United Nations

From its office in New York City, OutRight’s work at the United Nations focuses on helping Member States and UN institutions recognize that human rights standards apply to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Certain UN mechanisms, such as the Human Rights Committee (which oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, have specifically affirmed that states should protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Other UN mechanisms have been less forthcoming. Our staff partners with local and international groups to undertake research, advocacy and documentation designed to promote sexual rights within the UN system. Our work involves:

Reporting on country conditions

Together with local advocates, we write reports highlighting the prevalence of abuse on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression in particular countries. These reports are submitted to human rights treaty bodies in the UN system, such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), as well as to the Human Rights Council, for its Universal Periodic Review. We have contributed to reports on countries such as Barbados, Chile, Costa Rica, Romania and South Korea. Some UN country reports have subsequently made explicit reference to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, establishing benchmarks to hold governments accountable for sexual rights violations in the future.

Intervening in cases of human rights abuses

When people who don’t conform to sexual or gender norms are targeted for abuse, we provide information to UN Working Groups or Special Rapporteurs—collectively known as “Special Procedures”—to encourage them to intervene in urgent cases, and to develop an inclusive conceptual approach to human rights. We provided documentation to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which subsequently condemned sexual rights violations in Egypt and Cameroon, and to the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, which afterwards issued a set of communications about human rights in Iran. We also provided documentation that informed a conceptual discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity issues within the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.

Supporting efforts for consultative status

Our staff helps activists to navigate the UN system in New York, monitoring and reporting on the meetings of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and a subsidiary body—the NGO Committee—during the evaluation process for sexual rights-related NGOs seeking to obtain consultative status at the UN. We have helped NGOs from Brazil, The Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland to prepare for theirs reviews by the NGO Committee in New York. Our organization applied for its own consultative status—a way for NGOs to gain access to the UN system, enabling them to deliver oral and written reports at UN meetings, and organize events on UN premises—in May 2007.

Promoting the Yogyakarta Principles

Representatives from our staff were among those who helped develop the Yogyakarta Principles—a set of principles derived from existing law and jurisprudence, articulating how international human rights law applies to sexual orientation and gender identity. Since co-sponsoring the Yogyakarta Principles’ UN launch, in March 2007, we have also been involved in the development of a guide to help activists understand and use the principles, and in the creation of a “banner project,” promoting the principles in several Asian countries in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Please note: Click here to view our complete list of submissions to the United Nations. You can also view our reports on country conditions in either the "reports" or the "information by country" sections of this website.