Past Program


In 2019, the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum focused on the steps required to achieve full legal and social equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or intersex status. With an emphasis on how progress in South Asia could be accelerated and have a positive influence on developments in the rest of the world, the program enhanced Asia’s underrepresented role in global LGBT dialogues, and engaged individuals and institutions with the potential to create significant shifts in social attitudes and policy landscapes across the region.

The program contributed to national and regional discussions on LGBT inclusion across the South Asian region by providing a platform for open policy dialogue and debate; creating an opportunity to highlight South Asia's unique legal, religious, and cultural history of LGBT family and community inclusion with policy makers and international organizations active in the region; and by producing multimedia products that can help illustrate the critical importance of inclusive policies.

In South Asia, several LGBT human rights issues are at a “tipping point” at which legal and/or social change could soon be possible. Gender recognition and decriminalization are two such legal tipping point issues for several countries. However even in places where legal progress on these fronts has been made (for example in Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka), social discrimination and violence often persist and serve to exclude LGBT individuals and their families from access to employment, health care, education and other services. Because of this, additional action is needed across South Asia to ensure full legal and social inclusion and recognition for gender and sexual minorities, with special attention to transgender and intersex communities.

As has been the case in other regions, progress in individual countries on these issues could also have a positive influence on other countries in the region. Testimonies from the LGBT Forum’s work with Bhutanese parliamentarians, Nepal’s Blue Diamond Society, our extensive network of Asian Fellows, and our network of European, North America, Asian, and Latin American Fellows (including many working with or within governments) has shown that bringing together a globally diverse group of human rights defenders of LGBT equality can multiply impact and spur positive change at critical moments in the development of more inclusive policies.

* LGBT: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. We use this term as it is widely used in human rights conversations on sexual orientation and gender identity in many parts of the world. We wish it to be read as inclusive of other cultural concepts that express sexuality and gender, intersex and gender-nonconforming identities.


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Please credit: Salzburg Global Seminar/ProVision Photography


Program objectives will include:

  • Making the case for inclusive legal, cultural and economic national and regional policy changes to benefit LGBT individuals, families, and communities. Building on emerging data showing the costs of discrimination with regards to access to education, health, housing, employment, and more; these recommendations will be co-created with participating policy-makers from the region and beyond, as well as via dissemination products spread by Salzburg Global and UNDP networks for use across the region.
  • Storytelling, multimedia and documentary productions can humanize the impacts of inclusive or exclusive policies in powerful ways. A specific focus will be on the relevance of cultural history on contemporary discussions of LGBT equality with the goal to deepen the understanding that LGBT people have long been part of national and cultural histories.
  • Supporting the next generation of LGBT advocates and human rights defenders in the region, including through the identification of young social innovators that will help shape future efforts toward inclusion.
  • Connecting global and South Asian human rights defenders to enhance their capacity to support more inclusive policy making and to strengthen the voices and visibility of Asian LGBT human rights defenders in global debates on LGBT equality.

Participant Profile

The 2019 LGBT Forum will include approximately 50 Fellows from diverse professional and civic backgrounds including:

  • Activists, community leaders, and emerging young voices engaged in advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals;
  • Artists, filmmakers, social media experts, photographers, researchers, and writers;
  • Judges, lawyers, law makers, policy makers;
  • Persons from human rights groups; cultural, political, and faith-based organizations, and groups aiding those living with HIV/AIDS.

Given the program’s concentration on South Asia, it is expected that approximately 75% of participants will come from the eight countries of this region (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) and the remaining 25% of participants coming from a global range of countries outside the South Asian region. As suggested above, it is intended that this group will consist of both young and established social innovators as well as policy makers, including representatives of national, provincial and local governments, as well as community and religious leaders who work with local government authorities, from each of the countries in the region.

Participants will be selected on the basis of an open application process. Please indicate your interest to attend via the “Register” link above.

Outcomes and Outreach

In line with the objectives listed above, the program will seek to achieve the following outcomes:

  1. Cultural and multimedia productions: The Forum will utilize multimedia content and productions to highlight the stories of LGBT people and communities in South Asia in a global context. The Forum and its participants will produce video testimonies, interviews, and other media to complement and amplify the impact of these stories.
  2. Outreach campaigns: Working with others from across the region and the globe, participants will create personal strategies for the production and distribution of diverse media content intended to influence the attitudes of key groups in their societies that can help promote equality. These strategies will target both South Asian and global audiences, taking into account existing resources and barriers to success.
  3. Publication and dissemination of recommendations: Making the case for specific national and regional policy changes to advance LGBT equality, Salzburg Global Seminar and UNDP will utilize participants’ contributions to produce a series of publications, articles, and reports focusing on the key issues identified.
  4. On-going network development and support: Following the program, participants will be connected to the on-going work of the LGBT Forum and its members from across 70 countries. This will be accomplished through regular updates on network activities delivered via email newsletters and through an invitation to join a secure member-only online community where members continue collaborations begun in Nepal and forge new alliances within the Forum’s broader network.