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2016 Ourense: Building Literary Bridges

PEN Congress Ourense

The 82nd PEN International Congress in Ourense in figures and facts:

  • 181 participants
  • 77 PEN centres (including 1 new)
  • 64 countries
  • 50 % women
  • 50 % men
  • 20 resolutions adopted


Building Literary Bridges

The 82nd PEN International Congress in Ourense, Spain took place from the 26th September – 2nd October 2016, this highlighted the situation for freedom of expression in Galicia, with a particular focus on the voices of writers who are persecuted for their sexual orientation.

The congress, hosted by PEN Galicia, was attended by special guests including Claudia Pinedo, Almudena Grandes, Àlex Susanna, Dina Salústio,Cristobal Pena, Can Dündar and Francisca Aurije.

Change to the PEN Charter

PEN’s Charter was written in the mid-20th Century and its language reflects that time. PEN nevertheless has been responding to the needs of the new century, with many Centres engaging in innovative projects focusing on women's rights and education and events on how religion and freedom of expression interact. Meanwhile PEN’s OutWrite has created space for writers to discuss topics surrounding sexuality and LGBTQ rights and issues.


New International Secretary elected

The General Assembly of PEN elected Kätlin Kaldmaa, the president of Estonian PEN as the new Secretary of PEN International. Kaldmaa is an accomplished Estonian poet, writer, translator and literary critic.

Centre News

  • Togo PEN was welcomed as a new centre
  • The following Centres were declared dormant: African Writers Abroad Centre, Afar Speaking Centre, Iraq Centre, Roma Centre, Somali Speaking Centre, Tunisia Centre and Writers in Exile London branch.

The ‘Libertas’ (‘Freedom’) project / The exhibition ‘Proyecto Libertas’

The project represents how freedom of speech is the pinnacle of human rights. It attempts to capture and promote the voices of some of the people on the case list, by featuring the literary work of seven Galician authors. Activities included the exhibition ‘Proyecto Libertas’ in which seven authors (including: Lydia Cacho & Liu Xiaobo) were featured.

Literature as a tool for empowerment

Chair: Beatrice, Vice President of Uganda Panellists: Saw Wei and Myo Myint Nyein from PEN Myanmar, Iman Humaydan from PEN Lebannon, Ismaila Samba Traore from PEN Mali, Selina Nuwulu [NWOLU] – Poet laureate for London

Gender Based Violence as a form of Censorship

Chair: Grace (PEN Zimbabwe), Panellists: Salil Tripathi (Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee), Judy Woolf (Gender Consultant), Dina Meza (PEN Honduras), Margie Orford (Board, PEN South Africa)


Election Results

Kätlin Kaldmaa (Estonia PEN) was elected as the PEN International Secretary for a three-year term. Thida (Myanmar PEN) was elected, alongside Anders Heger (Norway PEN) and Mohamed Sheriff (Sierra Leone PEN) who were re-elected to the PEN International Board, each for a three-year term. Gilwon Lee (Korea PEN) came to the end of his time on the Board of PEN International. Marjan Strojan (Slovenia PEN) was elected Chair of the PEN International Writers for Peace Committee for a three-year term. Takeaki Hori (Japan PEN) and Franca Tiberto were elected as Vice Presidents of PEN International.