CHIANG RAI – The start of the four-day Salzburg Global LGBT Forum with a program focusing on â€œThe Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion.â€ After previously taking place in Salzburg, Austria, and Berlin, the forum has convened in Chiang Rai, Thailand, for the first time on October 3, 2016.
The Ambassadors to Thailand from Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as lawmakers from Bhutan and Venezuela participated on the panel, titled “Strengthening International Connections,” moderated by the Honourable Michael Kirby, former Justice of the High Court of Australia.
The panel of ambassadors and lawmakers at the Salzburg Global LGBT ForumÂ said that Government and civil society from across the globe must work together to identity strategic opportunities and leverage each otherâ€™s strengths to further advance the human rights and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
The panel was part of a week-long global forum on LGBTI inclusion with more than 50 advocates, artists, government representatives and human rights experts from Asia-Pacific and beyond, and was organized by Salzburg Global Seminar and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The panel agreed on the importance of building coalitionsâ€Šâ€”â€Šbe they within the LGBTI community, between the LGBTI community, governments and development partners, or with other civil society organizations that deal with other marginalized populations. Building these bridges, particularly with governments and state structures, can contribute greatly towards turning advocacy into legal reform and policy change.
The LGBTI Forum was first organized by Dr. Klaus Muller in 2013 as part of the Salzburg Global Seminar, with the aim to advance equal rights for LGBT people across the world. Today, the forum connects representatives from more than 60 countries.
AdriÃ¡n, the first openly trans person to be elected to the Venezuelan National Assembly, has been involved since the beginning.
â€œIt is a unique forum for reflecting about deep and relevant issues affecting LGBT people and their lives,â€ she said.
The range of matters covered is broad: from family issues, to strengthening international ties with government ministries and agencies and now, trans Asian perspectives.
â€œThis year we wanted to expand the global footprint by traveling to Thailand and partnering with UNDPâ€™s Being LGBTI in Asia program â€” a regional initiative to reduce marginalization and exclusion of LGBTI people,â€ said Hallman.
Of the 52 participants taking part in Chiang Rai, 32 are from Asia. These include journalists, filmmakers, legislators, formers judges, ambassadors and academics along with activists.
Participating in the forum is Ahmed â€œDannyâ€ Ramadan, an LGBT refugee activist who was born in Syria and immigrated to Canada in 2014.
â€œThe conference is significant in its representation of global activists in the LGBT community, and bringing them together to sit down and participate in network building, professional development and storytelling sessions,â€ he said.
However, the focus isnâ€™t just on the professional experiences of the participants, but also on personal stories.
â€œI have felt a lot of difficult emotions as we sat down to discuss the situation in Bangladesh and the death of the LGBTQ activists,â€ Ramadan told the Blade. â€œAs we sat there hearing first-hand accounts of those attacks I felt the privilege of being in a safe country where Iâ€™m protected by the laws and the society from such attacks.â€
AdriÃ¡n has especially been affected by the stories concerning difficulties faced by LGBTI people in Asia.
â€œThis contradicts the idea that Asia is a quite tolerant region,â€ she said. â€œThe struggle and lack of recognition is, at least, equal to the faced in many other parts of the world.â€
â€œNo matter where we come from, our family backgrounds or our religious beliefs, I was touched by all the stories I heard, but more touched by knowing that our movement is growing and becoming even more strong in the fight for real equality worldwide.â€ said Mariano Ruiz, the Latin America and Caribbean Outreach and Communications Officer for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
Moving forward, Ramadan is also optimistic about the good work the forum can achieve.
â€œIâ€™m very thankful Iâ€™m becoming part of this global network and I look forward to all of the great work we can do together,â€ he said.
Source: Maximilian Sycamore,