Wednesday, 6 March 2013

On Track to the Outgames - Part 3

One of the central elements in Montréal’s bid to host the 2006 Gay Games was an international conference on lgbt and human rights. After accepting the bid the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) revised their criteria of what they thought were essential to the games. The world was experiencing financial problems and cut-backs. In this environment the FGG decided that a conference wasn’t going to be part of their new vision. The split in the FGG was discussed last time. So what became of Montréal’s conference?

Thankfully, it survived the turmoil and went ahead on 26th July 2006 just prior to the first World Outgames. It had the title of “The Right to Be Different” and was the largest conference of it’s kind ever held up to that time and around 1,500 delegates and speakers gathered to discuss lgbt rights.

The conference lasted for four days and at the end the first international declaration of lgbt rights – the Declaration of Montréal – was issued. It was remarkable document. The Declaration had been drafted by Joke Swiebel and Robert Wintemute, the co-presidents of the Scientific Committee, the body responsible for heading the conference. But who were they? Who are these unsung architects of the Declaration of Montréal?

Joke Swiebel is a Dutch politician and social campaigner. When she was appointed co-president of the Scientific Committee in 2004 Joke was a Member of the European Parliament and President of the Parliamentary Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights. She had also served on several committees on women’s rights and gender equality, including the UN Committee on the Status of Women (1988-1995).

Robert Wintermute was Professor of Law at the King’s College, London, and was a leading advocate for human rights and anti-discrimination.

Joke and Robert both had extensive experience with human rights legislation and were ideally placed to draft a series of wide-ranging statements of the rights that the lgbt community was demanding from governments and communities around the world. The Declaration of Montréal was the result of a lot of hard work and discussion and was put before the rest of the conference’s Scientific Committee for adoption. The full text of the Declaration can be found here.

The success of the conference seemed assured before it began. So much so that in drafting the Declaration of Montréal Joke Swiebel and Robert Wintermute set out within it a timetable of a global information campaign on lgbt rights to be launched at the second conference at the second World Outgames in Copenhagen in 2009.
The other members of the Scientific Committee also shared vast experience of lgbt issues and included lawyers and judges, members of ethnic and community groups, and media representatives from all around the world.

The conference itself consisted on five main sessions centred around the continents or world regions. Within these sessions were various workshops dealing with specific countries or with more general themes. There was nearly 800 speakers from over 100 countries among the delegates.

Among the themes discussed were human rights, diversity within the community, and lgbt rights in employment. The subject matters of individual lectures were also wide-ranging and included same-sex marriage, the lesbian culture of Japan and the far east, the role of the Holocaust in lgbt history, transsexual rights, and discrimination in sport. Experts in every field spoke at the conference, including Outgames co-president Mark Tewksbury, Louise Arbour (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), Gene Robinson (Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire), Waheed, Lord Alli (media entrepreneur), and speaking at the closing lunch was Martina Navratilova.

No sooner had the speeches at the closing lunch finished than the crowds and athletes were beginning to gather for the opening ceremony of the first World Outgames that evening.

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