Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Hirschfeld-Eddy-Foundation, the German partner of ERA supporting this conference, it‘s my pleasure to share some thoughts with you at the beginning of this conference.
The Hirschfeld-Eddy-Foundation is the LGBTI-Human Rights Foundation of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany. The foundation started in 2007 and since then, it provides concrete hands-on assistance, through international networking and cooperation with partner organizations in the global South and Eastern Europe, for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexual (LGBTI) people under threat.
To raise the awareness, that equal rights and equal treatment of LGBTI-people are part of the civil and human rights — which are universal and indivisible — this is a significant part of the foundations work. This fight focuses on the worldwide abolition of criminalization of homosexuality, the implementation of anti-discrimination laws and legal enforcement of anti-discrimination standards, as well as the enhancement of acceptance in society. As foundation, we are more than thankful for the important and intensive support through the German foreign ministry. That support gives us the base for our cooperation, and shows the support of our government for LGBTI rights.
To reach those goals, it needs a network of partner-organizations, with which we can work sustainably together. Our engagement on the Balkans started 2013 with Labris and the support of conferences in Belgrade 2014 and 2015 and with ERA since its founding in September 2015, which led to the conference in Pristina in 2016 and continues with this conference and a following visit of activists from the Balkans and Turkey in Berlin in November this year. Our strong partnership will continue in 2018 in working on the three important necessities, which are the main theme of this conference: Empower, Challenge and Transform. Three lessons we had to face and we are still facing in Germany as well.
First, it is so important for a successful work of LGBTI activists and NGOs to have strong allies and good friends, which stand together in solidarity and with whom you can exchange experience, review and verify your plans and get assistance and backing, because ‑as we all know- we are on a long-distance way. This way often is not direct and we always face up and downs.
Second, even in the year 2017 we are often still living in a homophobic and transphobic surrounding. Sure, there has been made a lot of progress in the last decades, but we are facing the problems of a backlash around the world. Through religious or political extremists, state sponsored homophobia and transphobia and conservative traditionalists and right-wing populists in many countries. This is a challenge we must face and fight against together with our straight allies.
Third, for a future, in which the first sentence of the declaration of the human rights: “All human beings are equal and have same rights” is globally and unanimously recognized, we must change the attitudes in our societies in a sustainable and fundamental way. Education and enlightenment are the key words.
Europe must play a key role in this global fight. And therefore, it is so important, that we understand Europe and the EU not only as an economic community but as a community of values.
In Germany we are finally happy, that starting with 1.st October we have equal marriage rights. After 25 years of fighting for this, on June 30th. the law passed the Bundestag, the German Parliament. There are still enough laws to change, concerning the rights of transgender or intersex people, but we moved a big step ahead. We still need a nationwide anti-homophobic and anti-transphobic action plan, and we must not ease up in our steady attempts to develop our society into a more tolerant one, where everyone has equal rights and equal protection regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.
So, together with my colleague Klaus Jetz, the director of LSVD and our foundation, I am happy to be part of this conference and to exchange ideas with you all, making new contacts and friends and to strengthen our LGBTI network. And I´d like to take the opportunity to thank ERA, specially Dragana and Amarildo for their work in organizing this conference.
So let‘s start, empowering each other, accept and solve the challenges ahead and transform our societies in better ones: accepting the LGBTI community and every minority as full part of society, with equal rights for all citizens.