Archive for July, 2011

Video: How gay rights debate began at the UN

Watch UN human rights chief Navi Pillay looks back at the evolution of the gay rights

Millennium Challenge Corporation Places Operational Hold on Malawi Compact

Millennium Challenge CorporationFor Immediate Release
July 26, 2011
Contact: Nasserie Carew
202 521-7258 (office)
202 631-7117
carewnm@mcc.gov

Millennium Challenge Corporation Places Operational Hold on Malawi Compact

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a U.S. Government agency that provides development assistance to countries that demonstrate a commitment to good governance.  At the core of an MCC partnership is the expectation that countries maintain a demonstrated commitment to political pluralism, human rights, and the rule of law throughout the life of the program.  MCC is deeply concerned by recent events in Malawi and is placing an immediate hold on all program operations in order to review its partnership with Malawi, including whether to recommend to its Board of Directors to suspend or terminate its assistance.

MCC signed a five-year, $350 million Compact with the Government of Malawi on April 7, 2011.  The Compact is focused on Malawi’s power sector and is expected to benefit nearly 6 million Malawians.  By reducing power outages and technical losses, enhancing the sustainability and efficiency of hydropower generation, and improving service to electricity consumers, the Compact is designed to reduce energy costs to enterprises and households; improve productivity in the agriculture, manufacturing and services sectors; and support the preservation and creation of employment opportunities in the economy.

MCC’s operational hold will bring to a halt all ongoing Compact activities during the review.

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Related article: In Malawi, LGBT rights activists ‘in hiding’

ECOSOS Council vote grants consultative status to ILGA

ILGA LogoPRESS RELEASE

Contact: Renato Sabbadini, tel. +3225022471, renato@ilga.org

Geneva, 25 July 2011

ECOSOS Council vote grants consultative status to ILGA

With 30 votes in favour (India, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Norway, Peru, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary), 13 against  (Iraq, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Egypt, Ghana) and 6 abstentions (Guatemala, Mauritius, Philipines, Rwanda, Bahamas, Ivory Coast) the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) granted today consultative status to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). ECOSOC consultative status allows NGOs to attend UN conferences and meetings, submit written statements and reports, make oral interventions, and host panels in UN buildings, thus representing a fundamental tool for an NGO like ILGA – with more than 700 member organisations in all continents – to do work on LGBTI human rights within the UN system. Continue reading ‘ECOSOS Council vote grants consultative status to ILGA’

Pride Retrospective: the U.S. Helsinki Commission Should Engage

Baltic Pride

photo: Associated Press

It’s common to think of Pride-related events as celebrations of gay and lesbian diversity, and indeed of community. Certainly that’s the spirit that pervades the Pride season in major U.S. cities. But Pride events in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region often carry a more basic message: that gays and lesbians deserve the same rights and privileges as any other people. And that message is not, of course, always welcome.

This as in past years, Pride events were a source of controversy, even hostility, in much of the east European region. In Poland and Croatia, anti-gay protesters disrupted parades – and while police generally sought to protect Pride participants, many observers saw the response in Croatia as inadequate to the task. Permits were denied in St. Petersburg. In Moscow, Russian security forces detained Pride marchers, ignoring the right of free assembly that the Russian constitution ostensibly protects.

While the State Department rightly protested Russian actions, the U.S. Helsinki Commission was silent.  A bipartisan Congressional panel, the Commission traditionally has been a fierce advocate of protecting and advancing what we see as fundamental freedoms, including the rights to free speech, peaceable assembly and freedom of expression. However, the Commission took no public stand against the abuses witnessed in this year’s Pride season, nor did it publicly commend those governments that properly sought to protect these basic rights.

Speaking loudly to broad principles but remaining silent when those principles are not applied – in this case, to gay people – is an all-hat-and-no-cattle approach that undercuts our county’s foreign policy credibility. It hollows out the bipartisan U.S. foreign policy priority of developing a greater understanding that countries which respect and protect their citizens’ rights are, in fact, our best partners in enlarging the boundaries of freedom and prosperity worldwide. And it undercuts U.S. leadership in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), where America’s voice has been crucial in forging a better transatlantic understanding of the democratic rights and obligations that governments must protect.

That OSCE leadership can be regained if, over the next nine months, the Commission finds ways to advocate that the rights of gay and transgender people must be protected, at Pride events and beyond. Through briefings or hearings, public statements and private communications to OSCE partners, the Commission can make clear that the civil and human rights of LGBT people are no less important than those enjoyed by any other segment of the population. In this way, the Commission can convincingly reassert fundamental U.S. principles while establishing its own relevance to some of the most active and fractious battles for human rights in the world today.

Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. Congress adopts LGBT provision

US-Senate-Committee-on-Foreign-RelationsJuly 20, 2001—The Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. Congress adopted an amendment late on Thursday calling on “the Secretary of State to discourage foreign governments from condoning murder and other forms of physical violence that is directed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”  The amendment was offered to the Foreign Relations Authorization bill by David Cicilline (D-RI), the openly gay former Mayor of Providence, who introduced it after two other more detailed LGBT amendments were rejected by the Committee along largely party line votes.

The two defeated amendments were offered by Cicilline and the Committee’s ranking Democrat, Howard Berman (D-CA).  Those provisions were rejected by Republicans, with the exception of the Chairman of the Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who broke with her party to support the LGBT language.  The debate was contentious, but after several procedural battles, a watered-down Cicilline amendment was adopted by voice vote.

The larger bill has some highly partisan provisions, including one that would reinstate the so-called “global gag rule” to prohibit funding for international reproductive health groups that provide abortion-related information, referrals or services overseas.  As such, it is not expected to pass both houses of Congress in its current form.

The newly adopted LGBT provision in the House bill sets a very low bar for international engagement, but the Council is pleased that it was supported by Republicans, including vocal support from the Republican Chairman, and that the Secretary of State has already committed to engage on these issues as important human rights priorities internationally.

U.S. Condemns Violent Disruption of Protests in Malawi

July 21, 2011

For immediate release and posting: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

STATEMENT BY HEIDE BRONKE FULTON, ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON

U.S. Condemns Violent Disruption of Protests in Malawi

The United States strongly condemns the use of force by Malawian authorities on July 20 to prevent their own citizens from exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully as well as the ban imposed on media reporting of the confrontations.  Denying the right of people to protest peacefully is unacceptable. We are disturbed by reports of violence targeting individuals on account of their political or social affiliations.  We are also troubled by the announcement from the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) banning all private radio stations from covering the demonstrations. In light of continued rioting and rumors of retaliation, we urge restraint from both sides.

The Malawian people are guaranteed the right to peaceful association and freedom of expression in their constitution.  The Government’s attempt to prohibit its citizens from marching, and the regulator’s ban on independent media coverage undermine democracy and the rule of law that Malawians cherish and are seeking to protect.  We recall the words of President Mutharika at the April 7 Millennium Challenge Corporation signing ceremony in Lilongwe, that he “will continue to adhere to and uphold democracy and good governance, freedom of expression, freedom of association” and other fundamental freedoms enshrined in Malawi’s constitution.

The United States calls on the people and the Government of Malawi to remain committed to the principles of democracy and to express disagreements through peaceful means.

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Related Posts: In Malawi, more scapegoating of LGBT as riots erupt

Malawi Government Targets NGOs Working for LGBTI Human Rights

Council position on suspension of $350 million in development assistance to Malawi

Sex Between Women Now a Crime in Malawi: New Law Violates Human Rights Obligations of Malawi

In Malawi, more scapegoating of LGBT as riots erupt

Repost from LGBT Asylum News

Last week the British government announced that it was withdrawing budget support from the Malawian government. The move followed a diplomatic spat but the UK Foreign Office (FCO) blamed Malawi’s increasing authoritarianism for their decision.

Germany, Denmark and other countries have cut their aid to Malawi citing a poor governance record.

Malawi has form on blaming LGBT for aid withdrawals, and some governments and bodies have cited concerns on LGBT rights in their consideration of aid to the country – but they have never been more than a footnote to the same sorts of issues cited by the FCO.

Now Malawi’s government and media has labeled an opposition protest a “gay rights rally”. It banned today’s protest against the state of the economy, which resulted in riots and at least one death. Yesterday, ruling party supporters, who have been encouraged to violence by President Bingu wa Mutharika, threatened anyone who would dare join the protests and attacked two independent radio stations.

Of the two civil society leaders who have been most outspoken in support of LGBT human rights who took part in the protests, Undule Mwakasungula Human Rights Consultative Commitee (HRCC) chairperson was beaten and and executive director of Centre for Development of People (CEDEP) Gift Trapence arrested then released.

Mark Bromley of the Council for Global Equality said:

“Once again we see that an increasingly authoritarian government is trying to deflect attention away from legitimate public grievances and economic hardships by blaming the protests on gay rights supporters. The protests today were not about gay rights, they were about good governance and human rights for all citizens. Continue reading ‘In Malawi, more scapegoating of LGBT as riots erupt’


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