We Have Rights: We Expect Accountability
During the 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly, which runs from Sept. 16, 2014 to Sept. 15 2015, member states will address global concerns that carry special importance to anyone who cares about equality and non-discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Universality and inclusiveness requires respect for everyone, regardless of who we love and how we express or live our gender. Gender equality and empowerment of women requires overcoming the stereotypes about male and female behavior that fuel homophobic and transphobic violence.
During this General Assembly session, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission will hold member states accountable for protecting rights through a scorecard that addresses 8 key moments, including:
- the Special Session on the International Conference on Population and Development +20;
- the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform and Programme of Action;
- the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); and
- the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family.
UNGA Special Session on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Beyond 2014
September 22, 2014
This UNGA special meeting is meant to culminate the global review of the implementation of the Cairo programme of action on population and development. This is a one-day session that will be summarized by the President of the General Assembly.
The President of the General Assembly should, in the summary of this UNGASS, mirror the support expressed in several regional documents leading up to this summit for non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as a basis for inclusive and effective development policies.
The jury is still out on a final score on this event. On the positive side, the General Assembly accepted the Framework of Actions during the 22nd session, and most countries called to include the ICPD platform into the new Sustainable Development Goals. On the downside, the event was so short many countries did not get to make their statements and a final outcome is pending. The President of General Assembly will hold an additional debate on Thursday 9 October 2014 at 10.00 am in the General Assembly Hall, New York to allow for these statements to be made. This additional space for debate is very positive.
UNGA Third Committee Debate on the Advancement of Women
The UNGA’s Third Committee will discuss various topics of particular interest to lesbians, bisexual women, and trans persons during its annual deliberations of the advancement of women. Planned resolutions include texts on violence against women and the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Member States should explicitly condemn violence against subsets of women because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
At the Third Committee Debate on the Advancement of Women approximately 30 countries spoke on women’s rights. Topics from sexual violence to gender-gaps in education were discussed, however the advancement of women in regards to their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity was not among the topics discussed. According to UN coverage of the event, not one country that spoke in the debate explicitly condemned violence against women due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Election of Fifteen Members of the Human Rights Council
October 21, 2014
The Human Rights Council is the UN’s most important intergovernmental body dealing with human rights issues. The Council’s 47 Member States are elected by the General Assembly for a period of 3 years.
All new members of the Human Rights Council should demonstrate respect for the universality of rights, including through a commitment to equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. UNGA Member States should demand election pledges that new Human Rights Council members will eliminate legal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and should oppose candidates with newly enacted discriminatory laws. The President of the General Assembly should use his good offices to encourage open slates for transparency and accountability.
Out of the Fifteen members to be elected to the Human Rights Council on 21 October 2014 (Albania, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Congo, El Salvador, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Paraguay, Portugal and Qatar) only two members (Netherlands and Portugal) included a commitment to equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in their pledges.
Report from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
The UNGA will hear reports from various relevant UN Special Rapporteurs during the session. The report from the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders has not been scheduled yet, but is likely to occur during the last weeks of October. In 2013, the General Assembly expressed its expectation that Member States pay particular attention to the vulnerability of women human rights defenders and requested the Rapporteur to continue to report on activities in this regard.
UNGA Member States should condemn all attacks and illegal limitations on human rights defenders and their work, and should explicitly mention increased attacks against women and LGBT human rights defenders.
UNGA Third Committee Vote on the Biannual Resolution on Extrajudicial, Summary, and Arbitrary Executions
Since 2000, this resolution has contained reference to the notion that no one should be executed or otherwise killed because of their sexual orientation. In 2012, the resolution extended explicit protections based on gender identity as well. A small group of UN Member States routinely seeks to exclude this language, though the effort as routinely is defeated, by a growing margin.
UNGA Member States should acknowledge, through their statements and votes, that no one should be executed, arbitrarily or otherwise, because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
November 20, 2014
The UNGA adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. On November 20, the Assembly will host a full day event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this, the most widely ratified, or all the UN’s human rights treaties.
UNGA Member States should explicitly condemn all forms of violence against children, including that which is motivated by real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status. The President of the General Assembly should ensure broad civil society participation in this celebratory event, including from LGBT children and youth.
Plenary Meeting Devoted to the Observance of the Twentieth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family
December 3, 2014
The General Assembly will debate issues related to the family as a fundamental unit of society, as established in international human rights standards. The President of the General Assembly has the mandate to determine the precise content and format of this conversation. This debate will follow discussions on a resolution dedicated to preparations for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family.
The President of the General Assembly should organize this meeting in a manner that reflects the status and scope of the notion of “family” within international standards, that is, a broad respect for a wide range of families. Member States should express support for a variety of families, and for the protection of individual members within each family, and should push for inclusion of this language in the lead-up resolution.
59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women
March 9-20, 2015
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which itself is one of the main organs of the UN. The 54 Member States of ECOSOC, elected by the UNGA, in turn elect 45 Member States to serve on the CSW for a term of 4 years. All UN Member States are free to make statements at the CSW on the subject matter. In 2015, the CSW will undertake a review of progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 20 years after its adoption at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. This year, a decision appears to already have been made that there will be no outcome document for the session.
In their statements during the CSW, Member States should explicitly condemn discrimination against women because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, as a significant barrier to development.
The United Nations General Assembly
The United Nations General Assembly is where all 193 Member States of the United Nations come together to discuss any issue related to the UN Charter’s main themes: peace, development, and human rights.
Each General Assembly session runs from September to September, with an annual program of work that is driven by recurring themes and emergency or emerging issues, and that is adopted, every year, on the first week of the Assembly.
When diplomats from any given country speak at the General Assembly, they represent the views and people of that country—including you.
The President of the General Assembly
The President of the General Assembly is Sam Kutesa, Foreign Minister of Uganda. In his acceptance speech on June 11, 2014, Kutesa laid out his vision, including a universally applicable agenda for inclusive economic growth that empowers people to determine their own future. Kutesa also pledged to use his office to focus on gender equality and empowerment of women.
The PGA has the power to organize thematic debates for the General Assembly, and to suggest themes for debate. He or she can also call plenary meetings under existing agenda items, and is often called upon to summarize the outcome of plenary sessions.
The PGA is elected for one year, serves in his or her own capacity, and represents the full membership of the United Nations while in office—including you.
Published on September 23, 2014 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization