European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association

Theme: Many voices, One movement - Together, mobilised for a just society

Rationale

Building on the 2014 conference

The ILGA-Europe 2014 conference dealt with the question of how to lead sustainable change for our communities, under the theme ‘MOVEment: leading sustainable change. The event provoked some great discussions:

  • how we can develop a ‘shared grammar of values’ with mainstream society and make them become part of the popular culture.
  • the need to build alliances with other (social) movements, including those working on gender issues.
  • what sustainability means, especially where hostile, conservative and reactionary forces operate to undermine our work for greater legal and social recognition, or even chip away at successes already won.

We concluded that, for better or worse, the LGBTI cause has unintentionally become a symbol for representing the kind of society we all want to live in. This fact has reconfirmed our belief that sustainable change can only be achieved by tackling hierarchies and asymmetries within our own movement. We must become the frontrunners in a much broader social justice movement.

Context

The ground-breaking Maltese gender identity law. The lobbying efforts of marriage equality campaigners in Slovenia. Year after year, we have been fortunate enough to be encouraged by legal as well as political wins, and most importantly: social change. Such campaigns are exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure – we all know that. These gains should only strengthen our resolve to keep going and not cause us to ease off.

LGBTI activists are the driving force behind such impressive standard-setting developments. We must continue to support them in countries where equality battles still loom on the horizon. There are still many laws to change, many policies to be adopted, many hearts and minds to win over. Everyone has a role to play to maintain the momentum we have all built up together.

This must happen on a proactive country-by-country basis and involve the entire LGBTI community:

  • In several parts of Europe, there is actually a growing sense of urgency to take action. More and more LGBTI human rights defenders are at risk on a daily basis. The legal and political gains of the past decade are under threat. The promise of LGBTI equality is fiercely threatened by the action of opposition groups. Action is needed because when negative public sentiment is allowed to thrive it can set progress backwards significantly backwards.
  • While we celebrate the progress made so far, we cannot and must not forget those within the LGBTI communities whose could be at risk of being “left behind”. We need to work to ensure that the legal, political and social change brought about by our actions is not change for some of us, but for all of us.

In short, now more than ever, we need more people to act strategically and effectively towards achieving our ultimate goal of equality for all LGBTI people.

Learning from our conversations in Riga, we plan to ask ourselves some challenging questions this year. Athens will provide the backdrop for discussions on how we can consolidate our victories and engage the entire movement. Our workshops and events will decipher the following topics:

  • How can we make use of the European LGBTI movement’s emerging position as a flag bearer of human rights and democratic values to leverage positive change and rally new allies?
  • How do we broaden the movement of supporters of equality, especially in the face of opposition groups?
  • How can we find new allies to help respond to new threats and challenges?
  • How can we reach out to rally new supporters of equality?
  • How do we leverage growing public support for LGBTI equality to bring about lasting society changes?

Unpack so we can repack – During this conference, we will unpack the concept of mobilisation, from including our own communities in our advocacy work to changing public attitudes and involving our allies effectively. We want to explore what the key conditions are for effective engagement. We will be looking at what mobilisation means in different contexts and strengthen our movement’s ability to lead this work. This will lead us to reconsider some of our traditional methods of work, to give a critical look at the messages and narratives we use, to look into new strategies and update our “activist toolbox”.

We will be asking ourselves –the movement, allies and supporters- many questions, such as:

  • How can wider mobilisation in our societies be a key factor in achieving the change that we desire?
  • How do we engage effectively in public and political debates when the landscape of the battlefield has changed?
  • How do we strengthen our movement’s ability to mobilise, keeping in mind the many challenges that we all face at the same time?
  • When we talk of mobilisation, how can we make sure that our work truly benefits from and to the rich diversity of our communities? If we truly want to instigate successful change, we need to make sure that all people are included and all our needs are addressed.
  • What are the best ways to engage with our new allies in this context? What are our commonalities? And what fare the challenges to engage with them?