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Linell Letendre - Justice Requires a Culture of Leadership, Professionalism and Respect
Linell Letendre - Justice Requires a Culture of Leadership, Professionalism and Respect
Oscar Tollast 

As Colonel Linell Letendre spoke in front of her fellow participants at the 15th symposium of the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA), her charge was to discuss how the concept of justice and diversity has changed in the United States military over the past 70 years.

Letendre, permanent professor and head of the Department of Law at the United States Air Force Academy, reflected on integration efforts concerning race, gender, and sexual orientation. This approach was to see if any lessons could be learned for society-at-large – both the good and the bad.

In March 2010, then-US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates issued a directive for a working group to conduct a comprehensive review of the issues linked to repealing the policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). The policy had prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing service personnel and applicants about their sexual orientation (“don’t ask”) – but it had in turn also prohibited all servicemen and women from being open about their sexual orientation on threat of dismissal (“don’t tell”). Letendre was a part of this group, working as a legal advisor and as an editor for the subsequent report.

During their research, Letendre and others looked at integration efforts involving race and gender and the responses from serving personnel interviewed about it at the time.

Speaking to Salzburg Global during the symposium, Letendre says, “In the mid-‘40s to the late ‘40s, when the service members were interviewed, over 80 percent were violently against any sort of racial integration of the services. We saw similar percentages with respect to gender when we began more gender integration across specialities and particular jobs across the service.

“In contrast, in 2010, when a very large survey [on DADT] was done of the Department of Defence, we saw almost a complete reversal of that [percentage]. Approximately, 70 percent of the service members essentially said, ‘Well, this isn’t  going to be that big a deal,’ and only 30 percent had any sort of concerns about open service of gay and lesbian service members.”

In July 2011, after receiving recommendations from military leaders, then-US President Barack Obama certified to Congress that the US armed forces were prepared for the repeal of DADT. On September 20 that year, the policy was successfully repealed and no longer in effect in the Department of Defense.

Letendre admits there is speculation as to why the survey responses differ for each experience of integration. She says, “When we were racially integrating the military, that was taking place in the late ‘40s, early ‘50s, and we still had Jim Crow laws across the South that had a required societal segregation as opposed to integration. The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in contrast was coming at a time when LGBT rights were an integral part of society. It’s just a very different aspect when you think about the civilian versus military and where each was at the time of integration efforts.”

From a military perspective, Letendre says there are three things which are fundamental for justice to take place. She says, “It requires a culture and a climate of leadership, professionalism, and respect. If you can foster that climate where everyone – from the private soldier or the young airman all the way up to the senior leaders – is demonstrating those three attributes... I think it goes a long way toward achieving that ideal that we talk about, the American Dream: that ideal of justice and fairness and an equal opportunity for all to succeed.”

Last year’s SSASA program – Life and Justice in America: Implications of the New Administration – was divided up into three themes: 70 years of trends and events, quality of life and opportunity, and fairness and justice.  Letendre says the conversations taking place were “critically important.”
She says, “I think conversations like the ones we’re having here in Salzburg where we think about how various disciplines are concerned about what justice means can only help us to inform and have better dialogue in the pursuit of what the American Dream is.”

In her position at the United States Air Force Academy, Letendre leads a team of staff, which is responsible for the design and teaching of 19 core and elective law courses, legal support to the administration of the Cadet Honor System, and the development of officers of character for the US Air Force.

When asked what inspires her to do the work that she does, she says, “One amazing part of being a professor is that you’re part of the education and learning of the next generation and the next leadership generation. That’s no different at the United States Air Force Academy where we take very seriously the idea of developing leaders of character.

“Being a part of  that   – to develop our nation’s future leaders who have within them a sense of purpose, a sense of character and understanding of the rule of law and the appropriate place for justice and so forth – that’s what   inspires me not only to come here and have that conversation with other individuals from around the world in Salzburg, but that also inspires me to be a professor at the United States Air Force Academy.”

Read more in our new session report


Download the report as a PDF

Colonel Linell Letendre was a participant of the Salzburg Global program Life and Justice in America: Implications of the New Administration, which is part of Salzburg Global’s multi-year series Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA). More information on the session can be found here. You can follow all of the discussions on Twitter by following the hashtag #SSASA.

Katrina Scotto di Carlo - Serving People and Profit at the Local Level
Katrina Scotto di Carlo - Serving People and Profit at the Local Level
Oscar Tollast 

During the third session of the Salzburg Global Forum on Corporate Governance – The Courageous Director: Can Corporations Better Serve People, Planet, and Profit? – participants were asked to consider what attributes make a director “courageous.” Katrina Scotto di Carlo, co-founder of Placemaker, a tech platform for independent businesses, says she finds this question “surprisingly difficult” to answer.

Fittingly, Scotto di Carlo considered this question, and others posed to her while sitting in Max Reinhardt’s former office at Schloss Leopoldskron. Reinhardt was a director of a different kind, but one who achieved widespread recognition as a major theater figure of the 20th Century. Scotto di Carlo says the director, in a boardroom sense, also has to help hold many of the pieces together – not of a play, but of a business.

“I really think we’re stepping into some uncertain times and some major instability globally. It’s a time when people will have to stand up from all sectors and be courageous,” she says.

“I do believe corporations have a really important role to play, and the question is whether they’ll play that role.”

Scotto di Carlo, who considered herself somewhat of an outsider at the session, says, “I find that my role in nearly every business meeting is the same here as it is everywhere else, which I didn’t expect. That role is often to be the really weird thinker. I think that the way I come at problems is just really different. As a kid, I would get penalized for it because a lot of teachers thought I was joking. Nowadays, it is seen as helpful, but my mind is somewhat overly creative. In a business setting, it poses interesting questions.”

Beyond defining what it means to be “courageous,” participants at the third session of the Salzburg Global Forum on Corporate Governance also explored the second half of the session title: “Can Corporations Better Serve People, Planet and Profit?” Much of the focus of the three-day discussion was on the multinational/planet level. But for Scotto di Carlo, this question is just as important at the local/community level.

Scotto di Carlo played an instrumental role in her local community in Portland, Oregon, USA, as a member of the City of Portland’s Socially Responsible Investments Committee. The efforts by her and others led to Portland City Council divesting from all corporate securities in April 2017.

Looking back at why this decision was made, she says: “The city looked at just like the huge commotion that was coming out of this and they said, ‘You know what? This isn’t why we were elected. We were elected to deal with the homeless population. We were elected to deal with the housing situation. We weren’t elected to spend hours and hours and hours on this investment piece, so we’re just going to divest.’”

Each year, the council will review the investment policy and decide whether it should be changed. Scotto di Carlo says, “The biggest fear I have is that that’s not the solution to divesting. That means we only have US Treasuries to invest in, which with Trump is like an unknown. The solution would be that we look at a municipal bank like the Bank of North Dakota or something like this... The City of Portland is not putting anywhere near the amount of resources needed to create that solution currently. When April comes, it’s going to be: we killed this vehicle, we didn’t build another one.”

Scotto di Carlo believes one of the problems with municipal governments is what they choose to measure as investment. She adds: “To me, a really interesting challenge would be how we measure the overall investment and using investment in the broadest definition possible to understand what it means to invest in community, what municipal government’s role is, and then how that investment compares to Wall Street.”

WATCH: Placemaker co-founder Katrina Scotto di Carlo explains the City of Portland Council's decision to divest of all corporate securities

The Socially Responsible Investment Committee featured six members representing different domains. Scotto di Carlo was selected to capitalize on her expertise of independent businesses. Placemaker, which was established by Scotto di Carlo and her husband in Michael in 2010, was design to help support independent businesses in Portland. Scotto di Carlo describes it as a “loyalty program to the community, not just an individual business.”

Users of the platform can earn and spend points anywhere in their town. Information is stored on their Placemaker card or mobile app. Scotto di Carlo says, “It makes it so that the experience of shopping and eating local is one experience that you share in the community rather than you just going to separate businesses. You feel like you’re going into a solid community where every business is working together.”

The platform was launched as an experiment. Di Carlo concedes she didn’t realize how much work it would be, but other communities have since come on board with networks popping up in Victoria, BC, Canada, and Western Massachusetts and Monadnock, NH, USA. Placemaker seeks community partners such as business associations, municipal governments, and economic development people to get networks off the ground. These partners license Placemaker and distribute it to their independent businesses.

Scotto di Carlo says, “A customer on average, if they engage at a Placemaker business, will go to nine other businesses on the network. That’s the sort of return we’re seeing on the data.” Studies show that local businesses recirculate a greater share of every dollar in their local economy than national chains. One such study, conducted by Civic Economics in Monadnock showed that independent retailers saw a local recirculation of revenue rate of 62 percent, versus 13 percent by national chains.

Commenting on money staying local, Scotto di Carlo says, “That ability for one customer’s experience in an independent business to create community wealth is real, and it’s perhaps one of the most approachable ways that an individual citizen can create community wealth. It’s just shopping, eating local, and providing money for the people that live there – their neighbors.”

Scotto di Carlo attended The Salzburg Global program The Courageous Director: Can Corporations Better Serve People, Planet, and Profit?, which is part of the multi-year series, the Salzburg Global Forum on Corporate Governance. The session is being supported by Shearman & Sterling LLP, BNY Mellon, UBS, Barclays, CLP Group, Goldman Sachs, and Teledyne Technologies. More information on the session can be found here.

Report now online Building a Global Community - Salzburg Global LGBT Forum: The First Five Years
Report now online Building a Global Community - Salzburg Global LGBT Forum: The First Five Years
Louise Hallman 

Since 1947, Salzburg Global Seminar has challenged current and future leaders to shape a better world. For seventy years, our Fellows have tackled issues of global concern including education, health, environment, economics, governance, peace-building, the rule of law and protection of human rights. 

Since 2013, the advancement of LGBT human rights has joined that list of issues as we seek to shape a better world for everyone – including people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Founded five years ago, the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum was formed to establish a truly global space to reflect upon and advance LGBT human rights discussions around the world. 

Today, the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum is an international network that connects over 150 Fellows in 70 countries across six continents, spanning multiple sectors, generations, cultures and sexual orientations and gender identities.

This new, 200-page publication, Building a Global Community - Salzburg Global LGBT Forum: The First Five Years, chronicles the first five years of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum: the Fellows’ stories that they’ve shared, the wide-ranging issues we’ve addressed, and the impact the Forum has had on individuals, institutions and ideas advancing LGBT human rights around the world.

The report was generously supported by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth

“Fundamental human rights concern us all. The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum brings together queer and straight, representing gender in many expressions, in short: people with overlapping, changing identities. Whether homo-, bi- or heterosexual, cis-, inter- or transgender, our diverse backgrounds and lives are connected by our shared interest to advance LGBT equality globally.”

— Dr. Klaus Mueller, Founder and Chair, Salzburg Global LGBT Forum

Throughout Salzburg Global’s history, the rule of law and protection of human rights have played a central role in our programming and impact – as critical elements for personal dignity and wellbeing, equality and social cohesion, successful economies and effective international relations. With this track record, the decision to create the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum was a natural and logical, yet bold, step.”

— Clare Shine, Vice President and Chief Program Officer, Salzburg Global Seminar

“I am extremely proud of how the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum has advanced human rights... Public understanding and public policy have advanced considerably, but the challenges across the world remain great. The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum is a place where they can be addressed.”

— Stephen L. Salyer, President and Chief Executive Officer, Salzburg Global Seminar

“For our ministry, it has been very important to support the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum financially… For us, it is important to make visible these different situations as they exist in Europe and in other parts of the world, and this includes discussing the problems too. We learn from the LGBT Forum how discussions in Germany influence other countries, and how their discussions in other countries influence us in Germany.”

— Ralf Kleindiek, German State Secretary for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth

Download the report as a PDF

* LGBT: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. We are using this term as it is widely recognized in many parts of the world, but we would not wish it to be read as in any way exclusive of other cultures, groups or terms, either historical or contemporary.

A Message from Our Vice President and Chief Program Officer
A Message from Our Vice President and Chief Program Officer
Clare Shine 

As 2018 gets underway, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your continued engagement with Salzburg Global Seminar. In reflection of a landmark year celebrating Salzburg Global Seminar’s 70th anniversary, I wanted to look back on the journey traveled, new projects and horizons.

Our 2017 theme of “Courage” resonated throughout this turbulent year. The 1947 vision of Salzburg Global’s founders – a “Marshall Plan of the Mind” to revive dialogue and heal rifts across Europe - felt fresh as ever. Cracks widened in societies and institutions across the world, compounded by a mix of insecurity, disillusionment, and isolationism.

Yet the world should be in a better position than ever to tackle common challenges. There is an open marketplace for ideas, innovation, and invention, and opportunities to engage and collaborate are growing fast.

In Salzburg, we are privileged to meet individuals from all walks of life who have the courage to tell truth to power, confront vested interests, express artistic voice and freedom, build coalitions for change, and see through tough choices. In divided societies, people need courage to stay true to their beliefs. Leaders need courage to curb their exercise of power. Together, we need courage to rekindle our collective imagination to rebuild society from the bottom up and the top down.

Three strategies guide our own work for this purpose.

1. Given Salzburg Global’s roots in conflict transformation, our programs seek to bridge divides:

  • Our American Studies series – a discipline born at Schloss Leopoldskron – focused on Life and Justice in America: Implications of the New Administration, including the roots of economic and racial division;
  • The Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change had its highest-ever participation on Voices Against Extremism: Media Responses to Global Populism and published an interactive playbook “Against Populism”;
  • Our Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention series is now applying tools developed in previous years to promote pluralism and tolerance and address issues of radicalization and violent extremism. Pilot projects to test these approaches are under way in five countries (Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa, Morocco, and Egypt) with the potential to expand to other countries;
  • The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum marked its fifth anniversary with a major report assessing the influence and personal impact of a cross-sector network that now spans more than 70 countries and has inspired new partnerships and cultural initiatives.

2. Salzburg Global Seminar aims to inspire new thinking and action on critical issues to transform systems, connecting local innovators and global resources:

3. Salzburg Global seeks to expand collaboration by fostering lasting networks and partnerships:

After six years living in Schloss Leopoldskron and meeting the most diverse and talented people imaginable, I often hear myself describe Salzburg Global Seminar as “deeply human.” 2017 brought many reminders of the special bonds forged during our lifetime and the enduring need to advance trust and openness around the key issues facing today’s world. 

Thank you again for your commitment and recognition of Salzburg Global’s importance in your professional and personal development. We hope you will consider joining other Fellows who have already made a donation to Salzburg Global this year. Please click here to learn more.

With very best wishes from everyone at Salzburg Global Seminar, and we hope to welcome you back to Schloss Leopoldskron in the near future.

Report now online - The Courageous Director - Can Corporations Better Serve People, Planet, and Profit?
Report now online - The Courageous Director - Can Corporations Better Serve People, Planet, and Profit?
Salzburg Global Seminar 

Within the last year, Volkswagen and several of its executives and employees have pled guilty to criminal charges stemming from a scheme to cheat environmental standards; Wells Fargo Bank received a $100 million fine for inducing its employees to secretly and illegally open unauthorized accounts; and Google grappled with how to respond to a leaked internal memo regarding diversity in the workforce that the public perceived as demonstrating male chauvinistic bias. All three corporations faced resounding criticism from shareholders, public and press alike.  

However, also within the last year, Kenneth Frazier, CEO of multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical company Merck was hailed by as “courageous”, “brave” and even “heroic” when he resigned from US President Donald J. Trump’s American Manufacturing Council in August 2017 and publicly declared that his reason for doing so was in protest to Trump’s response to the racially driven events in Charlottesville, VA, days before.

In today’s world, “courageous directors” have unprecedented opportunities to serve as global influencers. Even as private sector leaders achieve fame by engaging socially and championing brands that claim to improve quality of life, consumers, investors and employees increasingly demand that corporations act in ways beneficial to society. Looking forward, boards of directors will need to remain ahead of rapidly-evolving trends and address deceptively simple questions. What does the company seek to achieve, and where does it see its place in society?

Shaping a better world - and corporate sector
Salzburg Global Seminar’s mission is to challenge current and future leaders to shape a better world. Founded in 2015, the Salzburg Global Forum on Corporate Governance seeks to deliver on that mission in the corporate sector.

The third session of the Forum, The Courageous Director: Can Corporations Better Serve People, Planet, and Profit?, held October 2017, explored the role of the corporation as a good citizen, while assessing techniques to keep boards of directors alert, active, and effective in meeting their fiduciary duties in the current and future landscapes. It explored how directors might emerge as global thought leaders, to ensure multinational corporations can succeed both in achieving profit and in satisfying conflicting demands of the jurisdictions and societies in which they operate.

This new report from Salzburg Global Seminar highlights the significant outcomes from the discussions at the two-day high-level meeting, including breakout groups that analyzed the scandals affecting Volkswagen, Wells Fargo, and Google and offered key recommendations for the three corporations. 

The report also includes interviews from many corporate sector leaders, offering insights on what it takes to be a “courageous director”. 

As Salzburg Global Vice President and Chief Program Officer Clare Shine notes: “Today’s corporations are under ever closer scrutiny. Like the rest of society, their operations and culture will have to change radically as the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ gathers pace. Attitudes to power, progress and value are already in flux. Against this backdrop, courage in the boardroom will matter more than ever before.”

Download the report as a PDF

Request a print issue

Salzburg Global LGBT Forum - Building a Global Community
Clare Shine with Salzburg Global LGBT Fellows, Negede Gezahegn and Noël Iglessias, Salzburg Global LGBT Founder and Chair, Klaus Mueller, and Salzburg Global Vice President Benjamin Glahn.
Salzburg Global LGBT Forum - Building a Global Community
Clare Shine 

Since 1947, Salzburg Global Seminar has challenged current and future leaders to solve issues of global concern. Founded in the aftermath of war at a precarious time in world history, Salzburg Global’s young founders imagined a “Marshall Plan of the Mind” – a frontier initiative to regenerate intellectual and cultural exchange and lay the building blocks for peaceful and flourishing societies.

Fast forward 70 years and Salzburg Global has an unbroken track record of connecting change-makers across sectors, regions and generations. Over 30,000 Fellows from 170 countries have come together through our multi-year programs to tackle complex problems and advance leadership and innovation for a better world, and our expanding network of partners has built alliances for systems transformation.

Throughout Salzburg Global’s history, the rule of law and protection of human rights have played a central role in our programming and impact – as critical elements for personal dignity and wellbeing, equality and social cohesion, successful economies and effective international relations. With this track record, the decision to create the
Salzburg Global LGBT Forum was a natural and logical, yet bold, step.

In 2013, LGBT rights were rising fast up the international agenda. Yet governments in 78 countries – around 40 percent of the world’s nations – continued to legitimize and sponsor violence again their LGBT citizens. LGBT discrimination was becoming an issue in globalization, affecting freedom of movement and enterprise. The Forum set out to support better understanding of this evolving moral, legal, social and political landscape and to create a safe, neutral platform for exchange between decisive global voices, bridging the worlds of politics, law, diplomacy, creative arts, religion and media.

Much has changed since 2013. Many countries have seen LGBT progress in family law, court judgments, school policies and corporate diversity. In 2015, 193 countries committed to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals that apply to all people without discrimination and to “leave no one behind.” Yet, despite this ambition, basic rights related to family, housing, health, employment and safety are still threatened or non-existent for LGBT people and communities in many parts of the world. Being truly “at home” remains out of reach for LGBT individuals excluded from their families, cultures or countries.

Salzburg Global Seminar seeks to drive impact at three levels: individuals, institutions and ideas. This is embedded in the Forum’s design and in our new reflective publication, Salzburg Global LGBT Forum - Building a Global Community.

Download the report as a PDF
The Forum enables outstanding people to share deeply personal stories away from the limelight, forge new strategies and build greater resilience. Some of their stories are woven into this report and can also be found on our website lgbt.salzburgglobal.org

Our Forum sessions in Salzburg, Berlin and Chiang Rai have enabled partners from government and civil society to explore root causes and regional, cultural and societal dynamics that underpin continuing discrimination, helping them better understand ways to advance policies and practice. You can read about how we have contributed to these new alliances and partnerships in Building International Connections and Alliances and Engaging with Governments & Institutions.

The Forum supports thought leadership through a rich mix of film and cultural products, policy contributions and year-round exchange. In Telling Our Own Stories we profile some of the influencers and creative artists who have been involved in the Forum network since 2013. You can also read testimonials from dozens of our Fellows throughout the report.

We are proud to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum and salute the dedication of its Founder and Chair Klaus Mueller, our Fellows from now 70 countries, our partners and our staff. Together, they have made these achievements possible.

Salzburg Global Seminar is committed to advance the Sustainable Development Goals through our program portfolio and our network activities around the world. We believe that continued leadership and action for LGBT equality, wellbeing and family rights are fundamental to this aim and look forward to expanding the Forum’s global contribution in the years to come.

Creating Impact

Defining Family

Seeking Safety

Addressing Trans Issues

Telling Our Own Stories

Building International Connections & Alliances

Engaging with Governments & Institutions

Looking Forward

* LGBT: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. We are using this term as it is widely recognized in many parts of the world, but we would not wish it to be read as in any way exclusive of other cultures, groups or terms, either historical or contemporary.

A Journey Into Uncharted Territory
Klaus Mueller, Founder and Chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum opens the first session in 2013 – LGBT and Human Rights: New Challenges,
A Journey Into Uncharted Territory
Klaus Mueller 

I would like to profoundly thank Salzburg Global Seminar for embracing LGBT equality as a topic of global concern and for wholeheartedly supporting the idea to create the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum five years ago. This has been a journey into uncharted territory, and without Salzburg Global’s expertise in convening global gatherings and catalyzing collaboration, the Forum would not have grown to what it has become today – a network of over 150 Fellows from 70 countries.

Our Origins

The idea seemed right and worthy from the beginning: to help advance LGBT equality worldwide through a global forum of LGBT human rights defenders and supporters from many different countries, backgrounds, and disciplines. But the question remained: was there a need? Seeking answers, and over the course of two years, we dedicated ourselves to understanding how we could best support these efforts before the Forum’s inaugural session in 2013.

I personally first learned about the power of a truly global gathering in 2000 when I participated in a visionary Salzburg Global session, Museums in the 21st Century, chaired by Marc Pachter, of The Smithsonian Institution, which expanded my horizons and fueled my writing on museums. Ten years later, in 2010, Salzburg Global invited me to take on an expanded role and serve as chair for their multi-year initiative on Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention to be developed in cooperation with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, for which I serve as the Museum’s European Representative.

This new role inspired and encouraged me to approach Salzburg Global independently in 2011 with the proposal to create a Global LGBT Forum to be jointly developed and hosted at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg Global Seminar’s home.

For the past thirty years, I have been working on issues at the intersection of LGBT human rights, history, memory, and culture, having started as an activist, focusing on the LGBT identity in the 19th century in my doctoral thesis, and later curating exhibitions, and writing and engaging in film productions. In developing the idea for the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, I recognized that in the rapidly globalizing world of the 21st century, LGBT human rights no longer seemed to be defined only by regional histories and cultures (if they ever were in the first place), but that they were increasingly shaped through global conversations, whether progressive or hostile.

Together with Salzburg Global, I conceived the Forum as a safe space to curate a truly global conversation on LGBT equality among diverse leaders from human rights, legal, artistic, and religious backgrounds. Free expressions of sexuality and gender define the societies in which we want to live in the 21st century, and our strength is rooted in our diversity.

In launching the Forum, we were entering new ground – from building new donor partnerships (thank you for your trust!) to curating a genuinely inclusive gathering where all would feel welcome and valued. We invited participants as the individuals they are, not as the representative of the institutions, NGOs or governments with which they are affiliated. In addition to being experts in their respective fields, they also brought their life experiences to our sessions.

Finally, in 2013, it was their voice that answered our original question: They told us that yes, there is a strong need and desire to develop a global, yet personal network – a network of trust that enables us to listen to each other and to join forces through diverse forms of collaboration and support. While communication across borders becomes ever more accessible through the internet, trust needs time.

The Forum is not a conference. It has become a safe space, our retreat, where we come together in person to comprehend the global interconnectedness of LGBT human rights, including progress and challenges. While we come from different places, cultures, histories and generations, we share commonalities in our views and experiences. But the Forum also provides a setting to acknowledge and explore our distinct personal, cultural, economic and religious differences. We come to listen, to learn, and to build connections. As with all Salzburg Global Seminar programs, our Forum strives to be a space where participants are “tough on the issues but kind to each other.”

Our Progress

Over the past five years, we have formed a growing network of expertise. In 2013, we started with participants from 34 countries and set our course with the Statement of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum: Advancing human rights for LGBT people and communities. This framework of principles and priorities continues to guide our intersectional approach and lead themes.

In 2014, the German Federal Foreign Office invited us to Berlin to advise them on strengthening relations between embassies and LGBT human rights groups. In 2015, we returned to Salzburg and started our “Family is…” project with the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, collecting testimonies for our global portrait of families today – ultimately producing over 40 video interviews and a short film Family is...? A Global Conversation, which we released this year.

In 2016, our first meeting in Asia took us to the small city of Chiang Rai, Thailand, to listen to and learn from a new generation of Asian leaders. This last year we gathered again at Schloss Leopoldskron with the focus on “Home” and refugees, collecting testimonies and strengthening our sense of a global community that has grown with each session.

As a network, we have developed the global perspectives that guide us year-round. It has been a steep learning curve, reacting to both crisis and progress, and little did we know how we would be challenged and changed in the process. The Forum’s meetings are not easy: there is both risk and comfort in bringing people from very different contexts together and striving to deepen understanding and trust. We increasingly recognize that LGBT rights as a concept expresses the aspiration and hope of a common cause even as our struggles are distinct. Sharing personal stories helps us to understand each other’s needs and worlds more fully.

Many Forum members are exceptionally strong leaders, bold activists and visionary artists and thinkers. Yet for some, it was the first time in their lives that they found a community where they felt they could share their personal story with others.

So many shared stories come to mind. We have been deeply moved by the strength of our two Ethiopian friends, Noël and Negede, who joined the Forum anonymously in 2015, and returned in 2017 as asylum seekers in Austria to build a new life. We were proud when Kasha Nabagesera from Uganda, who has come to all Forum sessions since 2013, appeared on the cover of TIME magazine. We were inspired by the amazing photographers, film directors and writers who introduced us to the realities of LGBT lives around the globe: of indigenous trans communities in the Venezuelan jungle, of a Filipino mother/filmmaker and her daughter, of LGBT families in Cambodia and of transgender communities in Mongolia. They showed us that one fiercely independent voice can make these lives – our lives – visible. More and more, we help each other with our projects and find ways to share them with larger audiences.

Fundamental human rights concern us all. The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum brings together queer and straight, representing gender in many expressions, in short: people with overlapping, changing identities. Whether homo-, bi- or heterosexual, cis-, inter- or transgender, our diverse backgrounds and lives are connected by our shared interest to advance LGBT equality globally.

Since the Forum was launched in 2013, the world has witnessed the journey of communities and nations towards recognition of LGBT human rights and celebrated significant progress. Yet in many countries, we have been confronted with backlashes and many governments still legitimize and sponsor violence against LGBT citizens through legal discrimination, condoned police violence and hate speech. Our Forum has therefore expanded to build larger networks of support with government partners, international bodies and human rights and cultural organizations. Increasingly we are approached as a trusted facilitator for global conversations.


Being part of an emerging global community has changed us. Salzburg Global Seminar has become our home and itself has been changed in the process. Celebrating our fifth anniversary in the same year that Salzburg Global marks its 70th anniversary, the Forum is fully integrated within the major global programs in which Salzburg Global is engaged. All Salzburg Global’s staff have gone the proverbial extra mile, again and again, to help us reach our goals; enabled and guided by vice presidents Clare Shine and Benjamin Glahn, and with support from Salzburg Global president Stephen Salyer and former chief program officer and senior advisor Edward Mortimer.

With 2017 being a year of retrospection for Salzburg Global Seminar, we too looked back and unearthed untold stories that were shared at our fifth session this summer. This was archaeology of a different kind – a “Queering of the Schloss,” an acknowledgment that LGBT people have contributed to the history of Salzburg Global and to the earlier history of Schloss Leopoldskron in the time of Max Reinhardt, its pre-war owner and co-founder of the Salzburg Festival.

We learned about early beginnings, important voices, surprising guests. One discovery was made by anthropologist Saskia Wieringa in 2013, who realized that the statues in Schloss Leopoldskron’s Chinese Room were of the East Asian transgender deity Guanyin – a feature overlooked for almost a century. Her presence gave us an early sense of belonging as a protective deity for our endeavor. 
Historically, we know that LGBT-related stories were often suppressed or omitted. Our desire for a more inclusive and humane future also fuels our desire to reintegrate LGBT lives into a fuller understanding of our history.

Both our history and our future have to be written by ourselves. The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum is a fluid network that fully trusts its Fellows’ imagination and leadership to advance LGBT equality globally. As with other histories of prejudice, we know that homo- and transphobia will not disappear, but we hope they will in many places have less tragic consequences.

Klaus Mueller on why now is the time to create a Global LGBT Forum

Klaus Mueller on how the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum has grown

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