Thursday, 12 November 2009

ILGA: Successful conclusion of the largest ever ILGA-Europe annual conference co-hosted by the Malta Gay Rights Movement


The 13th Annual ILGA-Europe conference was successfully concluded recently in Malta. Over 300 participants from 48 countries took part in the conference, which had as its theme "Overcoming cultural and religious barriers to LGBT Equality".

The conference was notable for achieving a number of "firsts". It was the first time that representatives of the executive board and staff, together with representatives of MGRM, met with a country's Head of State. This occurred in a meeting at the Palace in Valletta with His Excellency Dr George Abela. During this meeting Dr Abela stressed the importance of condemning discrimination and the importance of inclusivity, as emphasized in his inaugural speech. He agreed that Malta¹s EU membership can serve as a useful factor in stimulating debate on greater acceptance within Malta of diversity and minority rights.

Preceding the main conference there was a Transgender Rights conference and also an EU Network meeting. A declaration of the Trans Rights conference was overwhelmingly adopted, and also endorsed by the delegates of the main conference. In association with the Trans Rights conference an audio-visual Transgender exhibition was set up at St James Cavalier, and remains open to the public until the 19th of November.

The main conference was opened by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr. Louis Galea, who pointed out that LGBT rights are not additional rights, but human rights. He also articulated the theme of the conference and dwelled on the role of religion and culture in Malta.

Dr Evarist Bartolo from the PL also addressed the plenary opening session. He said that the time for LGBT rights was now, reflecting the urgent needs and reality of LGBT citizens in Malta today. He pointed out that human rights were universal rights and not culture-specific.

Dr Francis Agius, PN head of the Parliamentary Assembly to the Council of Europe, also spoke in a plenary session and explained the evolvement of LGBT rights from within the context of the Council of Europe.

The conference was also addressed by former Italian MP Vladimir Luxuria, European Commission representative Belinda Pyke, Austrian MEP Ulrike Lunacek, Latvian pastor Juris Calitis and Fritz Huffnagel, deputy mayor of The Hague.

The conference included an active social programme organised by MGRM, which included a harbour cruise, a tour of Mdina and Palazzo Parisio, and a visit to G?ar Lapsi.

There was also a bus stop campaign incorporating Maltese versions of the ILGA-Europe "Different families Same Love" posters, which was scheduled to coincide with the conference¹s duration in Malta.

MGRM consider this to have been a very successful conference in Malta, raising the issues and profile of LGBT issues especially locally. It was satisfying that the smallest country represented within ILGA-Europe organized the largest and one of the most successful annual conferences to date, a fact acknowledged by the many delegates at the end of the conference.

MGRM would like to express its thanks to the Malta Tourism Authority, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the EU Commission Representation in Malta, and the Ministry of Foreign Affair¹s VISA Section for their support.

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