Chargé d’Affaires Sean Melbourne delivered a speech at “LGBT Access to Justice”, an international conference aimed at protecting LGBT rights and tackling discrimination in Albania and the wider region. The conference was held on 17 May 2017, marking International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biophobia (IDAHOBIT).
The conference was organised by Stonewall, the UK’s largest LGBT equality organisation, in association with local NGOs. The conference addressed the current issues that LGBTI communities face in Albania. It also sought to identify opportunities for tackling violence against LGBTI communities; building trust and dialogue between civil society, state and international actors involved in this work and enhancing LGBTI access to policing and justice institutions on an ongoing basis.
Three UK police officers shared their experiences of positive changes in LGBTI inclusion in policing. The police officers also met with members of the Albanian police to discuss and share best practice and to identify potential next steps towards a more inclusive police force.One successful output from the conference was the development of a National Action Plan on LGBT Access to Justice.
The British Embassy also held a reception for the organisers and attendees of the conference. The Chargé spoke about the need for not only changes in legislation but also a change in attitude towards LGBTI communities. The Embassy is proud to support such a worthy cause and we will continue to work alongside our partners to deliver positive changes for the LGBTI communities in Albania.
The full speech is available below:
Remarks by Mr Sean Melbourne, Chargé D´Affaires, British Embassy Tirana, to the LGBT Access to Justice Conference 17 May 2017
I’m delighted to be sharing this platform with you today to support the LGBT community here, including sharing best practice on policing and justice work.
Legislatively, Albania has come a long way in recent years to protect minority rights. I understand that Albania is in fact the only country in the world which is both a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Equal Rights Coalition, which the UK Government is a strong and keen supporter of. Albania has, arguably, the most progressive policies on LGBT issues of any country in the Western Balkans.
It is also worth noting that Albania played a helpful and very constructive role on the UN Human Rights Council in 2015-16, often aligning itself with EU values on critical human rights issues and humanitarian causes.
That’s not to say that Albania or any other country is perfect. Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation unfortunately remains widespread here, especially outside Tirana and in remote communities. Changing legislation is relatively easy. Changing attitudes much more difficult. Much more needs to be done to implement the legal provisions that do exist, and to educate communities against homophobia.
There’s a lot we can learn from each other on how best to promote and protect the LGBT community and human rights defenders.
I’m pleased to say that British companies and organisations operating in Albania lead the way in promoting LGBT rights. In 2016 British company Vodafone was presented with the Silver Award, while the British Council in Albania was awarded the Gold trophy for specifically targeting LGBTI job seekers and employees through its anti-discrimination policies. In addition to demonstrating compliance with the Albanian law on non-discrimination, Vodafone and the British Council have also demonstrated a track record of promoting equality for LGBT employees and job seekers.
The UK Embassy also supports the Streha shelter for homeless LGBT youth through awareness and fund raising events. It remains, I think, the only such shelter in the Western Balkans.
I look forward to the conference and also to welcoming many of you to the UK Ambassador’s residence this evening for a networking reception. Thank you.