ILGA – European Solidarity

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2016 National LGBT Conference
28 July 2016

Conference notes our union’s rich history of international work and the increased importance of having a global perspective in many areas of our work. Conference recognises that UNISON’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) group also has a strong tradition and practice of undertaking international work and regularly engages with and plays an important role within ILGA (International lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex association) and ILGA-Europe (IE). IE is an international non-governmental umbrella organisation bringing together 407 organisations from 45 countries across Europe.

UNISON continues to ensure that LGBT issues are raised in the different international forums in which we work and that trade unionism is raised in all LGBT forums in which we engage. UNISON has been instrumental in increasing recognition by global and European trade unions of LGBT workplace discrimination and different ways to address it.

2016 is IE’s 20th anniversary. It describes its mission: “First and foremost, ILGA-Europe’s focus is on empowering and training activists who work to advance the rights of LGBTI people in different European countries. A strong movement that is able to adapt and respond effectively to changing environments is key to making the change we seek a reality. By ‘change’ we mean both European level change, as well as the realisation of change domestically. European human rights standards can help drive change within countries, just as much as we also need strong domestic organisations to push for European level change.”

Whilst there has been great strides in advancing LGBT equality over the last 20 years, in many countries LGBT voices are still not being heard loudly enough at either a National or European level and we need to keep pushing for greater protection for LGBT individuals – both within workplaces and wider civil society. Indeed whilst some countries have taken steps forward in terms of equality and greater recognition of the human rights of LGBT people, others have taken vast steps backward. The full impact of Brexit within the United Kingdom (UK) is currently unknown. Many of us despair about the uncertainty around continued domestic LGBT rights and fear protections for LGBT people could be easily unpicked. It is important to remember that most LGBT equality legislation that Britain enjoys originally arose from Europe.

A significant piece of work that IE undertakes each year is the Rainbow Map and annual review of the equality situation for LGBT people in different European countries. In the 2016 annual review there was a greater emphasis on employment protections and workplace issues. Conference notes that the UK dropped from first place in the review (2013, 2014, 2015) to third place in 2016.

Conference calls on the national LGBT committee to continue to:

1. Promote an internationalist perspective amongst LGBT members;

2. Encourage LGBT members, LGBT self-organised groups and branches to support ILGA;

3. Encourage regional LGBT groups to become members of ILGA;

4. Work with the national executive council international committee to encourage initiatives for LGBT equality.