(this is a transcription of the speech that Tuisina Ymania Brown and Luz Elena Aranda, Co-Secretaries General of ILGA World, delivered during a plenary at the ILGA-Europe 2019 conference in Prague, Czech Republic)

Thank you, thank you, thank you, everyone! 
We are Ymania Brown from Samoa and Luz Elena Aranda from Mexico, and we are the co-Secretaries General of ILGA World: you all elected us in Wellington earlier this year – the first time ever you’ve chosen a bisexual woman and a trans woman to lead ILGA World.

We both want to express our deep and heartfelt gratitude and thank you to ILGA-Europe – your Board led by your Co-Chairs Darienne Flemington and Micah Grzywnowicz, your staff and volunteers led by Evelyn Paradis, your ILGA World Board representatives Yves Aerts and Anastasia Danilova -, your host organisations Proud and Prague Pride, your amazing supporters and sponsors and, last but not least, to all of you here in beautiful Prague for making us feel welcome in the Czech Repulic.

We also want to acknowledge those who have come before us - the presence of former co-Secretary Generals of ILGA here with us in Prague.

Thank you for bringing us together to reinforce this year's theme, “Stronger Together”, not just in our work as activists and allies and supporters, but in recognising that our diversity is an untapped strength that will always set us apart from those that seek to continue our oppression, our persecution, our discrimination and our erasure.

You know, ILGA World is the world federation of national and local organisations dedicated to achieving equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people across the globe. And we have been doing this since 1978 - we speak on behalf of more than 1,500 member organisations from 150 countries and territories, who are based in our six regions: Pan Africa ILGA, ILGA Oceania, ILGALAC (Latin America and the Caribbean), ILGA NAC (North America and the Caribbean), ILGA Asia and of course ILGA-Europe where over 600 of our members come from!

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European Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic opening remarks:

Keynote speech at ILGA-Europe Annual Conference 2019

Dear friends,

I must start with paying tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York city, which you celebrate this year. 50 years ago, those who had grown tired of hiding stood up against oppression. There have been considerable gains since then in securing the rights of LGBTI people, at least in Europe.

If today LGBTI people are more visible and their rights more respected, it is largely thanks to your relentless work. Pride marches have become a regular summer feature in many cities in Europe. Visibility of LGBTI people in all sectors of society is slowly improving, with at least 3 European Prime Ministers openly identifying as gay at this very moment. There are impressive advances in securing legal protection across the continent, including anti-discrimination and anti-hate crimes laws. 27 member states recognise and protect same-sex relationships, through civil partnerships or same-sex marriage. There is still much to do to catch up on trans and intersex rights, but these communities too are starting to be heard. It is encouraging that 7 Council of Europe member states have adopted legal gender recognition laws based on self-determination and 2 prohibit unnecessary sex-normalising surgeries without consent on intersex children.

I see you today and what I see first is the proud latest generation of activists in a rights movement that has achieved spectacular victories over the past few decades.

But if I made it a priority to be with you this year, it is also because I know that we are in the midst of a serious backlash against the rights of LGBTI people across Europe. Organised and targeted attacks are seeking to dehumanise LGBTI people, to drive you back in the shadows, to silence or even to erase you.

The reports of illegal detention, torture and persecution by law enforcement officials of gay men in Chechnya in 2017 and earlier this year are probably the most extreme case. Elsewhere, populist and nationalist leaders are manipulating existing societal prejudices, and fears borne out of lack of information, to scapegoat LGBTI people. The latest glaring example is Poland where hateful anti-LGBTI rhetoric has become a central feature of European and national elections’ campaigns this year. The same playbook of pointing an enemy for political gain is used elsewhere, in Russia, Turkey, Armenia and Hungary.

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