In our international work, Stonewall shares, consults and partners with peer organisations from all over the world.
But it’s only every two years at the ILGA World Conference that those most actively campaigning to change hearts and minds, overturn discriminatory laws and improve the lives of all lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex people, have an opportunity to meet en masse.
ILGA is a worldwide federation of 1,200 LGBTI organisations. This month, my colleague Alysha Khambay and I represented Stonewall at their five-day 2016 conference in Bangkok, Thailand.
It was their biggest ever event, with 700 participants!
Here’s a summary of the top ten things we learned:
1. ILGA conferences are an essential and rare opportunity to collaborate and learn from organisations that share Stonewall’s goal of acceptance without exception for all LGBT people.
Meetings like this help to reduce the isolation of LGBTI campaigners and maximise our opportunity to drive positive change.
2. As a national LGBT organisation with 28 years of experience in the UK, Stonewall has a lot to share, but also lots to learn.
We met inspiring activists with their own diverse strategies that can help us to improve our own work at home.
3. Other UK-based organisations also have an important role in supporting global LGBT rights.
For example, at an evening event we co-organised with a regional partner (APCOM) and the UK Embassy in Thailand, we brought together Asian campaigners, diplomats and journalists to discuss LGBTI issues in the region.
4. The United Nations recently appointed the first ever Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
We heard directly from the successful candidate, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn. I was really inspired by what he had to say and the opportunity he has to make progress towards global LGBT equality. It’s vital that the role is supported and protected. Just this week, a challenge at the United Nations was narrowly defeated by 7 votes, pointing to the need to heal international divisions.
5. Lots has already been achieved by LGBT organisations engaging with the United Nations.
A tool activists have used to support this work, the Yogyakarta Principles, celebrated its 10th Anniversary this year. Watch this short video for more background on what the Principles are and what they mean for global LGBT equality.
6. The Sustainable Development Goals (agreed in 2015) commit governments to making sure no-one is left behind.
That means no-one, without exception on the basis of sexuality or gender identity. Stonewall will continue making this case to our governments and others.
7. Inclusive education is major priority of the LGBTI movement.
At a day-long session, we shared our UK experience with others who are doing inspiring work with schools, students and parents.
8. There is a growing international trans movement, working to achieve equality, recognition and an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
The new International Trans Fund has been announced to address a critical funding gap. If you are part of a trans-led organisation, you may be eligible (deadline in February)!
9. Bi activists around the world face shared challenges: bi erasure, harmful stereotypes and exclusion from LGBTI projects and spaces.
We attended ILGA’s first bi pre-conference, with the aim to tackle these challenges and ensure acceptance without exception for all bi people.
10. Many positive steps have been made in Thailand, but there is still lots to do!
At an event hosted by Thai organisations, we marked World Aids Day and learned about the context where we were meeting.
This years’ ILGA World Conference confirmed to us how important it is for Stonewall to be engaged at the international level and to build on the work we have already done. We look forward to the next meeting in New Zealand in 2018!