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African Commission to promote LGBTI interests

Logo of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. (Click on the image to donate to Justice 4 Eric Lembembe)
Logo of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights recently adopted a historic multilateral agreement, along with 25 nations, the EU, UNAIDS and the UNDP. Owing to its importance for Africa in particular, we are publishing the entire communique.  This could well serve African and other LGBTI advocates well and be one more instrument to persuade their own nations in their advocacy efforts.

The African Commission on its own could well use this declaration to influence or persuade African nations to come around and decriminalize homosexuality. It could initiate discussions on human rights protections or advocate for development for all LGBTI. The next annual meeting of this multilateral human rights group will be in the Netherlands in early 2016. Unusually for us, we publish no photos to accompany the lengthy text.

What follows is the communique, as issued by this year’s host, the Department of State of the United Sates of America:

Joint Government and Multilateral Agency Communique From Conference to Advance the Human Rights of and Promote Inclusive Development for LGBTI Persons

US Department of State Logo
US Department of State Logo

Washington, DC  November 20, 2014

On the Occasion of the Annual Conference to Advance the Human Rights of and Promote Inclusive Development for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Persons held in Washington from November 12-14, 2014, the governments of Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay, as well as the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the European Union, UNAIDS – the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, and the United Nations Development Programme, adopt the following communique:

Introduction

Collectively, as a group of governments and multilateral agencies committed to equality and inclusive development for all persons everywhere, we have gathered here in Washington, D.C. to share information, best practices and lessons learned as we work to promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons around the world, and empower them to secure productive livelihoods.

We recognize that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As we work to advance human rights globally, we also remain committed to continue to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBTI persons in our own countries.

We are deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights abuses that LGBTI persons experience in all regions, in particular violence and other forms of intimidation that undermine their ability to live freely and safely and without discrimination. We recognize that LGBTI persons experience human rights abuses along with other vulnerable persons. A comprehensive, inclusive and participatory approach to human rights challenges is needed to ensure equality for all.

We welcome the adoption of the UN Human Rights Council resolution 27/32 on “Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity, ” that followed the first-ever UN Human Rights Council resolution on the issue, 17/19, and look forward to further efforts on this issue in multilateral fora and institutions. Through these resolutions, governments have expressed their grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We urge all governments to continue their efforts in this regard.

We also welcome and commend the recent actions taken by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Organization of American States, the Pan American Health Organization, and the Council of Europe in strengthening the global resolve to further human rights protection for LGBTI persons.

We recall the Co-Chairs’ Summary of Conclusions from the Oslo Conference on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity held in April 2013 and specifically the Co-Chairs’ conclusion that “we look forward to working with all parties to take concrete and practical steps to address violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” We note that the Oslo conference included diverse and strong participation from all global regions.

We further recall that the Oslo Conference affirmed the ongoing need for systematic integration of human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity issues within all aspects of the United Nations system. We reaffirm this need and encourage all stakeholders, including governments, civil society organizations and inter-governmental organizations such as the United Nations to work collaboratively to advance the human rights of LGBTI persons. We furthermore applaud the positive steps taken in various countries in all regions to address acts of violence, repeal discriminatory laws and raise awareness about human rights. We encourage that such engagement be strengthened collectively.

We emphasize the importance of continuing to work together with diverse stakeholders and non-traditional allies such as the private sector, academic institutions, media, local authorities, faith leaders and civil society as we work to advance the human rights of LGBTI persons.

We further recognize the work of civil society organizations and human rights defenders from whom we have heard over the last three days. We commend their tremendous dedication and resolve to bring about a world free from violence and discrimination. We are gravely concerned by the serious challenges, difficult circumstances, and in some instances violent attacks that human rights defenders and organizations face as they work to achieve this important goal. We are inspired by their commitment, and recognize their rich diversity and unique views from different regions and across different cultures and traditions.

Together we affirm the following:

  1. We reaffirm the primary responsibility of states to promote and protect the human rights of all persons;

  2. We recognize and celebrate the diversity that exists within and across LGBTI movements. We seek deeper understanding of and responsiveness to the unique needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons;

  3. We remain deeply concerned about the high levels of violence and discrimination targeting LGBTI persons, and pledge to redouble our efforts to promote human rights protection of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity;

  4. As we support institutions and civil society to advance human rights and inclusive development, we affirm the importance and primacy of the principle of “do no harm” in assistance and diplomacy efforts. We intend to continue to work in close consultation and collaboration with civil society to ensure our individual and combined international efforts do not undermine or further marginalize LGBTI or other marginalized or vulnerable persons;

  5. We aim to integrate the human rights and development concerns of LGBTI persons in assistance and diplomacy efforts. In particular, we intend to continue to use an approach to development that respects human rights. As we work with partners in government and civil society, we seek to support access to services across sectors in a way that appropriately accounts for the needs of all persons without discrimination and with dignity;

  6. We dedicate ourselves to exploring ways to strengthen our international assistance and diplomacy efforts to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTI persons, through cooperating with additional governments and identifying new sources of funding and engagement, including from the private sector;

  7. We will strive to ensure flexible and timely support, especially to meet the needs of the most vulnerable persons worldwide, including LGBTI persons;

  8. We intend to guide our assistance and diplomacy efforts on the basis of need and when possible on the basis of needs assessments. We also recall the importance of co-ownership of assistance and diplomatic efforts with host governments as we work to advance the human rights of LGBTI persons;

  9. We underline that governments, funders, civil society organizations and other implementing organizations should ensure involvement of local LGBTI communities and their allies in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of human rights and development cooperation efforts as appropriate;

  10. We encourage the funds and programs of the United Nations and other international organizations to strengthen efforts to integrate the development and human rights concerns of LGBTI persons into their work;

  11. As is best appropriate and feasible, we seek to provide technical assistance to governments who have committed to advance the human rights of LGBTI persons and/or support their inclusion in development programs;

  12. To further strengthen cooperation, coordination and communication of assistance and diplomatic efforts, we plan to continue to meet annually to discuss implementation of this communiqué and other relevant issues. The next meeting is expected to be organized by the Netherlands in early 2016.

 

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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