Posts Tagged 'United Nations'

Obama Administration Brings Global LGBTI Community Together to Advance Human Rights and Development

Todd Larson- USAIDRepost from the White House blog

Last month, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, where I work, co-hosted the third-annual Conference to Advance the Human Rights of and Promote Inclusive Development for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons. The international conference brought together public and private donors, civil society activists, and the private sector.

While this gathering wasn’t the first of its kind — previous such conferences were held in 2010 in Stockholm and in 2013 in Berlin — participation in this year’s event grew significantly, including representation from 30 governments from all regions of the world. When combined with advocates from civil society organizations, more than 50 countries were represented, as well as 9 multilateral agencies, including the United Nations and the World Bank.

More than 25 governments and multilateral organizations signed a joint communiqué affirming their commitment to increased cooperation, coordination, and communication to advance the human rights of and promote inclusive development for LGBTI persons around the world.

Take a look at the communiqué. It is historic. It is inspirational. And as Americans, we can be particularly proud of it. The resounding international LGBTI-affirming commitments in the communique are a direct result of strong U.S. government support to organize as inclusive a convening as possible.

Activists present at the conference weren’t just observers, but active participants, proudly sharing their inspirational stories of courage, explaining to donors what their needs are, and working with donors to conceptualize creative solutions to advance the rights and livelihoods of their LGBTI brothers and sisters.

The conference underscored a number of themes, including that more research and data are needed. I am proud that USAID is already working with partners like UNDP in Asia and, most recently, the Williams Institute, through the Agency’s LGBTI Global Development Partnership, to publish reports that can inform and guide LGBTI inclusive development programming going forward. And through the Global Equality Fund and other assistance and diplomatic tools, the U.S. Department of State is working to support civil society organizations on the ground, to help ensure that the human rights of all persons, including LGBTI persons, are protected.

The conference also made clear that there is much more work to be done. Recent backsliding, such as the passing of anti-LGBTI legislation in The Gambia, and similar renewed threats in Uganda, is tragic proof.

So it was a convening of critical importance — with more than 50 nationalities taking their own leadership seat at the table.

Three years ago, the Obama administration laid out its pioneering support for the international LGBTI community. By hosting the recent forum to address issues of most pressing concern for LGBTI persons around the world, the Administration continued to deliver on its promise.

Todd Larson is the Senior LGBT Coordinator at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

To consolidate an Obama legacy, entrench support for global LGBT rights

White HouseRepost from The Hill by Raymond Smith

With attention increasingly turning to the legacy of the Obama administration, one area of civil rights seems sure to be viewed as a breakthrough success: the recognition and advancement of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. And while this legacy is already on solid footing on the domestic front, many opportunities still exist to entrench support for LGBT rights globally.

In 2008, Obama ran as a “fierce ally” of the LGBT community, yet many were unimpressed by the early months of his administration. In 2009, the LGBT magazine The Advocate ran a parody of his iconic “Hope” poster with the caption “Nope?” Shortly before the 2012 election, however, the same magazine ran a cover with his face superimposed on the grand seated statue in the Lincoln Memorial.

What changed so drastically over time? The evolution of the administration began with a host of incremental steps, such as ensuring hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners and lifting the ban on entry to the U.S. to people with HIV. Over time, Obama led the successful repeal of the ban on “gays in the military” and ensured the enactment of an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill. Using the bully pulpit, he filmed a segment for the “It Gets Better” campaign in support of LGBT teens, and in his second inaugural address, he cited the landmark Stonewall Riots of 1969 alongside Seneca Falls and Selma as turning points in civil rights history.

Perhaps most of all, Obama personally endorsed same-sex marriage and his administration refused to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Since the Supreme Court overturned DOMA in 2013, the administration has been diligent and proactive in extending the full range of marriage equality rights with regard to immigration, access to federal programs, taxation and more. At the same time, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act this year has begun to be interpreted, for the first time, to confer federal anti-discrimination protections on transgender people.

Much less noticed has been an equally impressive parallel track taken with regard to promotion of LGBT rights around the world. Three years ago this week, in December 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech emphasizing that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” The phrasing echoed her famous speech as first lady on women’s rights, given in Beijing 15 years prior, which signaled the inclusion of gender equality as a central focus of U.S. foreign policy.

Concurrently, Obama issued a “Presidential Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.” Unlike on the more scattered and improvised domestic-policy side, this one landmark document has served as a coherent strategic blueprint for action by the federal government.

The memorandum contains several major elements, including combating anti-LGBT criminalization abroad, protecting LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, responding to anti-LGBT human rights abuses internationally, providing targeted foreign assistance and engaging international organizations to secure LGBT rights. In all of these areas, the State Department has outlined a range of accomplishments.

For example, a Global Equality Fund has been established to bridge government, companies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to provide emergency and long-term assistance. The fund promotes LGBT rights through a small grants program, an emergency protection rapid response mechanism, and long-term capacity-building efforts for human rights organizations overseas. Protections for asylum seekers has also been expanded; in one notable case, a Ugandan LGBT rights activist was recently provided asylum rather than being forced to return to a potentially fatal environment in his home country.

Likewise, embassies around the world have begun proactively engaging with governments and human rights organizations. And at the United Nations, the U.S. is a charter member of the LGBT Core Group, which in September issued a ministerial declaration on “Ending Violence and Discrimination against Individuals Based on Their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.”

Despite these crucial steps, much more work remains to be done. “The U.S. blueprint for action can be a powerful force, but only if its approach is consistent and guided by the understanding that all rights are indivisible and universal,” said Jessica Stern, executive director of the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

“Achieving change will demand focused attention. One crucial step forward would be the immediate creation of a Special Envoy for LGBT Rights at the State Department,” Stern noted. Such an envoy would act as a high-level advocate for LGBT concerns, working within the State Department, bilaterally with other countries and through multilateral organizations. The position of special envoy is the focus of bill introduced last summer by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

Likewise, the Council for Global Equality, a Washington-based NGO with the goal of advancing an American foreign policy inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, “has identified a series of actionable next steps that could advance the Administration’s commitment by moving the government from a reactive posture to a longer-term human rights protection agenda,” according to the council Chair Mark Bromley. These objectives, added Bromley, “are designed to harmonize the Administration’s commitments into a coherent human rights policy — and an enduring legacy of President Obama.”

In addition to creation of the special envoy position, other priority areas include:

  • Requiring automatic policy reviews whenever foreign countries enact new anti-LGBT policies. The review could be triggered by legislation, changes in enforcement patterns or failure to protect LGBT populations. Such a thorough review was conducted after the passage of a particularly repressive anti-gay law in Uganda last year, but it’s unclear that comparable reviews have been undertaken in the case of similar laws enacted in Nigeria and, most recently, Gambia.
  • Mandating that government contractors and grantees globally have LGBT non-discrimination policies as pre-conditions for contracts or assistance. Such a move would parallel an executive order issued last summer banning anti-LGBT discrimination policies among government contracts within the U.S. for domestic contactors.
  • Strengthening policies to protect LGBT rights in multilateral organizations such as the U.N., the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Organization of American States. The U.S. should also advocate for adequate funding and staffing for such policies to be enforced and monitored.
  • Establishing annual reports and other mechanisms to make information more widely available about federal effort in the realm of global LGBT rights, and also holding more extensive consultations with a range of stakeholders about how best to implement the memorandum.

Whatever further steps the Obama administration takes, some critics will inevitably dismiss the relevance of LGBT rights, or consider LGBT rights a marginal issue when it comes to the forging of a presidential legacy that will stand the test of time.

But such voices have been proven wrong before. They’re the same ones that in the 1960s saw no need for the Civil Rights Act, in the 1970s resisted signing the Helsinki human rights accords, in the 1980s rejected sanctions against apartheid South Africa, in the 1990s mocked steps to advance a global women’s rights agenda and in the 2000s endorsed human rights abuses in the name of fighting terrorism.

Yet, today, each of these incidents is recalled as a badge of honor — or a mark of shame — for the president who presided over them. So, too, will today’s struggle for LGBT rights, both at home and abroad, be recalled as a substantive and productive element of the Obama legacy.

 

Smith is a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute; an adjunct assistant professor of political science at Columbia University and New York University; and author of Importing Democracy: Ideas from Around the World to Reform and Revitalize American Politics and Government.

 

U.N. Human Rights Council adopts LGBT resolution

Photo: @gustavopecoraro

Photo: @gustavopecoraro

Press Statement from ARC International

(Geneva, September 26, 2014) – The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on combatting violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (L.27/Rev.1), adopted today, Is a critically important achievement for upholding the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 25 human rights groups said today. The resolution follows a resolution adopted three years ago in June 2011, when the Council passed the first ever UN resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, and 42 additional co-sponsors introduced the resolution. In its presentation to the Council, Chile stated that “this resolution does not seek to create new rights…there are some whose rights are more violated and need more protection.“ Colombia added “the report that we request is part of existing international law.“ The resolution survived a total of seven hostile amendments, introduced by Egypt on behalf of ten States, seeking to strip the resolution of all references to sexual orientation and gender identity. Brazil stated that the proposed amendments would “seek to radically change the purpose and focus of the resolution and changes its substance.”  Ultimately, the resolution was passed by a vote of 25 in favor, 14 against, and 7 abstentions, with support from all regions and an increased base of support since 2011.

“The leadership of these Latin American states reflects strong commitment to human rights for all and follows the significant progress that is being made by governments and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, travesti, and intersex activists in the region,” said Andres Rivera Duarte from the Observatorio Derechos Humanos y Legislación, Chile.

The resolution asks the High Commissioner for Human Rights to update a 2012 study on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (A/HRC/19/41), with a view to sharing good practices and ways to overcome violence and discrimination. The resolution expresses grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination in all regions of the world committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. This resolution demonstrates that this issue remains on the agenda of the Human Rights Council and sends a message of support to people around the world who experience this type of violence and discrimination, said the 25 groups.

“While we would have preferred to see an institutionalized reporting mechanism, the council has still sent a strong message of support to human rights defenders working on these issues. We look forward to States implementing the outcomes of these reports,” said Jonas Bagas, of TLF Share in the Philippines. Continue reading ‘U.N. Human Rights Council adopts LGBT resolution’

LGBTI Rights Around the World: A Work in Progress

kyleknight-photoRepost: IRIN Humanitarian News

BANGKOK (IRIN) — In recent years, the world has seen enormous human rights gains with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. However, there have also been substantial setbacks — ranging from discriminatory legislation, to impunity for brutal violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people.

Charles Radcliffe, chief of the Global Issues Section at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), noted: “Supporting LGBT rights work around the world is about recognizing that hostilities toward LGBT people are deeply ingrained in societies and that changing those mindsets and protecting these people is the duty of governments.”

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 17 countries and parts of two others; a handful of countries legally recognize gender based on self-identification alone, with Argentinaand Nepal leading the way and Denmark recently joining their ranks. A 2014 Indian Supreme Court judgment in favour of transgender rights showed what one legal scholar, gesturing to Nepali and Pakistani court cases, called “the possibility of developing a unique South Asian jurisprudence on transgender rights.” Continue Reading

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

This week we join with the worldwide LGBT community in celebrating IDAHOT – the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Celebrated on May 17 – the 1990 date when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its International Classification of Diseases – IDAHO is a call to conscience that the rights of LGBT people around the world remain under attack. For many LGBT communities worldwide, celebrating Gay Pride isn’t an option, or comes with great risk to personal safety and security. Being openly LGBT, in fact, can be an invitation to harassment and abuse, and even death. Here in the U.S., IDAHO can bring back the awareness that sexual orientation and gender identity are not only to be celebrated, but also require us to defend our rights. We can use IDAHO to redouble our commitment to ensure respect, fairness, and equality for LGBT people every where.

Resources:

Visit Day Against Homophobia for a list of events by country

Joint Statement by U.S. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski and Finnish Ambassador to the United States Ritva Koukku-Rondeon the Occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Secretary of State, John F. Kerry’s Statement “Commemorating International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Joint Statement by UN human rights experts, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media

Statement by the President on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Visit Human Rights Watch “African Voices Celebrate LGBT Equality” webpage.

Join ORAM’s Thunderclap campaign for IDAHOT 2014

Read HRC’s Op-Ed “Equality at Home and Abroad and the inaugural issue of “Equality Rising

UNAIDS expresses deep concern over impact of Ugandan bill on the rights of gay men

Press Statement from UNAIDS

If signed into law the controversial bill would toughen punishments against gay people in Uganda

GENEVA, 18 February 2014—UNAIDS is deeply concerned about a bill in Uganda that would further toughen punishments against gay men.

The controversial bill, which was passed by the country’s parliament in December 2013, calls for a 14-year jail term for a first conviction, and imprisonment for life for the offence of ‘aggravated homosexuality’. The signing of the bill into law would have serious human rights implications.

“Uganda was the first country in Africa to break the conspiracy of silence on AIDS—and to give voice to the most marginalized—but now I am scared that this bill will take Uganda backwards, relinquishing its leadership role in the AIDS response,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “I strongly urge the Ugandan authorities to reject the bill and ensure the human rights and dignity of all people in Uganda.”

The bill also has public health implications; studies show that when gay people face discrimination including abuse, incarceration and prosecution—they are less likely to seek HIV testing, prevention and treatment services.

In 2012, there were 1.5 million people living with HIV in Uganda and 140 000 new HIV infections. Globally gay men are around 13 times more likely to become infected with HIV than the general population, emphasizing the urgent need to ensure safe access to HIV prevention and treatment services for all people everywhere.

UNAIDS urges the government of Uganda, and all governments around the world, to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people through repealing criminal laws against adult consensual same sex sexual conduct; implementing laws to protect people from violence and discrimination; promoting campaigns that address homophobia and transphobia; and ensuring access to health services including HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.

Op-Ed “Demonizing Gays in Africa”

Repost from the New York TimesBy 

As acceptance of gays and lesbians has grown in the United States and Europe, intolerance and persecution has been rising in other parts of the world. African nations are leaders in this cruel and dehumanizing trend.

The latest alarms were triggered by a ban in Nigeria on same-sex relationships that was passed by Parliament in May and signed by President Goodluck Jonathan on Jan. 7. Nigeria is a leading oil producer and Africa’s most populous country, and the ban is considered the most significant setback yet to gay rights on the continent.

Although gay sex has been illegal in Nigeria since British colonial rule, the draconian new law criminalizes homosexuality, banning same-sex marriage and prescribing years in prison to anyone who makes a “public show” of same-sex relationships or participates in gay organizations. Even people who simply support gays are subject to criminal arrest and penalties.

Before the new law was enacted, convictions for gay sex were rare in the southern part of Nigeria and occasional in the mostly Muslim north. But since the law went into effect, as Adam Nossiter has reported in The Times, arrests of gays have multiplied and some people have sought asylum overseas. According to Amnesty International, homosexuality is illegal in 38 of 54 countries in Africa. It carries the death penalty in Mauritania, Sudan and Somalia; in northern Nigeria, where Islamic law is practiced, the penalty can be death by stoning. In Senegal, the press regularly “outs” gays and same-sex relations carry a penalty of five years in prison. Another severe law has been passed by Uganda’s Legislature, but President Yoweri Museveni has not and should not sign it.

Such laws violate commitments made by United Nations members in theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights documents.

If these nations cannot do the humane thing, they should at least consider their self-interest. For any leader who values stability, it makes no sense to promote new laws that foment greater hostility among people, like in Nigeria, where there is already ethnic tension.

Even in countries where antigay laws are not enforced, they provide an excuse for abuse — including blackmail and extortion — by police, Amnesty International said. It is unlikely that any of these countries can reach their full economic potential because many foreign entities may find it too risky to invest in such hostile environments. These governments, in abusing their citizens, are moving in dangerous and destructive directions.


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