LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Theme: Stronger Together

'Stronger Together' theme with the conference logo

This is the year in which we celebrate 50 years of Stonewall, a moment to acknowledge the journey and celebrate our incredible collective achievements. Around the world Stonewall is considered the start of the ‘modern LGBT(I) movement’. 

We know we owe a lot of the tremendous progress we know today in so many parts of our region to activist who were working on the liberation of our communities long before Stonewall. It is thanks to them, and the several generations of activists they inspired that we achieve great changes in laws, policies and attitudes in Europe over the past decades.

Yet, we also know that our gains are fragile and that the journey for equality is not complete. This year ILGA-Europe sounded the alarm bell about real rollback. There is a real sense of urgency in taking action both to continue  gaining protection and acceptance and to withstand very serious attempts to undermine our human rights. We are equally concerned about the state of democracy in the world: put simply, it is hard to disassociate the very real pressure that LGBTI communities experience in parts of the region and globally from forces of authoritarianism and populism. We also cannot separate the struggles our communities experience from ever widening economic inequalities.

Sadly, we start witnessing good policies being removed, political support disappearing, places that previously felt relatively safe becoming more unsafe. We have always known that guarantees of lasting equality are never fully achieved, but we are now seeing just how important it is to ensure that, in these uncertain political and social climates, that our incredible achievements do not regress. Year after year we are reminded of the importance of safeguarding rights yet to be recognised and of ensuring we do not see rollback on those rights we have won. And we are acting with all of our strength, defiance, determination and courage – as fiercely as ever.

All this is happening at a time when we are also assessing the imperfections within our own movement. Perhaps more than ever, we are becoming aware of the many voices from our communities which have been left behind and continue to remain too often unheard. There is no doubt that we need to do this self-examination as a movement: what does our diversity look like? Who is in our spaces and who is not? How do we make sure that our beautiful rainbow umbrella allows for each colour to shine in full equality? These questions are essential and challenging at the same time. They carry their share of hurt, pain, discomfort, anger and fear. We can let ourselves fall into the trap of letting these emotions take over our better selves, and let them be used to divide us. Or we can examine these very legitimate emotions, name and understand them, learn to better understand and see each other, and move forward together.

How do we figure out how to come together, truly, around shared goals? How do celebrate and elevate our rich diverse voices to make sure everyone is heard, while affirming our common humanity? How do we make sure none of us forget that we do have so much more in common than what divides us? Can we find unity around a common purpose? Those are some of urgent and crucial questions we have to ask ourselves, if we are to continue making real change happen to LGBTI people in all their diversities across our region and beyond.

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