It has been more than two decades since Allan Carlson, a former member of the National Commission on Children during the Reagan administration, first met Russian scholars Anatoly Antonov and Victor Medkov.
His visit in 1995 inspired the foundation of the World Congress of Families (WCF), a transnational network of far-right and religious fundamentalist groups closely associated with US Christian right organisation the Howard Centre for Family, Religion and Society.
Through the large annual international conference, the World Congress of Families has become one of the most influential transnational groups of its kind, creating a hostile environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, asexual and gender nonconforming people. In recent years the organisation has been focusing its activities on European countries, collaborating with the local governments, connecting to a wide variety of national and international NGO groups. This engagement has lead to a number of new laws, most prominently the introduction of the gay propaganda law in Russia in 2013 and the banning of the Gender Studies Program at Budapest’s Central European University last year.
While the World Congress of Families has been reaching out to European States, namely Georgia, Hungary, Moldova and Italy, it remains unclear how the collaboration persists. When Matteo Salvini spoke at the group’s 2019 conference in Italy, he was still the country’s minister of interior affairs — but only a few months later, he was removed from office.
A similar fate befell Moldovian president Igor Dodon. After several months of mounting crisis in his government he was forced to resign. What that the loss of power means for the working ties between European far-right groups and the World Congress of Families remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, the popularity of far-right parties is certainly not declining in Europe. Even though these parties may not remain in government for long, their defeats in countries like Italy and Moldova are by no means the all-clear signal. Not only have these events given the WCF’s organisers an opportunity to connect with State representatives, the conference also serves the purpose of networking among non-governmental organisations and like-minded investors.
The WCF held its regional 2019 conference in Accra (Ghana) from October 31st to November 1st, themed around “The African Family and Sustainable Development: Strong families, strong nation”. The program schedule included mostly Americans and Ghanians, but also featured speakers from other African countries.
During a press conference in preparation of the upcoming event, Moses Foh-Amoaning, Executive Secretary of the National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values, stated that “The duty of building a desirable Africa rested largely on the family and moral well-being of the society”.
The event is one of many regional conferences that the WCF has been organising throughout the year. Besides its efforts strengthening the ties in Africa, the organisation is also engaged with a number of Russian groups and individuals — in particular the Russian oligarchs Konstantin Malofeev and Vladimir Yakunin. A central figure for the Russian-American connection is the Russian WCF representative Aleksey Komov, who is involved in many transnational organisations associated with far-right and religious fundamentalist groups such as the Russian Orthodox Church.
Pic: Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini meets with US Vice President Mike Pence in 2018.
This article was written for the Winter 2019/20 issue of Freedom Journal.