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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.

Now is the time to create a Global LGBT Forum. A space where all those working to advance LGBT human rights can come together to further progress, reflect on new challenges and opportunities, and consider the next steps to secure the safety, free expression and assembly, and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and communities.

We, the sixty participants at Salzburg Global’s session on ‘LGBT and Human Rights: New Challenges, Next Steps’ (June 2–7, 2013), came together from over 30 countries to launch the Global LGBT Forum. The following principles and recommendations are a result of our discussions. They are not exhaustive or prescriptive. We hope they serve to deepen future conversations and help us to reach out and build broader alliances across law, politics, activism and culture.

Click here to download the full Statement in pdf format.

Letter to
Everyone working to advance human rights for LGBT people and communities
Principles and Recommendations to advance LGBT human rights

Who should we work with?

Strength comes in numbers. We need to form broad alliances within LGBT communities and outside them, nurturing collaboration. New alliances can engage religious leaders and the corporate sector, when appropriate, and identify new partners. This inclusive approach should inform all areas of LGBT human rights work, from campaigns to fundraising.

What do we need to do and where?

Our efforts must be firmly grounded in the fundamental principles of universal human rights, but a global approach to LGBT issues that does not take local contexts into account may not be the answer. Understanding local cultures, economies and politics is essential to initiate and safeguard lasting change and achieve recognition of the same rights for all people. Embedding human rights principles in social, political, medical or economic contexts can contribute to a better understanding and greater impact over time.

Global campaigns need a unifying message with broad appeal and clear, realistic objectives. However, their phrasing and presentation should be designed with input from both local and global stakeholders. Although such campaigns can raise the visibility of LGBT struggles and expose violence against LGBT people, public exposure can also worsen dangerous situations. Sensitivity and caution are essential.

How can international law help?

Legal strategies to combat discrimination can differ at global and regional levels. Regular review mechanisms and litigation on the basis of existing international human rights law should be pursued, alongside the development of global and/or regional conventions on LGBT equality. Action within the United Nations framework is important to set global minimum standards. UN achievements on LGBT rights must be protected, and this means that we need to remain constantly engaged.

The UN and its entities should establish or adapt structures to address human rights issues specifically related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Gathering reliable data on threats confronting LGBT people is a key next step. Gender identity and sexual orientation need to be incorporated into procedures for documenting and monitoring human rights violations around the world.

How do we fund our work?

Donor countries should be careful about making development aid conditional on the advancement of LGBT rights. This can, and has, backfired in the past. Donors should not be prescriptive, but understand local contexts and listen to advice from local organizations on the ground.

LGBT organizations need to be strategic in identifying donors, and understand their respective conditions and agendas. Reliance on a single funder should be avoided, to prevent being subject to shifting changing donor interests.

Defining long-term goals can communicate the vision of the society we are helping to build. We need to demonstrate how our work contributes to overall social cohesion to make our projects more appealing and fundable.

How should we network and communicate?

Global, national and regional coalitions can help share information and promote democratic, transparent, inclusive and non-racist networks. In order for all to actively engage in such networks, building capacity is essential.

Mutual respect, deeper collaboration and the sharing of expertise and resources between and within the Global North and the Global South can strengthen effective international action. We commit to dialogue with all groups founded on the belief of full equality for all.

How can we use art and the media as tools for change?

Telling our stories challenges misrepresentations of sexual and gender diversity as well as dominant patriarchal and hetero-normative values. Increasing the visibility of LGBT people and communities in mainstream and alternative media and spaces is a key step to counter homo-lesbo-transphobia.

Culture and art are essential to dialogue on political and social change. Artists sharing ideas, experiences and collaborations can empower those working on LGBT issues. Skills building and appropriate financial resources are vital to advance dialogue, collaboration and visibility.

We need to work with all media to develop standards to ensure dignified and accurate representation. Social media has become a major global tool for activism and advocacy. However, hate speech, online security, censorship and the digital divide are challenges that need to be confronted.

How can we address the urgency of transgender rights?

Transgender people across the world face threats to their lives and safety. Governments, legal institutions, faith leaders and the media must fulfil their responsibilities to safeguard human lives and challenge transphobia.

The Salzburg Statement of shared principles and recommendations is accompanied by a comprehensive report on the conversations and topics addressed by this first Global LGBT Forum. We hope this statement allows us to begin conversations on many levels.

The views expressed in this Statement are those of session participants individually and should not be taken to represent those of any organizations to which they are affiliated

Salzburg Global Seminar is an independent non-profit organization founded in 1947 whose mission is to challenge present and future leaders to solve issues of global concern. We design and facilitate international strategic convening to drive progress based on Imagination, Sustainability and Justice. Salzburg Global Seminar hopes that this Statement by participants at our session on LGBT and Human Rights: New Challenges and Next Steps (June 2-7, 2013) will pave the way for a Global LGBT Forum to address interconnected issues surrounding LGBT, human rights and wellbeing.