Historic ILGA conference sets clear direction

The 18th World Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association in Cologne at the end of June passed a radical new structure for the organization. ILGA now has a constitution which strengthens the organization and firmly recognizes the existence of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered members from every part of the globe.

"ILGA fulfills a special role," said newly elected Female Secretary General Jennifer Wilson from Australia. "It is the only international grassroots lesbian and gay organization in the world. That's a huge responsibility. Making sure that the voices of ILGA include the voices of Africa, of Latin America and of the Pacific means taking special care not to silence these people with the louder, better funded voices of North America, Europe and Australia." Jordi Petit, re-elected Male Secretary General from Spain added, "The world is getting smaller through the use of technology such as email and fax. Members all over the world are discovering the power of international networking via ILGA. We must continue that commitment by ensuring that conferences are supported in all regions of the world."

The conference in Cologne was attended by one of the largest contingents from southern and less economically developed countries. Funding grants had made subsidized fares available to people in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia. The next ILGA conference in 1999 is scheduled to take place in South Africa. As Simon Nkoli, a delegate from there explained, "Homophobia is indigenous to all nations - it is a world-wide phenomena." "With the recent passing of the landmark constitution in South Africa - the first in the world to incorporate protection for lesbians and gay men, it seems only fitting for ILGA to recognize this by organizing a world conference in South Africa.", said Wilson. While South Africa is an expensive destination for travelers from Europe and North America - it offers an unprecedented chance to involve people from areas where colonialism was strong and where local organizing has not been adequately supported by the rest of the world. ILGA has already been offered assistance with airfares for people from Latin America and Asia and for those with HIV/Aids.

"With our next executive meeting taking place in Peru back-to-back with the Latin American regional conference - we are finally living what we have been talking about for years." said Petit.

The Cologne conference also elected a strong Executive Board with proven business skills. Although the organization is facing a severe financial crisis - a plan to place ILGA on a solid footing has already been put in place. "We have always had to struggle to find funds - but that's never stopped us in the past and certainly won't now." commented Wilson. "Our supporters and members know that ILGA has a strong future - fulfilling our vision of a world-wide network of empowered lesbians and gay men from Soweto to Stockholm to Samoa."

For further comment contact Jennifer Wilson at jennifer@ilga.org

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