It was this text which was the subject of two informals conducted by the core sponsors of the resolution. The first informal was attended by 51 states. The key highlight of the informal was the fact that many vocal opponents who were members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the African group, chose not to attend. Thus, Nigeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were prominent by their absence. Among the members who were present, there were two kinds of responses from opposite ends of the spectrum.
First was a response from some supportive states wondering why the sponsors chose an Independent Expert and not a Special Rapporteur. The European Union, for example, noted that it preferred a Special Rapporteur due to the grave situation and that a Special Rapporteur would result in better and more systematic monitoring of the situation worldwide and would send a strong signal to end violence and discrimination. This proposal was also seconded by Canada and New Zealand.
Uruguay, in response, noted that the choice of an Independent Expert over Special Rapporteur was based on the need to have a special procedure that is perceived in a more constructive manner. A Special Rapporteur is perceived as more of a mechanism of monitoring, while the Independent Expert can enter into a dialogue in a more constructive way. Uruguay said that their approach since 2014 has been to take into account everybody’s views and that they had spent a long time talking to many delegations, and the choice of the special procedure was based upon an understanding of which special procedure was going to be perceived in the best possible way.
Apart from supportive statements from states in Europe, North America and Latin America, there was also a supportive statement by the small Pacific Island state of Samoa who said that the Samoan Constitution recognizes all people, and that Samoa would support the establishment of an Independent Expert. The attendance of some Pacific states and the strong statement by Samoa, in particular, was possibly linked to the presence of a strong civil society representative from the region who did significant outreach to Pacific delegations.
The strongest opposing statement was made by Russia, who noted that it was deeply disappointed that the resolution proposed to put forward such a complicated, controversial and unacceptable topic. Russia noted that, while it agreed that every country should do its best to eliminate discrimination for all people, they were against creating a new category with a special regime of protection. They felt the majority of the world’s population would not support such ideas, and that even though the sponsors spoke about dialogue, it was clear to Russia that two groups were absent, namely the Africa group and the OIC group. Russia stated that there is no agreement in law or science on what is meant by sexual orientation and gender identity. Russia also said that it was against this idea in principle and hence they were not ready to engage in the drafting process. Russia then requested the sponsors to reconsider and withdraw the resolution.
China also took the floor to observe that the sponsors had chosen a controversial topic. As there were already a lot of mandates, China choose to reserve its position on the establishment of the Independent Expert.
Albania was in the unique position of both being a member of the OIC as well as a part of the Eastern European grouping. Albania commended the leadership of the sponsors and highlighted that it was disappointed that OIC partners were not there. They also noted that as an OIC member state, it had encouraged others in the OIC to engage in an open dialogue.
Although they were present in the informal there was intriguing silence from both India and South Africa.
The first informal was followed by the second informal to discuss the draft resolution. This informal was attended by 35 countries. There were no substantive discussions and the session wound up in half an hour despite being scheduled to go on for two hours. However, the fact that the informal was short only indicated that the hard work of getting members of the Council to agree to the text had to be done outside the space of the informal through bilateral negotiations.
Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Chile, China Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, European Union, Finland, Guatemala, Holy See, Honduras, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Samoa, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Tuvalu, United Kingdom and USA.
Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, EU, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Morocco, Namibia, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, UK, US, Mexico, Uruguay, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Costa Rica.