LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey
In the past 10-15 years the LGBTI movement in the Western Balkans and Turkey (WB&T) region has recognized remarkable progress. New legislation which decriminalized homosexuality has been passed and significant legal protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and in some rarer cases gender identity has been provided. The main promoters of such changes have been LGBTI people themselves organized firstly into groups and later on many of them transforming into large, professional LGBTI organizations with varied programs and projects focusing on lobby and advocacy, research, education, capacity building, community empowerment, awareness raising etc. The biggest contributors to these changes have been friends and allies of LGBTI people across the western world. Many countries have assisted LGBTI organizations and groups with funds and political support. EU integration also, has significantly impacted reforms and human rights have steadily taken a stronger role in the process of negotiations. Often the above dynamics have been speeded up by the significant increase in presence and access to technology and the internet, by the proliferation of international programs and networks assisting LGBTI organizations in their capacities and of course by the integration policies of the countries in the region.
However, this progress is in no way guaranteed to be straight-forward. All countries of the region have now reached a stage where passing legislation and subsequent amendments have not yet been able to reach the LGBTI population. Problems are visible in all areas concerning implementation such as protection from violence and discrimination, bullying and harassment, increased hate speech in media and social networks, poor or inadequate access to health services, lack of legislation recognizing the rights of trans or intersex people etc. Particularly neglect and total lack of information and awareness has been noticed on the issues and rights of intersex people. LGBTI people within the youth, women and minority groups, movements and networks are mainly invisible and intersectionalities are far from assessed and observed.
In the past 4-5 years several governments have attempted to design and implement national or local action plans. These have mostly been unsuccessful in their implementation or follow up. Governments still lack the political will and consensus to spend taxpayer’s money on LGBTI issues, failing to recognize the latter’s social, economic and political roles. Action plans have also been unsuccessful in engaging different governmental departments to work on LGBTI rights and take specific actions. LGBTI organizations have had varying degrees of success in engaging with state authorities during complex times of negotiations and reform. With some progress achieved in some countries a lot of work remains to be done.
In such context ERA’s first Annual Conference will focus on exploring ways how to narrow the gap between legislation and the community, bringing the issues of justice and implementation more at the center of the movement by discussing current gaps and challenges and by bringing forward ideas, suggestions, models and mechanisms for more effective engagement and better results at implementation.
1. To promote a stronger and closer cooperation between national state authorities (Governments, Parliaments, and Equality Bodies) and the local LGBTI movements;
2. To initiate a regional inter-governmental platform as a way for national authorities to exchange best practices, evaluate progress and increase capacities;
3. To encourage a closer engagement of LGBTI organizations with EU integration processes as countries intensify their efforts in joining the European Union.
4. To assist member organizations and supporters in discussing and identifying priorities for action in the area of rule of law, EU integration, public campaigning and community mobilization;
5. To increase the visibility of the LGBTI movement in Kosovo and promote a closer involvement of government institutions in the protection and advancement of LGBTI rights in the country;
Kosovo is recognized as one of the countries with the most advanced human rights legal framework in the WB&T region. However the same cannot be said about the effective implementation of these laws and the subsequent policies. Recent studies show that prejudices against LGBTI persons are amongst the highest in the region while awareness on the issues and problems faced by the community are very low. Such contrast makes the role of this Conference even more relevant for Kosovo especially in the face of strong contradictions between positions of country leaders and daily realities of LGBTI people.
Pristina, the host city of the conference, is a vibrant town spread among several hills with a mixture of styles and the typical chaos of a young capital. The city is recognized for its youthful population and the alternative music and party scene as well as for people’s hospitality and excellent food. In coordination with the host organizations venues for the conference and side events have already been selected. Accessibility, safety and functionality have adequately been assessed. Government institutions have expressed their support in terms of representation, participation, and security.
Conference is organized by ERA in partnership with the Center for Equality and Liberty and the Center for Social Group Development from Kosovo.
Conference is supported by the European Commission, Federal Foreign Office of Germany, Hirschfeld –Eddy-Foundation, USAID / ATRC and Government of the Republic of Kosovo.