top of page

Key Points in Melanie Nathan's Closing Keynote, Malmö, Sweden Refugee Summit

The REFUGEE, ASYLUM & IMMIGRATION SUMMIT in Malmö included people with lived-experience, human rights defenders, and those who we hold responsible for the legislation, policies and services that ultimately impact and saves lives.

The Summit platformed three tracks, - deepening awareness, deepening knowledge for professionals, and advocacy to decide on actions aimed at high-level global actors and politicians.

The summit followed a critical month-long GLOBAL ROUNDTABLE on protection and solutions for LGBTIQ People in Forced Displacement, convened by UNHCR and the UN Independent Expert for SOGIESC. Thirteen Thematic working tables were held, each yielding 3 prioritized recommendations, that were made by members of the refugee, activist and NGO community, platformed by UNHCR.

If we are to reap the full benefit of the SUMMIT, and the ROUNDTABLE RECOMMENDATIONS, we must stress the most important understandings and pursue our own accountability, with the crucial awareness that intersex and trans people are historically under-represented- even here today. Our LGBTQI rights and equality currently reflect the highest level of recognition of all time – YET, even so, over 70 countries continue to criminalize and demonize our very existence. For this reason it is incumbent on those in safer environments to do our part, as we are the only family, all the while respecting that it is the voices of those with lived experience which must be at the forefront.

Countries and cultures differ, and so we need to navigate and balance the ideal of sovereignty with the importance of uniform global instruments, in the hope we can impact the decolonization of the laws that rob us of our rights and our freedoms.

There are 80 million displaced people in the world. Among them our LGBTQI family. Many are living in deep trauma and uncertainty, with limited resources, while they are subjected to violence, persecution, discrimination and exploitation fostered by the continued criminalization and stigmatization, in hostile host countries - often the only landing spots for protection. This anomaly is the tempest at the core of our work. TO effect the change needed to eradicate the cruelty we are witnessing each day, it is our responsibility, no matter our role, whether a legislator, policy maker, service provider, member of the human rights defender or activist community, to align, form coalitions, program and fund appropriately.


· We MUST ADVOCATE FOR inclusive trauma informed, welcoming environments, at every phase in the displacement cycle, SO it is safe for LGBTQI persons to share their experiences, exchange ideas, and engage with decision-makers.

· When developing initiatives and plans to improve services, we are obligated to Include all with relevant lived experiences, with continuous consultations.

· AND we must revise systems and practices to better respect the diversity, intersectionality, and authorship of those experiences

TO PUSH FOR, Inter Alia:

· The fundamental right of all refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants to safe and dignified lives - insisting on the right to respectful engagement and the use of appropriate terms - to include diverse SOGIESC terminology;

· International protection should be fair, sustainable, and humane with access to efficient and full due process;

· We are compelled to mandate sensitivity training, which is language-appropriate for every point of contact in the displacement journey, with adequate reception conditions designed specifically to accommodate LGBTQI needs;

· We need to develop and implement Orientation programs for NEW ARRIVALS -– as developed and led BY LGBTQI organizations and refugees themselves. (AHRC is piloting such a program in Kenya, at this time, with leadership that is fully inclusive of intersecting factors)

· To create paths for EARLY access to LGBTI specific needs such as rehab from torture, psycho-socio support, medical support, as well as transition related hormones, and legal gender recognition;

· ALL countries must ensure THAT civil societies, NGO’s and Human Rights defenders can operate unfettered;

· We must seek ways to ensure access to livelihoods and socio-economic integration;

· It is important to Implement ethical data collection, management and reporting, in order to assess vulnerabilities and priorities, ensuring data security and confidentiality.

· FOR ALL THIS – We must advocate and create our own paths to related programming.

· AND MOST CRITICALLY WE CALL ON Governments to expand safe and legal pathways, with sensible access - while boldly reimagining policy regarding settlement and asylum criteria,

This is no easy task. We are spread thin: THIS requires CAPACITY BUILDING, with aid more responsive and effective. To be fully accountable, funding must support local and smaller and LGBTQI and refugee led organizations. In building capacity we must partner with each other, with agencies, with UNHCR and of course displaced individuals. We should capacitate LGBTQI -focused Human Rights and Humanitarian Professionals - as we leverage Human Rights mechanisms.

To ensure we align funding with the needs and gaps, we are compelled to fund those who are doing the actual work - We ask the funding gatekeepers to step aside - and let us in. - It is we who should shape the funding, rather than the funding shaping us…..

FOR ALL THAT TODAY CALLS FOR- WE MUST pursue collaborative and strategic advocacy – Our success is dependent on Coalition Building.

To legislators and policy makers - PLEASE understand that we do not expect special treatment, The dignity and respect that LGBTQI people command is the same as all. That said, you cannot ignore our especially marginalized circumstances. You all are fully aware that the very core of our being, who we are, is forbidden in so many realms, resulting in that which we escaped - following us into protection spaces. While our demands must present realistic outcomes - that should not stop us from setting adventurous and bold benchmarks.

Let us commit to ongoing partnerships, to further develop the exciting and loving camaraderie we tasted in Sweden. It is my hope that we continue with open hearts and introspective minds.

We live in a world where cruelty has peppered our paths. Let us tear down the barriers and lift the limitations. It is up to us, all of us, to embrace the dream of a better world. We have the power. We have the will. And now, thanks to the SUMMIT and the UNHCR ROUNDTABLE, we know what we need. Let us ensure our accountability and the fulfillment of all our missions.



These point are not exhaustive of the 39 UNHCR platformed recommendations or what was discussed at the Summit, where Chatham rules have been preserved - This denotes key points and concepts as summarized and extrapolated by Melanie Nathan, ED at AHRC in her Keynote speech, after the conference. We suggest you view the UNHCR Report when it is finalized and the work of any and all in attendance at the Summit if made public.

(With many thanks to all at the Summit, participants, the organizers of WORLD PRIDE COPENHAGEN and the Summit, sponsors, colleagues, dignitaries, co-hosts, UNHCR and the High Commissioner, the First Lady of Iceland, and Dennis Castillo, who provided a second keynote closing, in Spanish, and to our AHRC Team - you know who you are and Marc Cohen who keeps things going!)


bottom of page