Bulletin no.11 – June 2014
The ARC team has been working as hard as ever in recent months with meetings, conferences and UN advocacy, including at the UPR, Human Rights Council, CSW and ECOSOC. We’ll try to keep this overview of our activities brief… here goes!
MEETINGS AND CONFERENCES
Over the past year, ARC has been pleased to support civil society engagement around a follow-up SOGI resolution at the UN, as well as to strengthen opportunities for building solidarity and assessing ways of working together effectively. Through weekly conference calls and a shared collaborative process, NGOs working on SOGI issues at the UN have had the opportunity to explore areas of commonality, needs and priorities, culminating in a convening in Istanbul in February of this year involving NGOs and human rights defenders from Algeria, Australia, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, South Africa, St Lucia, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine, United States of America and Uruguay.
Informed by two external research reports (one on the pros and cons of different UN models, and one a comparative analysis of experiences of other equality movements in advancing their priorities within an international context), and independently facilitated by Sally Shalabi from Jordan, the Istanbul convening provided an invaluable opportunity for sharing diverse perspectives, building areas of common ground, and identifying issues for continued discussion.
Key areas of commonality were gathered together in a one-page document to help guide our engagement with States, and all involved expressed a mutual commitment to maintaining and broadening the conversation to strengthen our continued participation in UN processes.
Pan Africa ILGA conference
The Pan Africa ILGA (PAI) conference, which took place in Nairobi in March, brought together human rights defenders from across Africa, for several days of strategic discussion, debate and analysis. The conference also saw the adoption of a new Constitution and election of a new Board to carry forward PAI’s continued development and voice within the region. ARC hosted an interactive discussion on UN engagement, participated in workshops on a range of issues, including security needs, religion and culture, and documentation of human rights violations, and appreciated the opportunity to discuss ways of strengthening international and regional partnerships.
Global Meeting on Gender, Sexuality and the Internet
From April 12-17, ARC took part in a global meeting to explore issues around gender, sexuality and the internet, to contribute to building a network of feminist and queer activists, academics, internet rights experts and techies to identify collaborative strategies across movements and develop an evolving set of Feminist Principles on the Internet. The meeting took place in Malaysia and brought together academics, activists and policy specialists from local, regional and international organisations and networks from around the globe. During the meeting ARC co-facilitated a training session on engaging with human rights mechanisms and UN instruments to advance sexual rights and women’s human rights in relation to the internet.
Follow the dialogue online using the hashtag #imagineafeministinternet
Transgender Europe Council
ARC was honoured to be invited to attend the biennial Transgender Europe Council from 1-4 May in Budapest. Bringing together some 200 delegates, the TGEU Council is the largest political gathering of trans activists on the continent and a unique opportunity for strategic discussion of challenges, progress and opportunities, as well as a lively celebration of the increasing strength of the trans movement across Europe. ARC Co-Director John Fisher presented a workshop on using UN mechanisms to advance trans rights, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay delivered the first-ever video message by a High Commissioner specifically focused on trans rights.
UNAIDS consultation on HIV and the human rights of LGBTI people
ARC was pleased to participate in this UNAIDS consultation, on the eve of IDAHOT, from 15 – 16 May. The focus of the consultation was to develop strategies to respond to the various health and human rights challenges related to HIV faced by LGBTI people. Shorter-term crisis prevention and management interventions were explored, as well as longer-term sustainable policies and programmes to improve access to health services for LGBTI communities.
The international gathering brought together implementers, advocates, faith leaders, human rights defenders, donors and representatives of United Nations organizations from countries and regions around the globe, including the Caribbean, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Uganda, USA and Zambia.
Orientations and Identities, Los Angeles
From May 28-30, ARC Co-Director, Kim Vance, was invited to address and participate in a conference entitled Orientations and Identities: Sexuality and Human Rights on the Global Stage in Los Angeles, USA. The goals of the conference were to: a) to provide a forum for practitioners and academics to find commonalities, linkages, and contestations in the hopes of improving cohesion and results in our work; b) to address theoretical, normative and strategic questions about the nature, justifications, and sources of sexual rights/SOGI-related rights, and the efficacy of different forms of national and international leverage; c) to clarify debates on key issues and terms; d) to discuss current and future strategies for advancing work on SOGI-related rights from the local to the global; and e) to identify ways in which future academic research and transnational activism can inform each other in mutually beneficial ways. It was wonderful to be among a great group of thinkers and doers, and some next steps and new initiatives were born within this collaborative space.
25th session of the Human Rights Council
HRC25 took place from 3 – 28th March 2014 at the United Nations in Geneva. SOGI issues received a significant amount of attention throughout the interactive dialogues with Special Procedures, with mandate holders, NGO speakers and States expressing concern about continued violations against LGBTI persons, including with particular reference to the worsening situations in Uganda, Russia and Nigeria. Contrary to the Council mandate, there were States which questioned and sought to restrict attention to SOGI-related issues, stating that mandate holders should only discuss “universally agreed upon” human rights. This was compounded during the general debate under Item 3, when Namibia delivered a statement titled “Protection of the family” on behalf of 99 States.
The Council adopted the working group reports from the 17th UPR session. States under review included Saudi Arabia, Senegal, China, Nigeria, Mexico, Mauritius, Jordan, Malaysia, Central African Republic, Monaco, Belize, Chad, Israel, Congo, and Malta. A full report of the UPR adoptions, prepared jointly by ARC, COC Netherlands and ILGA, is available at http://tiny.cc/uprhrc25
The session also witnessed a historic first: the first ever HRC side event exclusively dedicated to intersex issues, titled Intersex People and Human Rights: Violations, Voices and Visions. Co-sponsored by ARC International, International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), El Consorcio Latinoamericano de Trabajo sobre Intersexualidad, Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia, IntersexUK, Zwischengeschlecht.org, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and Global Action for Trans* Equality (GATE), the panellists presented both powerful testimonials and analysis, urging States to fulfil their responsibilities to stop human rights abuses directed against intersex persons, including violations of rights to health, dignity, equality, bodily autonomy, and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Several State delegates were moved to tears, and indicated afterwards that they understood for the first time that the “I” in LGBTI represented more than just an initial.
Additionally, a side event entitled Intersectionality and Impunity: locating Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity in the Human Rights Discourse took place on Wednesday 19 March 2014. The event was co-sponsored by Coalition of SOGI Malaysia, ICARH, ILGA, ISHR, JSA Consulting Group and the Sexual Rights Initiative. Panellists included human rights defenders from India, Malaysia, Nigeria and Switzerland as well as a representative of the OHCHR.
Download our report of the session: HRC25 Report_ARC2014
58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women
CSW58 took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 10 to 21 March 2014. The priority theme of this year’s session was on the “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”. A significant SOGI caucus met throughout the session to discuss strategies and developments on the negotiations of the outcome document and resolutions. Key areas of contention in government negotiations on language focused on the usual suspects – SOGI, SRR, gender, family, comprehensive sexuality education, state sovereignty and so on. Unfortunately all SOGI-related language was negotiated out of the final outcome document. ARC’s Advocacy and Communications Manager, Sheherezade, was pleased to be invited to speak on an RFSL panel discussion on traditional values during the first week, along with activists from Russia, Uganda, Saint Lucia and the Philippines.
More on the session can be found here.
The 19th UPR session took place from April 28 to May 9. States under review included Norway, Albania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Portugal, Bhutan, Dominica, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Brunei Darussalam, Costa Rica, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Qatar, and Nicaragua. The Working Group reports from the session will be formally adopted by the Human Rights Council at its 27th session in September 2014, where a limited number of NGOs will be able to take the floor for each State under review.
Download our report of the session: UPR19 – SOGI report
Geneva briefing on the Istanbul meeting
On May 8th, a group of NGOs held a briefing session for State representatives in Geneva on expectations for the Human Rights Council in follow up to resolution 17/19 on “Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity”. The meeting introduced the outcomes of the Istanbul convening (see above) to States, and provided opportunity for discussion and feedback, and was well attended by NGOs, States and UN agencies.
ARC recommended for UN ECOSOC accreditation
On 21 May, the UN NGO Committee voted to recommend ARC International for consultative status with the United Nations (under our long title: “Allied Rainbow Communities International”). The vote was adopted by the 19-member NGO Committee by the narrowest of margins, with 7 States voting in favour (Belgium, Bulgaria, Israel, Peru, Turkey, USA and Venezuela), 6 opposing (China, Morocco, Mozambique, Russia, Senegal and Sudan), 1 abstention (India), and 5 States absent from the room (Burundi, Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua and Pakistan).
We appreciate the strong support of those States which voted in favour. The lack of positive participation by States which abstained or deliberately left the room when our application was called highlights a failure by some to uphold the principles of civil society participation in the work of the UN in a non-discriminatory manner.
The NGO Committee recommendation will take effect upon approval by the full ECOSOC at its July session, where positive recommendations are usually approved without incident.
ARC also worked to support the application of the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, whose accreditation was again deferred following a 7-7 tie in the Committee.
High Commissioner Navi Pillay – end of term
ARC International extends warm and hearty thanks to the outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, whose term ends this August. Since she took up the post in September 2008, Navi Pillay has worked extensively to ensure that SOGI-related human rights issues are integrated into the work of the Office, including through the creation of two focal points on SOGI. The High Commissioner has consistently raised SOGI issues in her reporting to governments at the UN HRC and GA, prepared statements and op-eds on positive developments and raised issues of concern. ARC was pleased to attend an event on May 30th, where ILGA presented Navi Pillay with the LGBTI Friend of the Year Award. Read High Commissioner’s statement upon receiving the award here.
OTHER NEWS AND DEVELOPMENTS
Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights
As this global research and documentary project moves into its phases of significant knowledge production and distribution, we are happy to announce that Envisioning has its own Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/envisioninglgbthumanrights. Currently, the project is launching and disseminating a major film work about the story of the struggle to strike down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexuality. Filmed in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Lucknow and rural India, No Easy Walk to Freedom is told through the voices of lawyers, activists and community leaders, exposes human rights violations perpetrated under section 377 and documents the growth of queer organizing in India in the context of this historic legal battle to overturn a colonial-era law. Envisioning has also been significantly involved in preparations for the World Pride Human Rights Conference in Toronto (June 25-27) and ARC Co-Director (and Envisioning Executive Member) Kim Vance, will attend a meeting of Envisioning partners just before the conference and is looking forward to seeing the numerous presentations of Envisioning Partners from Africa, the Caribbean and India as part of the conference programme.
26th session of the Human Rights Council
HRC26 is due to run from June 10-27 at the UN in Geneva. This session will see the final report and update by the current High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, before she leaves office, and affords an opportunity to commend her for her leadership on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, and to encourage continued integration of the issues throughout the work of her office.
There will be numerous interactive dialogues with relevant Special Procedures, including on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, health, violence against women, extreme poverty, extrajudicial executions, discrimination against women, the Special education, and racism. A number of these Special Rapporteurs gave specific attention to sexual orientation and gender identity issues in their reports.
On 19 and 20 June, the Council will consider and adopt the final UPR reports of Afghanistan, Cambodia, Chile, Comoros, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Macedonia, New Zealand, Slovakia, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Viet Nam and Yemen.
Read more on the session here.
Deadline for UPR submissions – June 15th
The deadline for submitting information for the 21st UPR session, taking place in early 2015, is June 15th. States under review include Kyrgyzstan, Kiribati, Guinea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Spain, Lesotho, Kenya, Armenia, Guinea-Bissau, Sweden, Grenada, Turkey, Guyana and Kuwait.
Stakeholders’ submissions should be sent through the online system available at: https://uprdoc.ohchr.org
ARC’s Guide to the UPR is available here.
ILGA North America regional conference
In conjunction with World Pride Activities in Toronto, ILGA North America will be hosting a one-day regional meeting on June 21st. As a Canadian-based organization, we are looking forward to participating in the discussions and outcomes of this meeting.
World AIDS Conference
ARC is pleased to have been accepted to facilitate a session at the AIDS 2014 Global Village, to present our video “The Time has Come” and highlight the voices of human rights defenders cross-regionally. We look forward to working with groups from around the world to make the most of the networking and strategising opportunities that this Global Conference provides.
ARC and UN 10-year evaluation reports
We greatly appreciate the positive response to our 10-year evaluation project, with more than 90 survey responses received, and more than 30 interviews conducted. The external evaluation team, consisting of Jack Byrne from New Zealand, Dorottya Karsay from Hungary and Lucas Paoli from Brazil, are working hard to finalise two reports: one on UN developments, challenges and opportunities, and the other on ARC’s particular contributions and areas for potential development. We look forward to receiving both reports, sharing them with our broader communities, and reflecting on ways to strengthen our capacity to advance LGBTI rights collaboratively and effectively in the international arena.
Watch this space!
Sheherezade, Kim and John.
ARC and ILGA fly the rainbow flag at the UN, May 2014