Engel Statement on Efforts to Advance LGBT Rights in Inter-American Development Bank Projects in the Americas

Press Statement from House Committee on Foreign Affairs Democratic Office

WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, made the following statement on a discussion by Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) board members today on incorporating awareness on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities into development programs at the IDB.  This event is the first of its kind at the IDB.

“As the Inter-American Development Bank works to reduce poverty and spur economic growth throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, marginalized groups must not be left behind.  The IDB has made great strides in its efforts to reach out to Afro-descendants, indigenous groups and women.  Now, I am pleased that the Bank is turning to the LGBT community.  I congratulate the Executive Directors for the United States, Uruguay and Argentina at the IDB on their efforts with Bank management to advance an informal discussion on development issues for LGBT communities in the Western Hemisphere.  LGBT communities can be victims of discrimination and may not have equal access to the same public services – including housing and job training – as the rest of the population.

“As former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, ‘LGBT rights are human rights.’  I could not agree more, and I encourage other international financial institutions to start thinking about how to incorporate LGBT rights into their development programs.”

The IDB is a multilateral development bank that has been in existence since 1959.  It is the leading source of development finance in Latin America and the Caribbean, having provided about $14 billion to the region last year, and has 48 member countries.

Twelve UN Agencies Issue Unprecedented Joint Statement on Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Intersex People

UNHRC logo, Universal Periodic Review, White HousePress statement from Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

In an unprecedented joint initiative, 12 UN agencies* today issued a powerful joint call to action on ending violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) adults, adolescents and children.

“This is the first time that so many members of the UN family have joined forces in defence of the basic rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people,” said the UN Human Rights Office’s Chief of Global Issues, Charles Radcliffe. “It’s both an expression of commitment on the part of UN agencies, and a powerful call to action for Governments around the world to do more to tackle homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination and abuses against intersex people.”

The statement highlights the link between human rights abuses against LGBTI people and ill health, family break-up, social and economic exclusion and lost opportunities for development and economic growth. It sets out specific steps that Governments, in particular, should take to curb violence and protect individuals from discrimination – including measures to improve the investigation and reporting of hate crimes, torture and ill-treatment, prohibit discrimination, and review and repeal all laws used to arrest, punish or discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

“Violence and discrimination against people based on sexual orientation, gender identity and biological sex characteristics violate their human rights and impoverish whole communities. That is why United Nations agencies working across such a wide range of areas – from human rights to health, education, employment, development, children’s rights, gender equality, food security and refugees – have come together to push for change,” Radcliffe said. “While the symbolism of this is important, the practical recommendations we are putting forward are more important. We hope this statement can provide a blueprint to Governments, as well as to UN teams on the ground in countries around the world,” he added.

The joint UN statement on “Ending Violence and Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People” has been endorsed by 12 UN entities: the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Secretariat, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), UN Women, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Thailand Acts to End LGBT Discrimination

Thailand MapRepost from Human Rights Watch

Thailand has taken a big step in protecting transgender people from discrimination.

Earlier this month, Thailand’s Gender Equality Act came into effect, signaling an inclusive future for the country’s legal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It is the first national legislation in Southeast Asia to specifically protect against discrimination on the grounds of gender expression.

The new law specifically prohibits any means of discrimination if someone is “of a different appearance from his/her own sex by birth” – a crucial tool in protecting transgender people. Everyone is assigned a sex at birth, but not everyone continues to identify with that label throughout their lives. Such an evolution of identity should have no bearing on an individual’s full enjoyment of their rights. Continue Reading

US government says it will now use the term ‘sexual rights’

Repost from the Washington Post

UNITED NATIONS — The U.S. government says it will begin using the term “sexual rights” in discussions of human rights and global development.

The statement at a U.N. meeting this week comes after years of lobbying from groups who have argued that the U.S. should show global leadership on the rights of people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

The statement, posted on a State Department website, says sexual rights include people’s “right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”

The Washington-based Center for Health and Gender Equity pointed out the statement Thursday and said it was delighted.

“On one level, it’s symbolic. It also sends a signal to the global community that sexual and reproductive health and rights are a part of the global development agenda,” Serra Sippel, the center’s president, told The Associated Press. She said it follows “huge strides” made under the Obama administration on LGBT issues.

The announcement comes days before more than 150 world leaders gather at the U.N. to launch an ambitious set of development goals, including one of gender equality. One of the agenda’s many targets is to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights by 2030. Continue Reading

World Bank: It’s Time to Stand Up to Economic Discrimination

Jim Kim, World BankThe World Bank’s website professes two primary missions: to end poverty, on the one hand, and to “promote shared prosperity by fostering the income growth of the bottom 40% for every country.”

Those clear and lofty goals are undercut, however, by the Bank’s slowness thus far to confront economic realities that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, along with other marginalized and disfavored populations, face in a vast preponderance of countries around the world.

In most of the world’s countries, LGBT populations are well within “the bottom 40%” that the World Bank wants to uplift. So are a disproportionate number of women. Yet still today the Bank has no “safeguard” – a World Bank term for a set of internal guiding regulations – requiring that sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity be considered when designing new programs, or when entertaining host government requests for new loans.

The Bank, too, has devoted little attention to commissioning the research needed to document, with greater precision, how inattention to inequality only hampers the economic progress that governments should be seeking, and that citizen-funders of the Bank’s programs are right to expect. What little research has appeared on this topic, indeed, has been startling.

For over two years, the Council has engaged alongside other civil society partners in efforts to urge that the World Bank adopt new safeguard language that would challenge governments to meet the needs of their full populations – male and female, lesbian and gay, transgender and queer. We’ve now written to World Bank President Kim to urge immediate action.

We’ve been impressed with Dr. Kim’s personal leadership in speaking to the moral and economic imperatives of addressing LGBT and gender inequalities. We know that he and other Bank leaders understand that countries are only as strong as their economic empowerment, sound health policies, and social inclusiveness allow.

So when World Bank officials hold important meetings in Lima October 9-11, will the Bank’s leadership fight for, and achieve, an overdue commitment to serve the needs of ALL populations, in line with the Bank’s professed mission?

Dr. Kim’s personal convictions and leadership need to translate into concrete progress in reforming the Bank’s sterile inattention to that bottom 40%. We ask that the Bank make its programs relevant to the goals it has proclaimed by addressing – over national government objections if necessary – the economic discrimination that so many LGBT populations face.

The time for action is now.

UN Security Council Holds Inaugural Meeting on LGBT Issues

Photo: Lauren Wainwright

Photo: Lauren Wainwright

Repost from statement issued by U.S. Department of State

Today, members of the UN Security Council held their first Arria-formula meeting on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) issues, particularly in the context of ISIL’s crimes against LGBT individuals in Iraq and Syria. This historic event recognizes that the issue of LGBT rights has a place in the UN Security Council.

Around the world, the UN has documented thousands of cases of individuals killed or injured in brutal attacks simply because they are LGBT or perceived to be LGBT. This abhorrent practice is particularly widespread in ISIL-seized territory in Iraq and Syria, where these violent extremists proudly target and kill LGBT individuals or those accused of being so. No one should be harmed or have their basic human rights denied because of who they are and who they love.

We would like to thank Chile for co-sponsoring this event with us. The United States will continue to raise the plight of targeted LGBT individuals around the world and work to protect their basic human rights.

For more info:

“Timeline of Publicized Executions for “Indecent Behavior” by IS Militias” published by ILGHRC

First-Ever Security Council Briefing Focuses on LGBTI Rights Abuses” IGLHRC

UNAIDS calls on trade negotiators to uphold governments’ commitments to public health and access to medicines

Repost from UNAIDS

GENEVA, 28 July 2015—As the world celebrates the achievement of reaching 15 million people with HIV treatment and commits to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, UNAIDS reminds countries of the urgent need to ensure that new trade agreements under negotiation do not impede access to medicines.

In the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly, governments reiterated their commitment to the use of existing flexibilities under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, specifically geared to promoting access to and trade of medicines, and to ensure that intellectual property rights provisions in trade agreements do not undermine these existing flexibilities, as confirmed by the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.

“The flexibilities established in the Doha Declaration and the TRIPS agreement to protect public health and provide access to medicines for all should be fully respected during the negotiation of new trade agreements,” said UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé. “We are entering a crucial phase of the AIDS response which will decide whether we end the epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. Anything that undermines that response must be avoided.”

Various trade agreements are currently in negotiation and concerns have been expressed that they could involve so-called ‘TRIPS-plus’ measures such as broadening patentability criteria and extending patent duration.

Trade negotiators from 12 countries are currently working to conclude the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which includes an intellectual property chapter that reportedly contains provisions going beyond what is required under the TRIPS Agreement. Such “TRIPS-plus” provisions could make generic competition more difficult and lead to higher drug prices. There is also concern that any TRIPS-plus provisions agreed in the TPP are likely to influence future trade agreements.

Generic competition in the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the use of intellectual property flexibilities, have helped make prices for life-saving drugs much more affordable and enabled the unprecedented scale up of HIV treatment programmes.

“The imperative over the next five years is to diagnose millions of people living with HIV and get them access to the life-saving medicines they need,” said Mr Sidibé, “The right to health must not be negotiated away for trade gains.”

If the global AIDS response is to attain the 90-90-90 treatment target by 2020 – 90% of people living with HIV knowing their status, 90% of people who know their status on treatment, and 90% attaining viral suppression – HIV treatment must be accessible and scale-up must be financially sustainable.

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