications produced by other organisations, including one on the criminalisation of trans persons.

Our staff directly connect with communities and activists around the world on a daily basis, providing advice and support. We also provided in-person training, for example in South Korea on holistic security, or at ILGA conferences on UN mechanisms or on how to conduct communications campaigns.

 

We see the ILGA World banner in front of the Palais Wilson in Geneva

ILGA World marching during the 2019 Geneva Pride

 

Our office

All of this work would not have been possible without our 19 Board members and 35 committee members who volunteer their time, energy, skills and passion to keep ILGA a truly movement-owned organisation. We are grateful to our 11 staff who keep the ILGA World engine running smoothly from the Geneva headquarters. This year, we said goodbye to Diana Carolina Prado Mosquera and Senka Juzbasic, who have both done invaluable work over their years at ILGA. We are truly grateful for their time with us!

A special thanks goes to the 8 interns that have worked with ILGA World in 2019: Daryl (Singapore), Gabriel (Brazil), Maria (Norway), Zineb (Morocco), Andrea (El Salvador), Kellyn (South Africa), Enrique (Mexico) and Oscar (Ireland).

 

Our future

As we enter a new decade, we know that the road towards equality and social justice is still a long one. We are determined to be by your side. We will be supporting the 5th International Intersex Forum (have you applied yet?) and our regional conferences in Ghana, New Caledonia and Bulgaria, to take stock and move forward. We will be supporting activism on six continents and across the whole range of LGBTI diversity.

But that is not all: we will continue to make sure that SOGIESC issues are addressed in international human rights and other fora, and have an exciting set of publications and projects in store to make sure that everyone in our global family is supported as they push to advance human rights for all. Stay tuned!

Wishing you rainbow peace and joy at this holiday time!

 

Luz Elena Aranda and Tuisina Ymania Brown, Co-Secretaries General; André du Plessis, Executive Director

 

 

 

 

Want to support our work to empower hundreds of LGBTI human rights organisations and activists worldwide? Donate now to help us!
Where will your money go, you ask?

With a donation, you will help ILGA World to support activists as they raise awareness of LGBTI human rights violations at the UN.
You will help us research laws impacting our communities and investigate attitudes towards them.
You will back us as we organise trainings and conferences, where activists can feel they are not alone in their fight.

Only together, we can bring about change. We are here to do our part: will you chip in?

 

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