Amidst the drama of the last-minute cancellations of sporting events and ceremonies, the Human Rights portion of the World OutGames Miami is still chugging along, with panels taking place over the weekend.
One of the first panels Friday morning was a presentation by the nonprofit Global Ties Miami, which brings international human rights leaders from across the globe to the United States to give them ideas and strategy for furthering human rights in their own countries.
The organization uses connections with local organizations and community leaders to teach international advocates about strategy for dealing with discrimination, build relations with police and LGBT entrepreneurs, how to structure LGBT organizations, and grow their network.
“To share your information and share your knowledge is free,” Dr. Athena Passera, Global Ties Miami board member and panel moderator said. “It doesn’t cost anything and it helps a lot of people.”
Passera and Global Ties Miami focuses on grassroots change — introducing foreign activists to community leaders and spaces, exposing them to the LGBT community they wish to help on the most personal level.
According to Passera, one of the more popular tactics for familiarizing visitors with the local LGBT community is host dinners.
Throughout their time in the U.S., foreign advocates are hosted by a collection of different families will all sorts of political and social backgrounds that come together to form an unfiltered view of American culture.
“There are things you can do locally that have a ripple effect on the larger scale,” Passera said. “[These interactions] disrupt the ongoing narrative that Americans don’t care at all.”
The program has worked with former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg and more.
“Global Ties U.S. tailors travel and program itineraries to meet the cultural and professional needs of international visitors, governments, companies and more,” reads the organization’s website. “Nearly 1,700 government ministers around the world have participated in exchange programs and there are approximately one million alumni of U.S. Department of State-sponsored programs in the world right now.”
International human rights leaders come to the States through this organization in order to meet with individuals embedded in local communities in order to more intimately show them what United States culture is like and find common ground on activist issues between countries.
According to Passera, many of the leaders appreciate the realistic glimpse of the U.S. and the unfettered view of the political situation surrounding the country and the LGBT community.
“International leaders not only see the good of the United States, they see how the U.S. government can be inept in their dealings with their own citizens,” Passera said. “Visitors appreciate getting an uncensored view of the United States.”
For a time, Global Ties Miami feared that the proposed federal budget cuts under the Trump administration would mark an end to the organization. According to Vangelis Sariano, a Global Ties Miami program associate, they are confident that their organization will be able to continue.
“These international relations really do have an impact on activists who are working with very few resources,” Sariano said.