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Wednesday 09 November 2016


United Nations vote on LGBTI rights

Posted in: Features
By Sarah Murphy - 8th November 2016

Fierce advocate for the rights of queer and gender diverse people, Aych McArdle speaks to us about the importance of the upcoming UN General Assembly vote and its impact on human rights.

 
aych_1_1.jpg
Fierce advocate for the rights of queer and gender diverse people, Aych McArdle
Aych recently took part in the ISHR's Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Programme in Geneva, equiping human rights defenders with the knowledge and skills to make strategic use of the international human rights system.

The UN General Assembly prepares to vote on an unprecedented resolution to undo the newly created role of independent expert on sexual and gender minorities.

Proposed by the African Group, the draft resolution seeks ‘to defer consideration of and action on Human Rights Council resolution 32/2 of 30 June 2016 on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in order to allow time for further consultations to determine the legal basis upon which the mandate of the special procedure established therein will be defined.’


Does a vote like this undermine the Human Rights Council's work?​

This vote is basically a 'no-action motion' which would stall, if not completely rule out, the creation of this mandate. This is where it gets overwhelming: the motion that is being proposed has already been addressed by two reports prepared for the Human Rights Council by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. This vote is dangerous and scary.

If the General Assembly calls into question a decision that has already been passed at the Human Rights Council, it casts a dubious light onto future actions and interference that the G​eneral ​Assembly​ might have in the activities of the Human Rights Council. Opening up a decision for debate that has already been made undermines the work of Human Rights Council and questions its authority. It means there would be a precedent to reopen other decisions made by the Human Rights Council.

Why is the SOGI independent expert role such a crucial one?

​The SOGI IE resolution that was presented by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay​ at the UN Human Rights Council in June called for the "Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual​ ​orientation and gender identity​". It passed by a nail biting vote (23 votes in favour, 18 against and 6 abstentions​).​

It draws on previous resolutions tabled by South Africa (2011) and by​ ​Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay​ (​2014​) which lead to reports by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights that painted a grim picture of human rights violations based on SOGI all around the world.

This role will be able to: Work with UN member states to highlight areas of concern and offer guidance on how to address these issues​, t​able concerns at the UN bringing international attention to human rights violations based on SOGI​, ​w​ork with existing mandate holders to strengthen their ​work highlighting the int​e​rsectional nature of human rights violations based on SOGI​ and contribute to existing and new discussions on the application of human rights in relation to SOGI.

This sounds great right? Due to procedural tactics by states in opposition to this mandate, a new proposal has been tabled at the UN General assembly "to defer consideration... in order to allow time for further consultations to determine the legal basis upon which the mandate of the special procedure established therein will be defined.”

What does that even mean? It is a tactic used by opponents to this mandate to block the Human Rights Council decision from making it's way through the General Assembly and to delay (if not block completely) the work of this important role.


What kind of message does this send to queer and gender diverse communities around the world, especially in African nations - as all members of the African States Group are pushing for this?

​It's complicated!

​A vote like this proposes that peoples with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities are not entitled to full protections from discrimination and violence under international human rights law.

The African block makes up a large chunk of the UN General Assembly and often vote as one to gain traction on issues that are important to them. It gets tricky for individual states who in principal are supportive of protecting people from violence and discrimination based on SOGI. Do they break up the entire African block by voting against this motion?

It's really important to note that this proposed vote by the African block does not mean that all African states and are against human rights based on SOGI. It's political. ​​​

How can the queer and gender diverse communities push have their say about this matter?

​Now is the time for our whānau around the world to contact their governments (if it is safe to do so) and their ambassadors in New York to urge them to reject any attempts at the General Assembly to undermine the SOGI Independent Expert, and the integrity of the Human Rights Council more broadly.

Last night a change.org petition was launched by the Coalition of regional organisations working on SOGIEB issues in Asia-Pacific, calling on the United Nations Third Committee to safeguard Resolution 32/2 and SOGIE Independent Expert’s Mandate. Click here to sign the petition.

Contact details for the Foreign Ministry of each country can be found at: http://www.ediplomat.com/dc/foreign_ministries.htm

A list of New York Missions is available at:
http://www.un.org/en/member-states/index.html

Sarah Murphy - 8th November 2016

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