Understanding the Yes vote

The Yes vote will have to be analysed and understood within the larger trajectory of the treatment of the SOGI issue within the Human Rights Council.  There seems to be a certain fluctuation when it comes to support for SOGI issues within the Human Rights Council. In 2011, when the first SOGI resolution was passed there were 23 in favour, 19 against and three abstentions. In 2014, the second SOGI resolution was co-sponsored by 50states. It was passed with a vote of 25 in favour, 14 against, and 7 abstentions. In 2016, the third SOGI resolution was co-sponsored by 49 states. The resolution was passed by a vote of 23 in favour, 18 against and 6 abstentions.

What one can note is that from 2011 to 2014 there has been a steady increase in support. However, 2016 seems to imply a certain backsliding as the votes seem closer to the 2011 margin than the 2014 margin.

How do we explain this apparent backsliding? One way of doing so is by reference to the fact that the votes always depend upon which countries were members of the Human Rights Council. Arguably, the most favourable membership was in 2014 accounting for the larger majority. Fortuitously in 2014 the composition was such that Asia was represented by four countries from East and South East Asia (South Korea, Japan, Philippines and Vietnam) all of whom all whom voted for the resolution. In 2016, by contrast was a more difficult year for SOGI issues as some key supporters (Japan)and some of those who abstained (Sierra Leone, Kazakhstan) were no more on the Council.

Arguably what the resolution sought to do in 2016 was also way more ambitious than in 2014. The fact that the resolution sought to establish an Independent Expert, possibly got some states to turn from abstention to no (China and Congo) and from yes to abstention (Philippines and South Africa).

Finally, one should not discount the important role played by the more organized opposition lead by the OIC with strong support from Russia. The 2014 resolution was a wake up call for the OIC which went on to note that the resolution was against Islam and vowed to overturn it. The 2016 vote bears some imprints of the OIC determination to fight against SOGI issues at the UN.