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Our World: Equality and Cooperation

On October 19-21, 2000, an international conference "Our World: Equality and Cooperation" was held in Kiev. Lesbian and gay organizations' activists took part, coming from ten European countries - Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and Ukraine. Others too attended from Ukrainian human rights, anti-AIDS and other NGO. More than 30 organizations were represented in general. The conference was organized by Nash Mir (Our World) Gay and Lesbian Center in cooperation with the Ukrainian Section of International Society for Human Rights. Financing of the event was provided by International Renaissance Foundation (Soros Foundation in Ukraine) within the framework of East-East program.

October 19 in the IREX ProMedia Information Press Center, representatives of Our World Center held a press conference. Presented in this venue at that time was a new publication of Our World Center titled "Blue Book: The situation of gays and lesbians in Ukraine", that was issued both in Russian and Ukrainian. (English Summary could be found at The Blue Book is comprised of collected information describing various aspects of the situation of gays and lesbians in Ukraine. It is the first such publication of this kind in Ukraine, and contains the results of Our World Center's investigations and analysis of the attitude of the legislation, press and TV, state bodies, etc. toward the problems of Ukrainian homosexual people. In addition, journalists were told briefly about the activity of our organization and about the early stages of the conference.

The conference was held in Bratislava Hotel. At the opening co-organizers of the conference made brief speeches of welcome - Andriy Maymulakhin on behalf of Our World Center and Andriy Sukhorukov on behalf of Ukrainian Section of International Society for Human Rights. A salutatory address by International Lesbian and Gay Association (European Region) was read out. Andriy Klepikov, a representative of the conference's sponsor - International Renaissance Foundation - told about existing possibilities for financing of gay and lesbian projects. He spoke as well about the experience of Soros Foundations Network in this area. For the first time in Ukraine a representative of the state structure, Ms. Elena Targulova (a member of the Secretariat of the Ukrainian ombudsperson) attended the opening of the conference and made a speech of welcome.

After the report of Our World Center's members on the situation of gays and lesbians in Ukraine, the conference's other participants started their speeches. Activists from the lesbigay movements in various countries of Eastern Europe imparted experiences of their work. They told the conference about the situation of gay and lesbian rights in their own countries. Sharp interest and sympathy by those present occurred during speeches by Belarusian and Russian representatives of groups of gays with impaired hearing. Members of human rights organizations shared their vision of the problems of gays and lesbians as being a part of human rights protection in general. One of the important topics also touched upon was the concurrent struggle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Within the framework of the conference, films by Amnesty International demonstrated the rights of gays and lesbians in the world.

The main importance of the conference however was the live conversations of the participants between themselves, establishing direct relations between different organizations and activists. For the first time a large number of lesbigay groups from Eastern Europe could directly get to know about the problems and achievements of each other, about work experiences and plans for the future. Ukrainian human rights organizations had an opportunity to get to know and establish contacts with groups engaging in human rights protection toward lesbians and gay men.

Unfortunately, a very small number of journalists were interested in having direct conversations with the conference's participants. As it turned out, for most of the mass media a human rights/gay and lesbian conference is not a newsworthy event attracting much attention - because the mass media expected nothing more than the usual stereotypes of gay people. Nevertheless, Ukrainian press and TV did publish some news material on the presentation of "Blue Book" and the conference.

On the last day of the conference's work, three documents were adopted: Appeal to the Lesbian & Gay Community of the Eastern European Countries (English text), Appeal to the Presidents, Governments and Parliaments of the Eastern European Countries (English text), and Declaration of the Conference (English text).

Press release by Our World Gay and Lesbian Center
Photo (c) 2000 BLL

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