ARC International E-Bulletin no.5

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March 2012

Dear friends,

We’re pleased to present the 5th edition of our newsletter, marking a year of this new communication tool. We hope you’ve enjoyed our updates!

OHCHR SOGI report

An exciting moment in December was the publication of the first ever UN report on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity in all 6 UN languages. The report was prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, following a request by the Human Rights Council in June 2011.

The report documents discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world, and outlines how international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The report also contains a number of excellent recommendations to Member States of the HRC on how to improve their human rights record in this area.

More information can be found at http://arc-international.net/global-advocacy/human-rights-council/hrc19

HUMAN RIGHTS DAY 2011

We were happy to attend a panel event at the UN in New York for Human Rights Day. The theme of the event was the prevention of homophobic bullying in schools.

On Tuesday, 6th December, United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, presented a powerful statement on LGBT human rights at the UN in Geneva. ARC was pleased to be among those invited, and was especially happy to welcome to Geneva a broad group of human rights defenders working on sexual orientation and gender identity issues around the world, whose participation was facilitated by the Council for Global Equality.

NGO MEETING IN NEW YORK

As a large group of NGOs working on SOGI human rights issues had gathered in New York for the human rights day events, it was agreed that a day or two would be reserved on our collective schedules for in-person meetings on the coordination of our collaborative work at the UN. It was great to piece together the vast amount of work being undertaken and planned by all the organisations present, and most importantly to focus some energy on brainstorming means of improving our inter-organisational communication and teamwork.

Other organisations present at the meeting included IGLHRC, Labrys, COC Netherlands, CREA, Thai Transgender Network, ISHR, Asia Pacific Transgender Network, International Centre for Advocacy on Right to Health, Amnesty International, GATE, Out-Right Namibia, CAL, QAYN, Pan-Africa ILGA, ILGA, Council for Global Equality, and the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies.

WEBSITE

We were thrilled to announce the launch of our new website in early November.

The website features detailed sections on our global advocacy work, our work to strengthen capacity in the field of human rights relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as info regarding network development (such as the sogi list-serv).

Other highlights include:

The website can be accessed at http://arc-international.net

INTERNATIONAL DIALOGUE, SAINT LUCIA

February 2-6, 2012

ARC was thrilled to organise, in partnership with United and Strong Inc. (St. Lucia) and Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights, an International Dialogue and Training on LGBT Human Rights: Focus on Strengthening the Caribbean Response and Linking Regional and International Advocacy around the world.

The Dialogue brought around 70 activists from the Caribbean region and around the world to the beautiful, sunny island of St. Lucia. Participants engaged actively in a documentation training, a session on sharing and developing decriminalisation strategies, and a strategic conversation on strengthening the links between national, regional and international advocacy.

We already miss our Caribbean friends and look forward to taking the discussions forward in our collective work!

Watch here the event hosted by United and Strong and ARC International.

Media coverage of the Dialogue

Read about previous Dialogues here.

COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN

Photo from government panel on “Good Practices”: L-R Lynne Featherstone, UK Minister for Equalities, Lulu Xingwana, South African Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities and Virginia Giménez, Legal Advisor, Instituto Nacional contra la Discriminacion, la Xenofobia y el Racismo (INADI).

ARC Co-Director, Kim Vance, attended portions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York in late February. Led by COC Netherlands and CREA, ARC co-sponsored a successful side-event on Violence and Discrimination: Activism and Challenges. The panel focused on the recent OHCHR report and featured panelists from the organization Women Living Under Muslim Laws and LBT groups in Botswana and Sri Lanka.

In addition, the Government of the Netherlands, in partnership with Norway, Argentina, the United Kingdom and South Africa sponsored an extremely popular and inspirational side-event on “Good Practices of Governmental Policies”. In both side-events, ARC made interventions about the need for better documentation and data collection at the State level with regard to LBT populations.

ARC was also advocating with a delegation of NGO and UN staff colleagues for a new UN Women-produced guide on data collection and statistics to include recommendations to States to collect disaggregated data, especially on violence against women, that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. ARC will be establishing a small strategic listserv to allow groups regularly engaging at the CSW to have ongoing planning and cooperation, especially leading into next years important session focusing on violence against women. Please contact us to be included. We will also attempt to gather digital copies of all the presentations to publish in the Best Practices section of our web site.

TRADITIONAL VALUES DEBATE AT THE UN

Human Rights Council Resolution 16/3 (March 2011), “Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind” tasked the HRC Advisory Committee to “prepare a study on how a better understanding and appreciation of traditional values of dignity, freedom and responsibility can contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights”.

A deeply worrying draft study, which attempted to undermine the supremacy of international human rights law over “traditional values”, was presented at the 8th session of the Advisory Committee.

ARC International, through our accrediting organisation Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, submitted a written statement to the Committee, outlining the top 10 concerns with the draft. This written submission was supported by 100 NGOs from 50 countries around the world. A full list of signatories can be found here.

Many Committee members reiterated the points in this statement during their interventions in the plenary discussion, and agreed that the draft report needs to be completely rewritten. The Committee is due to consider a new draft of the report at its 9th session in August, with a final version to be submitted to the Human Rights Council in March 2013.

> Preliminary study on traditional values of mankind (A/HRC/AC/8/4)
Arabic | English | French | Russian

> NGO submission: Top 10 concerns with the draft study

> http://arc-international.net/global-advocacy/human-rights-council/hrc-advisory-committee

ENVISIONING GLOBAL LGBT HUMAN RIGHTS

Kim continues to work on the Executive and the Legal and Human Rights Mechanisms (LHRM) Committee of the Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights Project. She has overseen an initial production of 10 country-specific memos that track state interactions with the United Nations regarding LGBT rights, with the focus being on Canada, South Africa, India, Botswana, Kenya, Uganda, St. Lucia, Guyana, Jamaica, and Belize. The law students producing those memos, along with another member of the LHRM Committee will be attending the upcoming HRC in Geneva to conduct research with States, NGOs and UN staff.

LOOKING AHEAD:

HRC 19

One focus of the 19th session of the Human Rights Council will be the first ever UN plenary discussion on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity. Taking place on March 7th, the panel is expected to discuss follow-up to the report of the High Commissioner.

ARC is co-hosting with the ICJ an NGO roundtable to raise awareness of sexual orientation and gender identity issues on Monday, 5 March. Titled “LGBT Issues for the Curious: (Almost) Everything you Wanted to Know about Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity but were too Diplomatic to Ask”, the roundtable affords an opportunity for LGBT human rights defenders from all regions to share their perspectives with diplomats. We are particularly pleased that Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, has agreed to open the discussion.

This session of the Council will also provide opportunity for engagement in the interactive dialogues with Special Rapporteurs on their upcoming reports, including those on torture, disappearances, arbitrary detention, human rights defenders and housing.

Finally the 1st cycle of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism will officially be completed this session when the UPR reports on the following countries are adopted: Tajikistan, Tanzania, Antigua & Barbuda, Swaziland, Trinidad & Tobago, Thailand, Ireland, Togo, Syria, Venezuela, Iceland, Zimbabwe, Lithuania, Uganda, Timor Leste, Moldova, Haiti, and Libya.

We look forward to welcoming a large delegation of activists to Geneva for the session.

More information and documentation relevant to the session can be found on our website.

Listserv questionnaire

The “sogi” list (formerly “chr” list) was established in 2003. It arose out of a small international strategic dialogue (see report) focused on the former UN “Brazilian Resolution” on sexual orientation. It was developed to meet the need for global networking, information exchange and strategy sharing around that resolution and UN strategies more generally. There was no such vehicle at that time and ARC International offered to establish such a mechanism, and continues to manage and oversee the list. The list now has almost 700 subscribers from all regions of the world and has changed in scope and size quite dramatically.

As requests to join the sogi-list grow daily, the traffic increases significantly, and the list management becomes more challenging and time-consuming, we felt the need to assess this space. We are currently canvassing current and former subscribers in order to make this list (or some alternative modeling) as worthwhile as possible for those who use it, or have used it in the past.

The listserv questionnaire is available in English, Spanish and French, and we are requesting responses by March 23rd.

AWID Forum

An interactive panel, moderated by ARC co-director Kim Vance, will be held in Istanbul in April during the AWID Forum. The panel, entitled “Highlighting the InterSEXions: Sexuality, Economy and LGBT Rights”, will explore this highly under-documented intersection of realities and examine the relationship between poverty and the denial of sexual rights, the ways in which sexuality is used to obscure public debate on economic policies or practices, and the best practices of groups working with economically disadvantaged LBT persons. It will feature Susie Jolly (Ford Foundation – China), Kasha Jacqueline (Freedom and Roam Uganda), Anne Lim (GALANG – Philippines), Jessica Stern (Queers for Economic Justice and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission), and Linda Baumann (Out-Right Namibia).

More information can be found on the Forum website.

UPR deadlines

The deadline for the next round of UPR submissions is:

  • 19 March 2012 for submissions on Czech Republic, Argentina, Gabon, Ghana, Peru, Guatemala and Benin; and
  • 26 March 2012 for submissions on Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Pakistan, Zambia, Japan, Ukraine and Sri Lanka

Submissions can be as short as an e-mail of a few paragraphs, and a maximum of 5 pages, and can be sent to uprsubmissions@ohchr.org, with a copy to arc@arc-international.net.

See our brief guide to the UPR in English, French or Spanish.

Watch this space!

In solidarity,

Kim, John and Sheherezade.
ARC International.

Other editions of the ARC E-bulletin

13. January 2015

12. September 2014

11. June 2014

10. February 2014

9. November 2013

8. July 2013

7. December 2012

6. September 2012

5. March 2012

4. October 2011

3. July 2011

2. April 2011

1. January 2011