Posts Tagged 'The Council for Global Equality'

Governments and Human Rights

Governments and Human RightsThe Council pays particular attention to the role that foreign governments play, or fail to play, in preserving and advancing the rights of their LGBT citizens. In our own country, we’ve seen how policies pursued by this President have helped empower greater respect and protections for LGBT persons. The same could happen in many countries abroad.

Moving the needle on respect for LGBT people is a process, of course. Governments must play a role in that process – in molding attitudes, not just reflecting them, and in forming policies that promote and reinforce cross-society acceptance and cooperation. We believe all governments – ours yes, but also those of every other country, friend and foe alike – should be held accountable for:

  • The tone that governing officials’ homo- or trans-phobic public rhetoric sets within society;
  • Failure to redress legally sanctioned discrimination or bias-motivated crimes against LGBT individuals;
  • The degree to which LGBT individuals are accorded equal access to services and opportunities, including health care, employment, education, and housing;
  • Whether LGBT civil society organizations are able to register and function unimpaired;
  • The prevalence of transgender-specific violence, abuse, and documentation issues, particularly in cases involving government action or inaction.
  • Abuse of government and police powers, e.g. the use of tangential laws regarding loitering to arrest or detain LGBT individuals arbitrarily; the use of foreign agent or tax laws to place disproportionate restrictions on LGBT civil society; physical abuses by police, prison, and hospital officials; and bribery solicited by such officials in order either to provide services or to avoid abusive treatment; and
  • The media climate in which LGBT rights are explained to and understood by the public, particularly when government-sponsored or –influenced media outlets are involved.

In addition, we should work with countries to understand intersex issues as a related set of human rights concerns. In this context, governments must be held accountable for policies or practices that unnecessarily and adversely impact the childhood development and adult health and sexuality of intersex persons. Appropriate government officials, including our own, must also enter into a new dialogue with intersex persons to identify best practices in the diagnosis, treatment and lifelong support for intersex health.

We know that the U.S. does not run the world by fiat. But we also recognize our responsibility, as citizens of a country that wields outsized influence in the world, to ensure this influence is put to positive use. We therefore hold our government accountable for encouraging foreign counterparts to guarantee the conditions in which the promise of the Universal Declaration can be realized for all citizens.

If fault is to be found in U.S. human rights policy, it certainly isn’t in our country’s attention to LGBT human rights, as the December 20 New York Times article alleges. Nor is it in failing to listen to the voices of local activists, as the Times article also suggests has been the case: to the contrary, we’ve found this Administration very much attuned to those local voices in framing its diplomatic dialogue and actions.

The fault we find, rather, is in this Administration’s lack of consistency in showing that human rights matter – and that deliberate abuse of those rights damages the fabric of our bilateral relationships.

Across this Administration’s tenure, the Council has urged that actions by foreign governments that abridge the human rights of any minority group automatically trigger a measured review of how those actions might impact U.S. programs in-country and, of consequence, potential U.S. policy responses.

We know, of course, that U.S. policy goals in any given country sometimes compete against each other. But if support for human rights is a principle, neither it nor its deterrent value should be shunted aside when inconvenient – not even when Nigerian oil contracts, Pacific trade deals, or terrorism concerns are in play.

We also see an urgent need for greater Administration transparency in the funding it provides for LGBT and other human rights programs, and in how those programs are evaluated. The State Department and USAID are embarrassingly far apart in how they measure their LGBT-related programming dollars – no doubt a contributing factor to the highly inflated, erroneous figure of $700 million reported in the New York Times. And unfortunately the World Bank and other multilateral development funders have yet to institute mechanisms needed to include LGBT minorities – who are so often denied basic livelihoods and excluded from the economic life of their own country – in the development opportunities that Bank programs are intended to promote.

Common counting practices, clear programmatic goals, and honestly reflective measurements of program results are basic to good governance.

The Place of Human Rights

The Place of Human RightsAnother new year. Another chance to put things right.

For the Council for Global Equality, that means elevating the place of human rights – including those of LGBT, intersex and other vulnerable minorities – in America’s foreign policy.

The year of 2015 brought incredible progress on LGBT rights around the world. Marriage equality was won here in the United States as well as in Mexico and Ireland; Malta passed the world’s most protective law for transgender and intersex citizens; and Mozambique got rid of its colonial-era anti-sodomy law once and for all.

Yet challenges and dangers continue to confront LGBT people. ISIS continues to hunt down and kill suspected LGBT individuals in its territory. Refugees fleeing persecution last year reached a new post-World War II high, with LGBT refugees among the most vulnerable of them. And from Russia to Egypt, a broad array of countries continue to deny rights to their own LGBT citizens while leading the charge at the United Nations to deny human rights to LGBT individuals everywhere.

We enter the last full year of the Obama Administration with pride and respect for what our country has helped accomplish to ensure that LGBT people are no longer excluded from universal human rights protections. A White House conference last year identified new opportunities for our embassies to respond to escalating violence against LGBT persons globally. A new U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons is mobilizing diplomatic efforts to challenge LGBT human rights violations and to build alliances in the quest for equality. And last year, the Administration sought to build a case for global support for LGBT refugees fleeing targeted persecution, including through the first-ever briefing on that topic for the UN Security Council in August.

Perhaps most important, the Obama Administration last year leveraged our public diplomacy and development tools as never before to promote citizen exchanges, highlight the voices and messages of local LGBT leaders and help fund LGBT organizations to promote global equality. The President himself spoke in support of LGBT rights in many of his travels abroad. These efforts, amplified by our investments in educational and development opportunities through USAID and the State Department’s growing Global Equality Fund, bear witness to the Obama Administration’s unprecedented commitment to equality for LGBT individuals everywhere.

If we are to hold other governments accountable for how they honor and safeguard the rights of their LGBT citizens, we must continue to push our own towards even greater consistency and impactful actions. Over the next two weeks, we will set forth the expectations we hold of our own government in this regard.

The steps that are – or aren’t – taken in 2016 will etch the final and most compelling stories of this Administration’s human rights legacy. Then it will be up to us, the human rights community, to hold the next Administration accountable to this country’s proud tradition of standing up for universal human rights at every turn.

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.

Advocacy Groups Seek U.S. Travel Ban Against Gambian President

Obama Jammeh White HouseRepost from the Washington Blade

More than a dozen LGBT advocacy groups on Friday called upon the Obama administration ban Gambian officials responsible for human rights abuses from entering the U.S.

The Human Rights Campaign, the Council for Global Equality, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights First, GLAAD, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Global Justice Institute with the Metropolitan Community Churches, the National Center for Transgender Equality, Out and Equal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in a letter urged the White House to institute a visa ban on Gambian President Yahya Jammeh and other “key Gambian officials” who “have promoted discriminatory laws and who are responsible for grave human rights abuses.” The groups also called upon the Obama administration to freeze Jammeh’s U.S. assets that include a multi-million dollar home in Potomac, Md.

“It is not too late for the United States to send President Jammeh and his regime a clear and unequivocal message: human rights violations will not be tolerated and the U.S. government will respond with actions, as well as with strong condemnation,” reads the letter. “It is crucial that the United States take concrete action whenever countries enact discriminatory laws, and the Gambia should be no exception.” Continue Reading

What to Expect From Romney

What to Expect From RomneyThe Council for Global Equality has urged elected representatives and their staff from both major political parties to stand against LGBT human rights abuse and support LGBT-fair policies around the world.  With the Republican Party now poised to nominate its presidential candidate, we address that appeal to Governor Romney.

Over the past four years, President Obama and his Administration have offered unprecedented support for LGBT human rights abroad:

  • The President has spoken out forcefully against anti-gay legislation pending in Uganda; his Administration has registered U.S. concerns about anti-LGBT discrimination and actions in countries ranging from Senegal, Cameroon, and Malawi to Lithuania, Honduras and Iraq.
  • The State Department’s annual human rights reports now give equal attention to the difficulties faced by LGBT people in every corner of the world.
  • New funding streams have been opened to support LGBT civil society organizations in troubled areas of the world.
  • The plight of LGBT refugees is being addressed.
  • Transgender Americans now can amend passport gender markers with greater dignity, while passport and birth report forms to be filed by gay and lesbian parents have been made more inclusive.
  • Secretary Clinton has spoken directly before an important human rights body about the need for the international community to address the issue of LGBT fairness more squarely.
  • And President Obama has directed all foreign affairs agencies to ensure that LGBT populations are integrated, where appropriate, into our foreign assistance programs and policies.

Through these actions, the Obama Administration has reaffirmed that no minority, in any country, is immune from international standards of human rights protections, and that America will stand for fairness for all people, including LGBT populations, as part of its foreign policy.  In doing so, it has drawn from America’s principles of equality, fairness, and justice – principles that are part of our national conscience and discourse.

We’ve heard little from Governor Romney about human rights – or, indeed, about how he would approach the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people within his prospective human rights policy.  We hope he will speak to these issues in the remaining course of his campaign, and that he will show leadership in ensuring that defending LGBT human and civil rights is a point of national unity, not one of political division.


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