Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Calls for New Narratives to Combat Discrimination





Oct 12, 2016
by Ian Mungall and Louise Hallman
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Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Calls for New Narratives to Combat Discrimination

LGBTI activists and allies explore storytelling to counter exclusion and discrimination at the session The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion Participants speak during a panel discussion on the power of storytelling through film and video.

Community advocates, artists, filmmakers, academics, government representatives and human rights experts from across the world gathered in Thailand last week to explore new narratives to counter discrimination and stereotypes of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, and to promote greater visibility and inclusion.

More than 50 LGBTI activists and allies from over 30 countries came together for the fourth annual meeting of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum, titled “The Many Faces of Inclusion”. Held from 2-7 October 2016 in partnership between Salzburg Global Seminar and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this year’s Forum aimed to enhance Asia’s role in global LGBTI dialogue, highlighting its unique legal, religious and cultural traditions regarding LGBTI individuals and their communities.  

“Within the ongoing global discourse on LGBT equality, Asian perspectives have been underrepresented. We hope that our meeting in Chiang Rai contributes to amplifying the voices of Asian leadership. Global progress on equality for LGBT people will depend on advancements in Asia,” said Klaus Mueller, founder and chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. “Throughout the Forum, participants shared their professional experiences and personal stories. Storytelling is a major tool for expressing who we want to be – and for changing hearts and minds.”

The meeting focused on the themes of storytelling to communicate lived experiences of LGBTI people, international coalition building to advance inclusive development and promoting inclusive families that reflect the diversity of the LGBTI community. 

Through open discussions, the Forum examined progress and challenges for LGBTI inclusion and identified potential entry points with government, academia and development partners for positive change. During the ‘Strengthening International Connections’ panel, ambassadors and lawmakers from Bhutan, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Venezuela called for stronger coalitions to advance common policy priorities, especially the need for comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, inclusive anti-bullying policies in education settings, freedom of association, and legal gender recognition for transgender people. 

“Open dialogue between government and civil society is key to ensure the inclusion and protection of LGBTI people,” said Edmund Settle, Policy Advisor for UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub. “Ensuring civic and political participation in national legal and policy making processes will further efforts to address the discrimination and inequality that LGBTI people live daily.”

Throughout the week, the Forum considered the importance of families for LGBTI people and communities. Discussions focused on the families that LGBTI people are born into, the families they choose, and the families they raise, with participants sharing their own personal stories within small groups. These stories will be collected for an exhibition, titled “Family Is…”, to be held in Berlin, Germany in May 2017.

During the week, meeting participants reflected on how growing visibility of LGBTI people and communities has created opportunities for positive dialogues within their families and communities. However, participants also noted that increased visibility has the potential to lead to backlash, from the introduction of anti-homosexuality “propaganda” laws to abuse and violence towards LGBTI people. 

Many of the participants noted that this anti-LGBTI extremism is often rooted in ignorance, with misinformation and false representations of LGBTI people and communities in the media. Empowering LGBTI people and communities to share their own stories through new media and emerging technologies can be a powerful and effective way to challenge this misinformation and educate wider society. 

“Having been able to galvanize a movement with correct information to counter anti-LGBT extremism, we now have to share this knowledge and create allies to support our cause,” said Dennis Wamala from Uganda.

Throughout the Forum, participants emphasized the opportunities that film, new media and journalism can have on communicating positive narratives to reduce stigma and discrimination and raise awareness for social inclusion throughout society. This also includes the use of social media tools to reach new audiences and address abuse and digital security.

“There is a misunderstanding in society about LGBTI people. Film can be a powerful medium that can be used in advocacy efforts to correct distortions,” said Fan Popo, a filmmaker and activist from China. 

“As a filmmaker and lesbian mom, I recognize that I have the responsibility to tell more stories about the LGBTI community and to help those people who cannot raise their voices,” said Cha Roque, a filmmaker from the Philippines. “I hope that through my films, I can take the fight for equality and acceptance a step forward.”

The full report from the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum session “The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion”, complete with personal stories and recommendations for action, will be published later in December 2016. To receive a digital copy of the report, sign up for the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum newsletter:  

*LGBT stands for 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, terms or groups.

Media contacts:

Louise Hallman, Editor, Salzburg Global Seminar 

Ian Mungall, Programme Analyst, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub 

Salzburg Global LGBT Forum

The challenges confronting the LGBT and human rights movements are no longer only national or regional. They are influenced by a multitude of factors at the global level. The Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, a multi-year series of Salzburg Global Seminar, is therefore working to advance civil dialogue through further developing an active network of global LGBT and human rights actors. Founded and chaired by Dr. Klaus Mueller, the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum currently connects representatives from more than 60 countries. The Forum’s goal is to negotiate these interconnected global challenges and advance the free and equal rights of all LGBT people.

The fourth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum was held in Chiang Rai, Thailand in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Being LGBTI in Asia programme. Funding for this session, entitled “The Many Faces of LGBT Inclusion,” was generously provided to Salzburg Global Seminar through a grant from the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth to support the Forum’s ongoing “Family is…” Project and through a donation by US philanthropist Michael Huffington.

For more information visit:    

*LGBT stands for 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, terms or groups.

UNDP and the Being LGBTI in Asia programme

UNDP is the UN’s global development network advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP’s vision is to support countries in achieving the simultaneous eradication of poverty and significant reduction of inequalities and exclusion.

Being LGBTI in Asia is a regional programme aimed at addressing inequality, violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, and promotes universal access to health and social services. It is a collaboration between governments, civil society, regional institutions and other stakeholders to advance the social inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. The programme recognizes that LGBTI people are highly marginalized and face varied forms of stigma and discrimination based on their distinct sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions. The programme is supported by UNDP, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

For more information visit: