Read about the theme for the Annual Conference 2017 here.
Communities Mobilising, Movements Rising
In 2016, ILGA-Europe’s 20th conference unpacked the notion of ‘Power to the People’. The time had come to look at the incredible strength that the European LGBTI movement has used to bring about change. Recalling the gains that have already been made proved to be an empowering experience; it was a timely reminder that the decades of work by thousands of activists across Europe made a real difference.
Today, looking at the state of the world, the desire to use our strengths to achieve change, wherever that is possible, has only grown. We feel strengthened by our values to achieve an open and free society. We know that vision, strategy, creativity and alliance-building are a powerful combination – gains that were long considered out of reach were made possible.
Developments all around us pose important questions to our movement about how we can truly be part of the change we would like to see. In times of growing insecurity, people tend to retract to ‘safe’ bubbles. ‘Others’ in society are seen as a growing threat. Nationalism and populism appear to win by responding to fears and establishing a false sense of common ground in times of trouble. Even since our last conference, populist discourses are increasing in various places and create real challenges to upholding fundamental rights and democratic principles. Sadly, in some countries this has already led to an increase in violence targeting minorities, including LGBTI people. Together with sustained economic inequality, class dynamics in European societies continue to exist, often disproportionally affecting minorities.
In places where populism is on the rise, democracies are being challenged and minorities are under increasing pressure. Our movement is questioning what our part is in contributing to change. We ask ourselves how we can build bridges to the rest of society. We have come to understand that now, more than ever, it is important that we seek common ground. Our communities must be built around shared values that are not grounded in fear and hate, but in a vision of an inclusive society that values and embraces the diversity of each and every one of us. We want to answer the question of what kinds of actions are relatable to our existing work, yet lift us out of the bubbles in which we operate daily.
Clearly we cannot bring the change we want to see on our own: the success of our action depends on the active engagement of others. Family, friends, doctors, teachers, trade unions, politicians, other activists and social movements; we need as many allies as possible to build the world according to our vision.
The question of where to start to reach out to greater numbers is also very relevant for everyone at Warsaw 2017. One obvious place is at the local and community level. This is where change affects people’s livelihoods, their daily life. This is where people live with others (including non-LGBTI) people – a place where they can face stigma, discrimination and violence, or find support from within their surroundings.
At a time when political and legal progress is hard to achieve at national level, many new initiatives are flourishing in communities across Europe. We want to explore how we can create a stronger bottom-up movement by strengthening local communities. Across Europe, we can see a vibrant regeneration of LGBTI initiatives, including in remote geographical areas. People are coming together, communities are getting organised, influencing the civil society landscape. Creative change strategies that are deeply rooted in local contexts have the ability to sustain progress that matters to LGBTI people at the grassroots level.
So at this conference, we want to ask ourselves how we put the needs and strengths of our own community at the centre of our work. We will look at how we can further strengthen local LGBTI communities so that they can come together, organise and demand for their needs to be addressed, in solidarity with others. We want to continue talking about how we do this together with allies that connect our action to a larger mission for an inclusive and just society. Together, we want to explore how we can contribute to reversing populism by working on common objectives and making democracy work for people again.
Questions that we would seek to answer include:
- How do we as civil society organisations recognise the most important needs of our communities and better represent those?
- When we talk about the grassroots, where/what do we mean?
- How can we address the needs of our community, create more ownership of the direction of our work in the community and ensure that community empowerment is at the core of our work?
- How can we create and strengthen the momentum of people organising? What kind of collective strategies and messages can contribute to this?
- How do concepts like class and populism intersect with what we want to achieve?
- How do the needs of our LGBTI communities connect to our broader communities? What are the common grounds we share with other communities we belong to?
- How can we build a progressive social movement that addresses the root causes of inequality and exclusion, working in greater solidarity?
- What is our role in filling the growing gap between citizens and the government?
- How do we better make use of the richness of our own (multiple) identities?
From Nicosia to Warsaw….
Entering the third decade of ILGA-Europe's work being at the front line for driving change for LGBTI people in Europe, we want to go back to the roots. As we’ve learned and was brilliantly observed by our conference host Miguel Vale de Almeida last year: ‘we need to convey a sense of being part of the people in the phrase “power to the people”. […] We need to address [the nationalistic, extreme-right and religious fundamentalist movements] in novel ways, mainly by finding the right allies and showing our solidarity and our intersectional connections: women/gender, reproductive rights, new forms of family, and also anti-racism and solidarity with refugees/asylum seekers.’ In Warsaw, we want to move forward this notion of working with our allies in the community by finding common grounds and common goals in the face of populist discourses and different kinds of oppression. We will explore how the intersectionality of our identities can help with mobilising the community, and how can this benefit both the wider society and the LGBTI movement with its myriad of diversities.