UN New Yorker: July 2021

 


Introduction

As the doors of UN Headquarters remain closed to civil society, OutRight’s UN Program continues to work diligently with UN Member States and other civil society organizations to ensure that the rights of LGBTIQ persons globally are visible and present in UN discussions. In the past several months, the UN Program has pushed for the inclusion of LGBTIQ voices at the High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS, the final forum of the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, and the High Level Political Forum. OutRight has continued to push against anti-gender voices in all UN spaces, as well as to work closely with feminist civil society in pursuit of a more inclusive selection process in the search for the next Executive Director of UN Women.


News

I. Special Session on HIV/AIDS Recognizes LGBTIQ People

Political Declaration

Every five years, the UN General Assembly calls for a high level meeting to discuss the continued challenges in ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic. From June 8-10 a High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS was held at the UN to review the commitments made in 2016. Similar to other UN convenings, the High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS included a robust negotiation process between representatives of member states with a view to agreeing a Political Declaration. This declaration is important because it sets out a path for progress towards the shared goal of eliminating HIV/AIDS and can be used by activists in the HIV/AIDS sector to hold their respective governments accountable.

Throughout the negotiation process OutRight’s UN Program worked to ensure that LGBTIQ voices were heard and language inclusive of LGBTIQ people was included in the final document. Specifically, we pushed states to ensure explicit mention of LGBTIQ populations, especially in relation to access to healthcare and non-discrimination in service provision. Unsurprisingly, many states pushed back against these asks.

The final draft of the Declaration included strong language referencing the HIV/AIDS crisis facing LGBTIQ individuals, including direct references to key populations such as men who have sex with men, transgender people, and sex workers. The inclusive language in this year's Political Declaration means that not only were LGBTIQ individuals included in the important discussions at the High Level Meeting, but that efforts to end HIV/AIDS will not overlook some of the most vulnerable populations.

The full Political Declaration is available here.


UN LGBTI Core Group Statement

The UN LGBTI Core Group, an informal cross-regional group working together to mainstream LGBTIQ inclusion throughout UN mechanisms and processes at the UN headquarters in New York, delivered its first ever statement at a High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS during this year's session. The statement aimed to draw attention to the multiple and intersecting ways in which LGBTIQ people continue to be particularly impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and stressed the importance of the inclusion of LGBTIQ individuals in discussions on HIV/AIDS. The Core Group rightly noted that without specific efforts to address the impact of HIV/AIDS on LGBTIQ individuals, the HIV/AIDS pandemic cannot be overcome.

You can read the full statement here.

representative of malta
The Deputy Permanent Representative of Malta delivering the UN LGBTI Core Group statement during the High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS.


II. The Generation Equality Forum Makes Strong Commitments to Gender Equality

The 2021 Generation Equality Forum, a global gathering for gender equality convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, brought together governments, corporations, civil society and other stakeholders from around the world to define and announce commitments for achieving new milestones in the fight for gender equality by 2026. The second and last meeting was held virtually in Paris between June 30 and July 2, 2021.

During the Forum stakeholders committed to several policy, advocacy and activism activities, backed by a commitment of $40 billion USD over the next five years while this process lasts. UN Women will publish a database with all of the commitments, but some examples include:

  • Kenya launched a powerful commitment for prevention and response to gender-based violence, including 23 million worth of funding for the initiative.
  • The World Bank pledged to dedicate $10 billion by 2023 to improve the lives of 160 billion women and girls.
  • The Gates Foundation pledged $2.1 billion to promote economic justice and rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and feminist movements and leadership.
  • The Kering Foundation, in partnership with the French government, committed to funding the creation of 15 women’s centers focusing on response and prevention of gender-based violence across France.


Gender Based Violence Action Coalition Holds an Event

On July 1, the second day of the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, OutRight’s Executive Director Jessica Stern participated in the official side event of the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Action Coalition. As one of 6 civil society leaders of this Action Coalition, OutRight worked over the last year to ensure that LGBTIQ experiences were visible in the final outcome document, called the blueprint, which sets out an agenda for action. During the event attended by thousands of people, Jessica Stern reiterated the need to address gender-based violence against all people, including LGBTIQ individuals, and shared OutRight’s commitments in this regard.


OutRight's Executive Director Jessica Stern delivering remarks during the official Gender-Based Violence Action Coalition event for the Generation Equality Forum in Paris.


Side Event: LGBTQIA+ and Youth Voices for Generation Equality

On July 1, the Generation Equality Forum hosted an intergenerational virtual event titled LGBTQIA+ and Youth Voices for Generation Equality. The panel focused on the intersectional effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, religious and racial inequalities, socioeconomic rights, and gender justice on LGBTQIA+ youth. Speakers at the event included Amanda Bosco Beatrice, a transgender activist and human rights defender from Uganda working with Frontline Defenders, Sayeda Lameeya Parween, a Muslim youth activist and co-anchor of the Queer Muslim Project working with Pravah, and Luiza Drummond Veado, OutRight's UN Program Officer. The panel was moderated by Shay Patten Walker, a youth volunteer activist and Diversity Secretary of the LGBTQ+ Greenwich Student’s Union. The panel discussion aimed to build upon an intergenerational discussion held at the UN in March, which focused on the idea that gender equality is intertwined with racial justice, housing equality, right to body equality, socioeconomic rights, healthcare, and gender justice, as well as to provide further recommendations for some of the persistent barriers to youth engagement in queer spaces.


III. The High Level Political Forum Focuses on Sustainable Rebuilding After COVID-19

Overview

This year’s High Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF) was held in a hybrid format, without in-person civil society participation, and a majority of events taking place online.

The Forum focused on the theme of “Sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that promotes the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: building an inclusive and effective path for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.”

The LGBTI Stakeholder Group (LGBTI SG), a governing structure of a coalition of civil society organizations across all regions working to advance the rights and achieve highest development outcomes for LGBTIQ people which OutRight is part of, participated virtually in official events, sharing the importance of the inclusion of human rights and a gender perspective in the implementation of all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The LGBTI SG also sent written questions to the 42 Member States who presented their Voluntary National Reviews, a process through which countries assess and present progress made in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The LGBTI SG had the opportunity to orally ask live questions focused on the inclusion of LGBTIQ populations in development efforts to Cuba and Sweden, and to other states. Sending questions as part of the Voluntary National Reviews is a way in which civil society can push for transparency and accountability on the part of the states, and directly challenge states on certain issues, such as LGBTIQ equality in their efforts to attain the SDGs.


Mariah Silva, a transgender woman from Brazil, representing the LGBTI Stakeholder Group.

Crucially, the LGBTI Stakeholder Group reiterated through a number of possible interventions that the Sustainable Development Agenda, and the pledge to leave no one behind, can not be achieved without inclusion of LGBTIQ people.


Tanya Lallmon, OutRight's UN Religion Fellow, representing the LGBTI Stakeholder Group from the virtual floor.

To learn more about the HLPF, the LGBTI SG and how civil society can engage in this process, please visit OutRight’s HLPF primer here.


Ministerial Declaration

At the conclusion of the meeting, a Ministerial Declaration focused on the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic was adopted. This year’s Ministerial Declaration included a paragraph focused on gender equality, stating that “[t]he systematic mainstreaming of a gender perspective into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is crucial”.

All the documents leading to the Ministerial Declaration can be found here.

The declaration was not groundbreaking, prompting the Major Groups and other Stakeholders, a group of civil society organizations and other stakeholders recognized as participants in the attainment of the SDG agenda, to release a statement demanding more action from states as we approach the last decade of the Sustainable Development Goals commitment. They stated that the 2021 HLPF “failed to come up with bold and transformative recommendations for action (…) during this world crisis.” by not addressing “the root causes and systemic barriers to achieve a world where no one is left behind.”

You can read the full statement here.


Side Events

The LGBTI Stakeholder Group in collaboration with the Netherlands, UNDP, UNAIDS held the event “Advances and Barriers on Achieving Health and Wellbeing of LGBTIQ populations,” focusing on access to health. The amplified effects of the pandemic on LGBTIQ people were highlighted during the event, strongly emphasizing that existing challenges in accessing healthcare became even more so during the pandemic. Panelists shared their expertise and hopes for a possibility to build back after the pandemic in a way that ensures proper inclusion of LGBTI persons in the center of the creation and implementation of health policies.

A recording of the event can be seen here.


IV. The UN LGBTI Core Group Expands

The UN LGBTI Core Group is an informal group of 35 states and the delegation of the EU, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and civil society organizations Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International, which collaborate in mainstreaming LGBTIQ equality at the UN headquarters in New York. OutRight is a co-founder of the group and serves as its secretariat. In the past several months the UN LGBTI Core Group has been active delivering several statements and hosting events.


Security Council Statement

The UN LGBTI Core Group produced its first ever official statement in the Security Council during the Security Council’s April Open Debate on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The statement highlighted the need to ensure that the work of the Security Council is inclusive and responsive to the needs of all individuals affected by conflict, including LGBTIQ people. The Core Group’s statement is an important step towards the recognition of the particular impacts of conflict on LGBTIQ people, and will hopefully lead to more inclusive discussions in the Security Council on conflict related issues in specific contexts.

Read the full statement here.


Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Statement

cristian espinosa
Ambassador Cristian Espinosa Cañizares of Ecuador delivering the UN LGBTI Core Group Statement at the 14th Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The UN LGBTI Core Group also delivered its first statement during the 14th Conference of State Parties to the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. On June 15 Ambassador Cristian Espinosa Cañizares of Ecuador delivered the statement on behalf of the Core Group highlighting the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence faced by LGBTIQ persons with disabilities. The statement discussed the ways in which violence and discrimination faced by LGBTIQ persons with disabilities are exacerbated by systemic political, economic and social barriers. This statement continues the important work of the UN LGBTI Core Group in bringing an intersectional approach to its work.

Read the full statement here.


High Level Political Forum Statement

The UN LGBTI Core Group presented it’s annual statement in a video format to the High Level Discussion during the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. The Core Group highlighted the importance of implementing national policies that diligently integrate, protect and advance the human rights of LGBTIQ persons, thereby inclusively furthering the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

Read the statement and watch the video here.


International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia and Interphobia Event

On May 17 the UN LGBTI Core Group marked the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia and Intersexphobia (IDAHOT). The virtual event focused on the resilience of LGBTIQ communities and their contribution to COVID-19 recovery efforts. OutRight’s Executive Director Jessica Stern moderated the event which included remarks by the Governments of Argentina and Spain, UN Assistant Secretary General Ilze Brands Kehris, and Liberty Matthyse, Executive Director of civil society organization Gender Dynamix. The discussion highlighted that recovery from the pandemic will only be reached when LGBTIQ people are fully included in all response efforts.

You can watch a recording of the event here.


Welcoming Ireland and South Africa

In July the UN LGBTI Core Group welcomed two new members to the group - South Africa and Ireland. Both countries already had a significant track record in fighting for LGBTIQ equality at the UN.South Africa continues to be a leader in the African context on LGBTIQ issues which will help pave the way for more thorough discussions at the UN when it comes to LGBTIQ individuals from the African region. We are thrilled to see both countries join a group of like-minded states to continue efforts to achieve LGBTIQ equality.


IV. OutRight Co-Hosts Event on LGBTIQ-Inclusive Foreign Policies

On June 29, OutRight Action International and OHCHR took the occasion of Pride Month to co-host an intergovernmental panel discussion with Argentina, The Netherlands, and Germany titled ¨Assisting Human Rights Defenders on the Ground: LGBTI Inclusion in Foreign Policy and International Development (Best Practices)¨. Germany’s Minister of State for Europe, Michael Roth, kicked off the event with a welcome message, followed by a keynote address from Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN Independent Expert on SOGI. Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, moderated the panel discussion, which centered around international, LGBTIQ-inclusive foreign policies and their impact in sustaining, protecting, and guaranteeing the human rights of LGBTIQ individuals abroad. This was a crucial discussion to have, because it shows the way in which global solidarity and action is needed to ensure that all people in all regions of the world are protected against violence and discrimination based on their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics.

Watch a recording of the event here.


V. Ensuring an Accountable Selection Process for the Executive Director of UN Women

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN Women) is currently recruiting a new Executive Director. To ensure that the candidate chosen is committed to inclusive feminist principles, including dedication to the rights of trans people, civil society, including OutRight, have been monitoring the process.

The official process has been fast and not open to civil society. 1000 civil society organizations and individuals, including OutRight, co-signed a letter in April requesting for the process to be fully transparent and participatory. Two more letters asserting the same message have been sent since with hundreds of signatures. Feminist organizations and activists are really pushing the Secretary General and those involved in the selection process to follow feminist principles to find the best candidate to this important post, as UN Women is vitally important to both the global feminist movement and the global LGBTIQ movement.

You can read the first letter here.


VI. Countering the Anti-Gender Movement

Over the past year, OutRight’s UN Program has continuously reported on the increasing visibility of anti-gender actors in UN and feminist spaces. In order to draw a line in the sand and explicitly set out feminist principles, OutRight along with numerous other feminist, women’s, LGBTIQ and human rights organizations came together to publicly launch an Affirmation of Feminist Principles which serves to reaffirm trans-inclusive core feminism. The statement amplifies positions that many feminists have historically taken in relation to understanding gender, sex, and sexuality and is still open for sign-on. To read and sign on to the statement please see here.

OutRight’s UN Program Officer Sahar Moazami wrote an opinion piece for Openly by Thomson Reuters about the rising anti-gender movement. Read it here.

Alongside the launch of the statement, OutRight co-sponsored an event at the 47th Session of the Human Rights Council to reinforce the link between the struggle for LGBTIQ human rights and the fight to advance gender equality. The event was organized by the Permanent Missions of The Netherlands and Argentina along with the civil society organizations Asia-Pacific Transgender Network (APTN), Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Center for Reproductive Rights, COC Nederland, CREA, GATE, ILGA World, International Planned Partenthood Federation (IPPF), Outright Action International, RFSL, and Transgender Europe (TGEU).

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Send questions and comments to:
Sahar Moazami, smoazami@outrightinternational.org