UN New Yorker: Thirteenth Edition


To mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of OutRight Action International, we are pleased to present to you a short video explaining the UN program.

2020 has been a year unlike any other. COVID-19 continues to affect communities globally, with LGBTIQ people being among the most vulnerable. Since the beginning of the year, OutRight has worked diligently to document the amplified effects of the pandemic on LGBTIQ people, and support affected communities. To date we have distributed $1 Million USD to LGBTIQ organizations across the globe.

Advocacy spaces have also been affected by containment measures surrounding the pandemic, with many scaled down and moved online. The UN Program has continued to work to ensure that LGBTIQ experiences and voices are heard in UN spaces such as the High Level Political Forum and more recently at the UN General Assembly.

I. UN General Assembly Takes Place

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) was undeniably impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike prior years, engagement at the UNGA by both Member States and civil society was predominantly virtual, with Member States only physically entering the UN in New York to conduct votes on resolutions. Civil society engagement was solely virtual, but, as always, was ever-present through ongoing conversations with Member States.

In our engagement with Member States OutRight focused on a number of resolutions of particular importance during this year's session. The Permanent Mission of Sweden presented the 2020 revision of the Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions (EJE) resolution. To date, this is the only UNGA resolution which includes explicit mention of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), making it hugely important in recognising that LGBTIQ people are particular targets of extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions.

The EJE resolution is presented for revision every two years at the UNGA. This year's text, similarly to previous revisions, affirms the right to life, liberty and security for everyone, and acknowledges that impunity continues to be a major factor contributing to the continuation of extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions. Crucially, it highlights the targeting of specific groups including killings of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, killings of members of indigenous communities, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists or demonstrators, as well as killings of persons due to their real or perceived SOGI.

Each time the resolution is presented a group of states submits an amendment attempting to remove the paragraph referencing SOGI. This year was no exception. Thankfully, after immense outreach and advocacy by OutRight and others the amendment failed with a vote of 94 against, 40 in favor and 21 abstentions. This vote not only resulted in the continued inclusion of SOGI within the EJE resolution, but also reflected growing global support for LGBTIQ equality. In 2018 a similar amendment to the same resolution was defeated with a vote of 86 against, 50 in favor, and 25 abstentions.

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Vote on EJE Resolution amendment attempting to remove paragraph that includes SOGI language. The results showing a growing support for SOGI language as the support for the amendment has decreased.

The UN Program team also worked on resolutions related to gender and COVID-19. Notably, OutRight advocated for inclusion of diversity language in the resolution on Violence Against Women and Girls. Despite strong efforts by some states to defeat language recognizing diversity, the adopted text includes the first and only explicit mention of diversity within a UNGA resolution setting a new important precedent. Civil society organizations focusing on the UNGA released a joint statement on the outcomes of the resolution.

The Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (IE SOGI) presented his most recent report to the Third Committee (one of six main committees which deals with human rights, humanitarian affairs and social matters) of the UNGA on October 29. The report discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans and gender-diverse persons, communities and/or populations, highlighting that LGBTIQ people are particularly affected. A number of Member States proposed questions to the IE SOGI during the presentation thus showing ever increasing positive engagement between the IE SOGI and Member States at the UN.

II. Activities of the UN LGBTI Core Group

A. Core Group Hosts High Level Event

The UN LGBTI Core Group is an informal group of 33 states and the delegation of the EU, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and non-governmental organizations Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International, which collaborate to mainstream LGBTIQ equality at the UN headquarters in New York. On September 23 the UN LGBTI Core Group hosted a High Level Event during the UNGA High Level Week - a week during which heads of state take part in the proceedings. The virtual Core Group event, “Building Back Better: How to Create a Virtuous Circle for the Inclusion of All LGBTI Persons”, addressed the multiple layered and intersecting forms of discrimination experienced by LGBTI people and highlighted what actions civil society and Member States have taken, and can take, to work towards inclusion.

The event included remarks from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, as well as a panel discussion moderated by Executive Director of OutRight, Jessica Stern.  The event featured leading indigenous activist Ronald Cespedes from Bolivia, Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust and Co-Founder and Director of UK Black Pride Lady Phyll, and queer muslim disability activist Shamim Salim from Kenya. The event also featured a number of interventions from high level representatives from Member States of the Core Group, including Argentina, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom, and others. A recap of the event as well as the link to watch the event can be found here.

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High Level Event “Building Back Better: How to Create a Virtuous Circle for the Inclusion of All LGBTI Persons”

B. Statements by the Group

The UN LGBTI Core Group presented multiple joint statements during the course of the UN General Assembly. On October 2 the Deputy Permanent Representative of Nepal delivered a statement on behalf of the group in the General Debate of the Third Committee of the UNGA (one of six main committees which deals with human rights, humanitarian affairs and social matters), highlighting the amplified effects of COVID-19 on LGBTI people. During the presentation of the report of the IE SOGI the Deputy Permanent Representative of Mexico presented joint questions on behalf of the group. The group asked the Independent Expert to share best practices to address the scapegoating of LGBTIQ communities for the COVID-19 pandemic, and requested recommendations on how to make post-pandemic response and recovery more inclusive of LGBTI persons.

C. New Members Join the LGBTI Core Group

On November 12, Malta and the Republic of North Macedonia joined the UN LGBTI Core Group, bringing the number of members of the group to a total of 33 states and the delegation of the European Union. OutRight released a press release welcoming the new members.

D. Core Group Members Take on Human Rights Day Challenge

On December 10, in honor of Human Rights Day, the UN LGBTI Core Group participated in an online Twitter challenge. Member States posted videos on their twitter accounts showing that LGBTI Rights are Human Rights, challenging their peers to follow suit. To see OutRight’s twitter post for the challenge take a look here.

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III. Marking 25 Years Since the Adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, a document which to this day outlines the gender equality aims of the United Nations. As part of the celebration, review and reflection of the occasion, Generation Equality Forums (GEF), (civil society–centered global gatherings for gender equality convened by UN Women, France and Mexico) were planned to take place this year in Mexico and France. Unfortunately the pandemic changed all plans for the Beijing+25 process. Some spaces were held online, others were postponed to 2021. Over the last year and a half OutRight has been working in multiple capacities in the preparations for the forums to bring feminist and LGBTIQ voices and agendas to the forefront of the blueprint of this process. More information about the Beijing +25 process can be found here.

“Action Coalitions” are one initiative which has gone ahead in a virtual format, despite postponements of the Gender Equality Forums. The coalitions were launched as a way to address the most pressing large-scale gender equality issues within the Generation Equality process, creating real commitments and outputs for all of those involved.

Action Coalitions were organized in six thematic areas. Each coalition was tasked with setting gender equality goals, and shaping blueprints for each thematic area that outline a set of concrete, corresponding actions that governments, civil society and other stakeholders can work on over a 5 year period.

The themes of the Action Coalitions are:

  • Gender-based violence
  • Economic justice and rights 
  • Bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)
  • Feminist action for climate justice 
  • Technology and innovation for gender equality 
  • Feminist movements and leadership 
  • Each action coalition is led by elected Action Coalition leaders, comprising civil society, states, international organisations, UN agencies, philanthropies and youth led organizations.

OutRight is one of the co-leads of the Gender Based Violence Action Coalition, bringing an LGBTI lens to all the work and commitments that will come out of the Coalition's work.

IV. Progress in Inclusion of LGBTIQ People in the Peace and Security Agenda

In advance of the 20th Anniversary of the adoption of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, the UN Program team released a report outlining how LGBTIQ communities are uniquely impacted by conflict, and advocating for a more inclusive interpretation of the WPS framework. As a follow up, the UN Program team organized a webinar titled “Queering Peace, Security and Humanitarian Response” featuring WPS and humanitarian experts from Colombia Diversa, the Centre for Gender in Politics and Edge Effect. During the webinar speakers highlighted the unique ways in which LGBTIQ people are affected in conflict, the shocking invisibility of LGBTIQ people in response efforts, and what can be done about it.

The event was attended by over 75 participants from civil society and Member States, and received a positive response from attendees asking to continue the conversation through future discussions.

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Event flyer for Queering Peace, Security and Humanitarian Responses event on October 28

Read more about the need to queer WPS work in this opinion piece by UN Program Officer Sahar Moazami and Communications Manager Daina Ruduša published in Thomson Reuters Openly.

V. OutSummit - OutRight's Annual Global Convening for LGBTIQ Equality

For OutRight’s annual global summit for the human rights of LGBTIQ people, the UN Program team hosted a session titled “Untangling access to the United Nations”. Speakers of the session represented the Permanent Mission of the UK, Permanent Mission of Mexico, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Women Enabled International. The moderated discussion focused on ways to build back together after the COVID-19 pandemic, and, crucially, doing so in an inclusive way. Speakers highlighted the need to break down silos, work with an intersectional focus, and connect grassroots activists to multilateral spaces through champions such as the panelists.

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Workshop at OutSummit "Untangling the Access to the United Nations"

VI. OutRight Hosts Event on the Rights of LGBTI People with Disabilities

At the 13th Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a conference that takes place on an annual basis to enable states parties to the convention to address questions and challenges in the implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities, OutRight hosted a side event. The event was titled “Queering the COSP: An Intersectional Inclusive Perspective: LGBTI persons with disabilities and their rights” and aimed to highlight the particular, intersecting challenges and experiences faced by LGBTIQ people with disabilities.

The event was organized in collaboration with CREA, ILGA World, REDI, Women Enabled International and the Permanent Missions of Finland and Costa Rica to the United Nations. The event included speakers Lydia X. Z. Brown, Dr. Morgan Holmes, Po Kimani, Reshma Valliappan and Rosa Casillas.

The event was only the second ever to be held at the United Nations on the topic of LGBTIQ people with disabilities, and marked progress in recognizing that LGBTIQ people with disabilities face particular challenges and need more visibility and attention in multilateral spaces.

You can watch the event here.

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“Queering the COSP: An Intersectional Inclusive Perspective: LGBTI Persons with Disabilities and their Rights”

VII. IACHR Holds Hearing on So-Called Conversion Therapy

On December 8, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR), a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere, held a hearing on “Conversion Practices: The Caribbean Story”. At the hearing, OutRight presented information on sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts (so-called conversion therapy) in the region and highlighted the importance for the IACHR to take a lead in calling for a ban on all sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts. The hearing included oral statements from experts and survivors Susan Doorson from Suriname and Caleb Esteban from Puerto Rico. The Commissioners stated that sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts are a form of torture and stressed the importance of working together with organizations on the ground to combat homotransphobic discourse to avoid regression in LGBTI rights in the region.

OutRight has shown in a ground-breaking report that sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts take place across the word, while only five countries have so far adopted nation-wide bans. Growing visibility of the practices at the IACHR marks progress in recognition of the harmful practices and is another step toward achieving more bans around the world.

Watch the hearing here.

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Hearing on Conversion Practices: The Caribbean Story at the IACHR

VIII. OutRight Fellows Continue Advocacy Work

OutRight hosts an annual UN Religion Fellowship program. The selected fellows are trained on UN advocacy and work alongside OutRight to put their advocacy skills to the test and counter religiously-based discrimination at the UN. In 2020 OutRight also launched a program called “Beijing+25 Fellowship”, intended for selected activists to engage in elevating LGBTIQ people's voices and concerns throughout the events planned to mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action.

Due to the pandemic, OutRight’s Religion Fellows and Beijing+25 Fellows were unable to come to New York to complete training and advocacy at the United Nations Headquarters. As an alternative, the UN Team organized a virtual advocacy training program in which the Fellows got to meet several important actors in the UN space, such as the IE SOGI, officials at the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Development Program, and others.

The Fellows used these meetings to advocate for the inclusion of LGBTI issues in the work of the respective entities. Fellows shared information about the situation facing LGBTIQ people in their home countries, noted any relevant court proceedings, and requested participation in relevant spaces in 2021.

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OutRight's Fellows meet the IE SOGI Victor Madrigal-Borloz


Many events have been postponed, canceled or moved online due to COVID-19. Please check websites for information about events sponsored by the United Nations or OutRight.

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