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SESSION PREVIEW

The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion

Fellows gather in Thailand for the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, being held in partnership with the UNDP and Being LGBTI in Asia programme

Klaus Mueller, founder and chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum (3rd left) with Forum Fellows in 2015

Louise Hallman | 30.09.2016

Activists, legislators, and filmmakers will be among those gathering in Chiang Rai, Thailand this weekend for the fourth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum (October 2 to 7, 2016).

Held in partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Salzburg Global Seminar, this year’s program will examine The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion and seeks to be a platform for enhancing Asia’s previously underrepresented role in existing global LGBT dialogues, highlighting Asia’s unique legal, religious, and cultural positions regarding LGBT individuals and their communities. 

The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum was formed in 2013 to establish a global space to reflect upon and advance LGBT and Human Rights discussions around the world. Its signature is the international representation of leaders from diverse fields – including human rights, legal, artistic, and religious backgrounds. 

The Forum currently connects representatives from more than 54 countries – with representatives from six more countries joining in 2016. After two successful sessions in Salzburg, Austria and another in Berlin, Germany, in 2016 Salzburg Global sought to expand the global footprint of the multi-year series by travelling to Thailand and partnering with UNDP’s Being LGBTI in Asia programme – a regional initiative to reduce marginalization and exclusion of LGBTI people. Of the 52 participants taking part in Chiang Rai, 32 are from Asia.

As founder and chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, Klaus Mueller explains: “In the global discourse on LGBT equality, Asian perspectives are underrepresented. We hope that our meeting can contribute to amplifying Asian voices and we are excited to learn from and meet new friends.”

Edmund Settle, regional Policy Advisor on HIV, Human Rights, Law and Sexual Diversity for UNDP in Bangkok and co-chair of The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion, added: “UNDP believes that for development to be effective, it must be inclusive. Therefore, we must proactively ensure that all marginalized populations, including LGBTI people, are encouraged and supported in achieving the full realization of their rights.”

Through the five-day program, the organizers aim to foster open, strategic and focused discussions while examining progress – such as the changing legislation in Bhutan – and challenges – including the worsening security situation in Bangladesh – for LGBT rights in the region. Participants will identify concrete potential for further positive change in Asia, and share best practices from around the globe that can be adapted and adopted in the region.

Recognizing that the challenges confronting the LGBT and human rights movement are not only national or regional, the 2016 Forum in Thailand will expand understanding of how the region’s successes and challenges relate to and influence issues at a global level. The lessons that different cultures and regions provide will be harnessed to advance LGBT human rights on the global stage, as well as bolstering individual participants’ future contributions at larger global conferences such as the 10 Year Anniversary Conference for Yogyakarta and the ILGA World Conference in Bangkok.

Since its beginnings in Salzburg in 2013, the Forum has placed great emphasis on the power of storytelling, encouraging participants to share their own personal stories as well as sharing their professional experiences. Through telling and sharing original and authentic stories, the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum seeks to challenge misrepresentations of sexual and gender diversity, and help understand the similarities and differences.

Storytelling aspect is the cornerstone of the Forum’s ongoing project “Family is…”, which was launched in 2015 with support of the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. The project thus far has collected dozens of video testimonies and published a report on how members of the Forum view and experience families – both of birth and by choice. The project will continue gathering video testimonies in Chiang Rai, culminating in an exhibition in Berlin in 2017. 

In addition to strengthening international connections, and promoting discussion on families and storytelling, the Chiang Rai event will also focus on the high visibility of the transgender community in Asia, and especially Thailand, including the progress made and the continuing legal and social challenges.

Funding for this joint Salzburg Global-UNDP session was generously provided to Salzburg Global Seminar through a grant from the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth to support the “Family is…” Project and through a donation by US philanthropist Michael Huffington. The Being LGBTI in Asia programme is supported by UNDP, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Additional session support was provided by the Austrian Embassy New Delhi, Austrian Development Cooperation, Capital Group Companies, Dreilinden gGmbH, the Elizabeth S. MacMillan Fellowship Fund, the Embassy of Canada to Thailand, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in China, and the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

Recaps and interviews with participants will be published on a regular basis throughout the session on lgbt.SalzburgGlobal.org and medium.com/being-lgbti-in-asia. You can also follow the event on social media using the hashtags #SGSlgbt and #BeingLGBTI on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

*LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. We are using this term as it is widely recognized in many parts of the world, but we would not wish it to be read as in any way exclusive of other cultures, terms or groups.

30.09.2016 Category: JUSTICE, SALZBURG IN THE WORLD, LGBT
Louise Hallman