Salzburg Global LGBT Forum » Overview

Humankind’s strength is its diversity. Free expression of sexuality and gender increasingly defines the societies in which we want to live in the 21st century. But progress is uneven. In 2011, the first UN Resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity was supported by over 40 countries. Yet in many others, governments still legitimize and sponsor violence against LGBT citizens through legal discrimination, condoned police violence and hate speech.  

The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum was formed in 2013 to establish a truly global space to reflect upon and advance the 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. Founded and chaired by Dr. Klaus Mueller, the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum currently connects representatives from more than 65 countries (as of October 2016).

Upcoming events:

Salzburg Global LGBT Forum - Home:Safety, Wellness, and Belonging
May 14-19, 2017

Most recent session:

Building structures to support equal rights for LGBT people

Seminar and networking reception at the Embassy of Canada, Berlin, Germany, July 21, 2016

Salzburg Global LGBT Forum: The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion
October 2 to 7, 2016

Salzburg Global LGBT Forum: LGBT Human Rights & Social Cohesion

June 14 to 19, 2015


Related News

Global LGBT Forum, Day 3: Fellows meet with German MPs and leaders from political foundations and human rights organizations
Global LGBT Forum, Day 3: Fellows meet with German MPs and leaders from political foundations and human rights organizations
Klaus Mueller and Sudeshan Reddy 
Extending its network even further Global LGBT* Forum met with members of the German parliament, political foundations and human rights organizations, on the third day of the event in Berlin. Representatives included Ise Bosch from Dreilinden Foundation, Richard Koehler from Transgender Europe, and Andrea Kämpf and Sebastian Müller from the German Institute for Human Rights. Colleagues from the Human Rights Office of the city of Nuremberg, which awarded Global LGBT Forum member Kasha J. Nabagesera from Uganda with the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award in 2013, were also in attendence.   The lunch at the German Federal Foreign Office served as a networking opportunity to both make new contacts and to continue conversations with the likes of Riccardo Serri, Deputy Head of Division on Human Rights Strategy and Policy Implementation at the European External Action Service (EEAS), Saskia Helsdingen, the LGBT Human Rights Officer at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Andrea Rocca of Frontline Defenders who also attended the lunch. Beautiful sunshine also allowed participants to meet and mingle informally outside on the Ministry’s balcony.   Katharina Spiess from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development continued conversations how LGBT human rights are embedded as a theme within the Ministry’s programmatic initiatives.   An afternoon meeting with diplomatic colleagues from the embassies of Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Romania, the United States, Norway, Spain, and the European Union gave members of the Global LGBT Forum the opportunity to both inform about the situation of LGBT persons in their respective regions and to learn about perspectives from other embassies. Moderated by Martin Huth, Head of Human Rights Division at the German Federal Foreign Office, the discussion allowed for a frank assessment of contemporary challenges. As one necessary step to move forward in building larger networks, the Global LGBT Forum presented the idea that embassies could use their network reaching out to other embassies to create regular larger focus meetings on LGBT human rights.  Human rights defenders could give briefings on the situation on the ground. Being able to speak to an established and connected network of human rights officers from supportive embassies at the same time would considerably deepen our network and enhance a concerted effort to advance LGBT human rights. 
The Salzburg Global Fellows in Berlin, with the support and partnership of the German Federal Foreign Office, are taking part in the high-level program Creating Long-Term Global Networks to Sustain LGBT Human Rights Organizations and will be conducting meetings with the German Foreign Office, representatives of foreign embassies, human rights groups, and other select partners. For daily summaries and Tweets, please see the session page: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/545 and the Twitter hashtag #SGSlgbt * 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.
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Global LGBT Forum, Day 3: Salzburg Global Fellows Meet with International Security Experts
Global LGBT Forum, Day 3: Salzburg Global Fellows Meet with International Security Experts
Sudeshan Reddy and Klaus Mueller 
The Global LGBT Forum met on its third and final day to discuss the urgent security needs of LGBT* human rights defenders with three experts. Stefan Lanziger, Desk Officer at the Human Rights Division, German Federal Foreign Office, emphasized that support for human rights defenders is a long-established element of the European Union’s and Germany’s foreign policy. In his view, German embassies have an important role to play in putting into practice the proactive policies that the Foreign Office expects embassies to adopt to support human rights defenders.  He outlined some measures embassies could take, such as: 
  • Organizing regular meetings with human rights defenders to discuss topics such as the local human rights situation;
  • Providing visible recognition for human rights defenders and their work; this can be done through appropriate use of the media, including the internet, visits or public events;
  • Where appropriate, visiting human rights defenders in custody or under house arrest and attending their trials as observers.
However, he also pointed out that there are internal obstacles that complicate the effective implementation of such protection tools, such as:
  • The size of the embassies and their staff: Many embassies are small and the person in charge for human rights probably has many other topics in his portfolio, therefore, human rights issues might not always be the top priority for the person in charge;
  • The turnover of staff: Diplomats usually only stay three to four years in their host country, so when human rights defenders try to contact a certain diplomat, he or she might be busy with packing or unpacking or might already have left the country while a successor has not arrived yet;
  • The perception of staff availability: Embassies usually are well protected high-security buildings. This might give the wrong impression that the diplomats working there are not interested to get in contact with the civil society of their host country.
Lanzinger gave three concrete recommendations to human rights defenders:
  • Be persistent: Get in touch with embassies. Don’t wait for them to get in touch with you.
  • Be smart: Carefully study the EU guidelines on human rights defenders and – if necessary – remind European embassies to act in accordance with the guidelines
  • Be realistic: What is desirable is not always feasible – at least not immediately.
Andrea Rocca of Frontline Defenders shared copies of his organization’s security manual for human rights defenders at risk, used for training activists at risk on how to safeguard themselves and their work through cautious measures at home and offices, protection of witnesses and survivors, reactions in regard to arrest and abduction, and computer and phone security. Fadi Saleh from Syria, represented Tactical Tech and spoke of the security threats and protections. Tactical Tech produced Security In-A-Box in collaboration with Frontline Defenders in 2009 and it is today the leading resource for digital security training for activists. It receives more than 100,000 online visitors per month and Tactical Tech directly trains on average 1000 journalists and activists per year in digital security tools and techniques. Saleh outlined that different countries and regions have varying problems and contexts. There was the need to adapt the general Security In-A-Box guide and contextualize it to reflect and suit the needs of the specific communities. So far, there is the example of the online-security guide for LGBT people and activists in Arabic-speaking countries.   The discussions that followed illustrated, as with the conversation the day before at the Dutch embassy, that human rights defenders take a great number of risks, and that the international community so far has not developed sufficient tools to react quickly, due to visa restrictions and lack of funding. Participants of the Global LGBT Forum also shared, that despite closely following security recommendations, risks cannot be avoided as situations change quickly. 
The Salzburg Global Fellows in Berlin, with the support and partnership of the German Federal Foreign Office, are taking part in the high-level program Creating Long-Term Global Networks to Sustain LGBT Human Rights Organizations and will be conducting meetings with the German Foreign Office, representatives of foreign embassies, human rights groups, and other select partners. For meeting summaries and Tweets, please see the session page: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/545 and the Twitter hashtag #SGSlgbt * 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.
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Global LGBT Forum, Day 2: One-on-One Meetings with Country Desk Officers
Global LGBT Forum, Day 2: One-on-One Meetings with Country Desk Officers
Klaus Mueller and Sudeshan Reddy 
Participants of the Global LGBT* Forum had productive one-on-one meetings with their country’s respective desk officers from the German Federal Foreign Office. The discussions were joined by their colleagues from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development who travelled from Bonn, Germany to meet with participants.   During his meeting with his counterparts, Sudeshan Reddy, National Information Officer, United Nations Information Centre, Pretoria, South Africa emphasised the need for German diplomatic representatives to engage, in a sustainable manner, with LGBT civil society representatives from the outset and seek their advice on the type of support required. The conversation addressed many topics, such as where to focus initiatives, experiences of partnerships, or urgent needs.  In discussion with his counterparts, Dennis Wamala, Program Manager, Icebreakers, Kampala, Uganda reported on the increasingly dangerous conditions for human rights defenders in his country as they looked at how to best coordinate necessary urgent responses to the current situation. As in other conversations, including on India, China, the MENA region or Russia, these encounters not only updated all parties on the situation on the ground but also allowed for invaluable brainstorming on short- term needs and long-term strategies. Now that personal contact has been made, the ground is set for ongoing dialogue and coordination. Colleagues from the German Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development stated that this format of personal engagement helped them to better understand the quickly-changing situations in different countries.
The Salzburg Global Fellows in Berlin, with the support and partnership of the German Federal Foreign Office, are taking part in the high-level program Creating Long-Term Global Networks to Sustain LGBT Human Rights Organizations and will be conducting meetings with the German Foreign Office, representatives of foreign embassies, human rights groups, and other select partners. For daily summaries and Tweets, please see the session page: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/545 and the Twitter hashtag #SGSlgbt * 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.
READ MORE...
Global LGBT Forum, Day 2: Salzburg Global Fellows in High-Level Meeting with Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Global LGBT Forum, Day 2: Salzburg Global Fellows in High-Level Meeting with Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Sudeshan Reddy and Klaus Mueller 
Saskia Helsdingen, the LGBT Human Rights Officer at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, generously came from The Hague to brief the Global LGBT Forum at the Dutch Embassy in Berlin on Monday, May 19, with Michael Pistecky, Deputy Head of the Political Section at Dutch Embassy welcoming the group.  Equal rights for LGBT people are a key priority for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Helsdingen presented on how the Dutch government implements this priority in both bilateral and multilateral negotiations. The Netherlands strives for coherence in its national and international policies to ensure full equality for all, with three major goals: to abolish the criminalization of homosexuality and transgender; to oppose discrimination of LGBT people and communities, and to achieve wider social acceptance. Kasha Nabagesera, Founder and former Executive Director of FARUG in Kampala, Uganda, emphasized the need for developing ad-hoc risk funds and emergency policies, such as facilitating Schengen visas for leading human rights defenders. Due to the high risks LGBT human rights defenders are now facing in Uganda and other countries, a rapid escape out of the country at times might be the only way to secure their safety.     The discussion what the Netherlands, Germany and the European Union can do to improve the security of human rights defenders who continue to work in their countries despite the risk of being arrested or physically attacked was also joined by two leading experts from Brussels and Ireland. Both traveled to Berlin to meet with the Global LGBT Forum and participate in the meetings. Riccardo Serri, Deputy Head of Division on Human Rights Strategy and Policy Implementation at the European External Action Service (EEAS), outlined how the EEAS engages on LGBT human rights, with the EU guidelines for supporting LGBTI people's human rights as a strong base document. The EU guidelines are for use by EU staff around the world and by EU countries' national embassies and were developed to help LGBT human rights through a variety of concrete measures and recommendations, such as demarches and public statements, court hearings and prison visits, political dialogues, and support for international mechanisms and efforts by civil society. They provide a checklist for assessing LGBTI human rights issues and now explicitly cover the rights of transgender and intersex people. Andrea Rocca, from Frontline Defenders, shared the mandate of his Foundation which works to provide fast and effective support to human rights defenders globally at risk so that they can continue their work as key agents of social change. The discussion on these central aspects of security made clear that appropriate and effective ad-hoc risk reactions for human rights defenders are in urgent need to be developed further, and the Global LGBT Forum hopes to use the now-established contacts to help facilitate this change.

The Salzburg Global Fellows in Berlin, with the support and partnership of the German Federal Foreign Office, are taking part in the high-level program Creating Long-Term Global Networks to Sustain LGBT Human Rights Organizations and will be conducting meetings with the German Foreign Office, representatives of foreign embassies, human rights groups, and other select partners. For meeting summaries and Tweets, please see the session page: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/545 and the Twitter hashtag #SGSlgbt * 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.
READ MORE...
Global LGBT Forum, Day 2: Salzburg Global Fellows in High-Level Meeting with German State Secretary for Family Affairs
Global LGBT Forum, Day 2: Salzburg Global Fellows in High-Level Meeting with German State Secretary for Family Affairs
Sudeshan Reddy and Klaus Mueller 
Ralf Kleindiek, the State Secretary at the German Ministry of Family Affairs, welcomed the Global LGBT* Forum for a lunch meeting at the ministry on Monday, May 19 in Berlin.  Newly in his position since January 2014, he emphasized that the ministry is currently reviewing its policies on all LGBT-related questions to ensure and advance equality. He especially wanted to know how German policies and discussions on marriage equality, adoption, transgender rights and the safety of LGBT teenagers are perceived around the globe. Olga Lenkova, spokesperson for Coming Out, a St. Petersburg, Russia-based LGBT support group, explained how Russian media and politicians use homo- and transphobia that is expressed in Germany, or other Western countries, to highlight that even in Western Europe there is no full support for marriage equality and full adoption rights. The lack of marriage equality for example in Germany is highlighted as a commonality between Russia and Germany. She stressed that the influence of the lack of full equality, in both marriage and adoption rights, can't be underestimated in its usage for anti-LGBT propaganda both in media and legislation in her home country. Wanja Kilber, Chairman of the Board of Quarteera, an organization of Russian speaking LGBT people in Germany, added that the virulent homo- and transphobia of the current Russian government is also exported to other countries, not only neighboring states, but countries such as Germany. He cited the example of where Russian foundations recently financed a conference in Leipzig that brought together leading right-wing homophobic representatives from Russia, France, and Germany.  He outlined that for example the recent massive protest against school education for more tolerance and non-discrimination in the German state of Baden-Württemberg was highly influenced by Russian propaganda on the so-called protection of family, showcasing how interconnected global influences have become. Increasingly, Kilber’s NGO has had to support Russian LGBT refugees whose numbers have multiplied ten-fold over the past year. Dennis Wamala, a human rights activist from Uganda, talked about the growing numbers of LGBT teenagers becoming homeless because they are expelled by their families in reaction to the state-sponsored homophobic legislation and public hate campaigns. Landlords now evict LGBT tenants and cite the newly passed law as the reason.  On a more positive note, Dan Zhou, a lawyer from China, reported that the second annual conference for LGBT activists in Beijing, funded by the United Nations Development Program and organized by the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute, had the approval of Chinese government departments and the China Family Planning Association. Other members of the Global LGBT Forum shared both positive and negative developments in several African countries including South Africa, India, and the MENA region, which deeply affect family structures and cohesion. Kleindiek thanked the group for the many insights and concrete examples which showed that national discussions and legislation in Germany can influence LGBT human rights in other countries, and vice versa. Kleindiek invited the group to stay in touch with him and expressed his hope for a follow-up meeting.
The Salzburg Global Fellows in Berlin, with the support and partnership of the German Federal Foreign Office, are taking part in the high-level program Creating Long-Term Global Networks to Sustain LGBT Human Rights Organizations and will be conducting meetings with the German Foreign Office, representatives of foreign embassies, human rights groups, and other select partners. For meeting summaries and Tweets, please see the session page: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/545 and the Twitter hashtag #SGSlgbt * 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.
READ MORE...
Global LGBT Forum, Day 2: Salzburg Global Fellows in High-Level Meeting with German Minister for Human Rights
Global LGBT Forum, Day 2: Salzburg Global Fellows in High-Level Meeting with German Minister for Human Rights
Sudeshan Reddy and Klaus Mueller 
Christoph Straesser, the German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, met the Global LGBT* Forum at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday, May 19 in Berlin.  Having commenced his work in January 2014 in this position, the Commissioner gave a clear message:  “Strengthening human rights across the world is a priority of Germany’s foreign policy. To achieve this goal, building sustainable networks of human rights defenders is of course of central importance. These can be formalized networks in the form of human rights organizations like those that many of you represent, but also more fluid networks, such as the one you are building with the Global LGBT Forum.”  He explained that the German Federal Foreign Office decided to support this growing network as it “allows a multitude of stakeholders, including Foreign Services, to join and participate on an ad hoc basis, in accordance with their own financial or time-related resources.” For his work, this “facilitates the flow of information and in turn the choice of support measures which actors wishing to support the human rights of LGBTI persons in the world make.”  Mr Straesser expressed his hope that the exchanges over the next two days will provide an opportunity to discuss these issues and that the Global LGBT Forum “will be able to provide the Ministry with a deepened insight into your work and thus assist them in choosing the right measures of support, and that the Ministry will be able to provide the Forum with information that will be helpful in the design of strategies to promote the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons through your work.” 
The Salzburg Global Fellows in Berlin, with the support and partnership of the German Federal Foreign Office, are taking part in the high-level program Creating Long-Term Global Networks to Sustain LGBT Human Rights Organizations and will be conducting meetings with the German Foreign Office, representatives of foreign embassies, human rights groups, and other select partners. For daily updates and Tweets, please see the session page: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/545 and the Twitter hashtag #SGSlgbt * 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.
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Global LGBT Forum, Day 1: No Compassion Without Passion
Global LGBT Forum, Day 1: No Compassion Without Passion
Sudeshan Reddy and Klaus Mueller 
As the returning Salzburg Global Fellows and the three new members of the Global LGBT* Forum network arrived in Berlin, participants began the three-day program updating each other on developments since the inaugural Global LGBT Forum held at Salzburg Global Seminar in June 2013.  In Uganda and Russia especially, the security of human rights defenders has deteriorated considerably while reports from Latin America, China, South Africa and Europe gave some reason for hope. In fact it seems that despite the negative as well the positive developments, LGBT human rights are finally recognized as an important issue for societies across the world to deal with. In a series of discussions, the group grappled with the question: “What can we do to advance LGBT human rights?” The consensus was that the struggles LGBT activists are finally getting global attention for what they actually are – fundamental human rights. The chair of the session, Klaus Mueller asked if this current period is indeed a golden age for LGBT rights, and, if so, how do can those working in the field secure long-term change before the global spotlight moves away. Olga Lenkova, spokesperson for Coming Out, a St. Petersburg, Russia-based LGBT support group, emphasized the need for donor countries in particular not to be paternalistic and prescriptive. If we want to change things globally, we all need to understand that there is no perfect place, she argued. Venezuelan human rights advocate and law professor, Tamara Adrian highlighted the need to have a global strategy that can work with local tactics. It is important to look at the big picture, she posited, but it is also critical to work within the local context and understand local partners and their distinct situations and challenges. For a global strategy, LGBT rights activists need to have a clear vision of sexual rights as well as the right to sexual identity and expression, and for these to be mentioned at every possible level at the UN. Many countries are not willing to change their position on LGBT rights unless they face a global challenge. Geeta Misra, executive director of CREA, a feminist human rights organization in India, reinforced the need to move beyond the narrow confines of LGBT rights only.  It is important that one takes a stand across related human rights issues, she argued. We need to stand for something bigger than the identity-based work as this loses people who don’t identify as LGBT. Related to this point, Dennis Wamala, program manager for Icebreakers Uganda, cited the example of the establishment in Uganda of an umbrella civil society group comprising 60 organizations with a human rights mandate. Thus if anyone is speaking about rights, they are speaking for all human rights which are after all linked. Concurring with this, Pooja Bandarith, also from CREA, stressed that all prejudice has similar roots including patriarchy and paternalism, and there is a need to see when one should talk from a narrow approach versus a broader approach. For Dan Zhou, a lawyer from China, communication is a skill that is much-needed in the LGBT sector and capacity building here is key.  He cautioned that anger is not always a useful weapon and that LGBT activists instead should rather use passion.  If there is no passion, it is difficult for us to generate compassion, he added. After the discussion, the group visited the Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and the Memorial to the Homosexuals persecuted under the Nazi regime. In addition, the Salzburg Global Fellows also discussed the impact of the 1933 book-burning where many publications and books from the first LGBT institution ‘The Institute for Sexual Science’ were destroyed, before visiting the memorial to the book burning in Berlin.                                                                       
The Salzburg Global Fellows in Berlin, with the support and partnership of the German Federal Foreign Office, are taking part in the high-level program Creating Long-Term Global Networks to Sustain LGBT Human Rights Organizations and will be conducting meetings with the German Foreign Office, representatives of foreign embassies, human rights groups, and other select partners. For daily updates and Tweets, please see the session page: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/545 and the Twitter hashtag #SGSlgbt * 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.
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For more videos with our Global LGBT Forum members, click here