From ARC International
- This Friday, 17 June 2011 – in just a few days – member States of the Human Rights Council will vote on a resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
- This historic resolution, presented by South Africa, affirms the universality of human rights, and notes concern about acts of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a study on violence and discrimination on these grounds, and calls for a panel discussion to be held at the Human Rights Council to discuss the findings of the study in a constructive and transparent manner, and to consider appropriate follow-up. A copy of the text of the resolution is attached.
- We need your help today to ensure this resolution is adopted! If passed, this will be the first UN resolution ever to bring specific focus to human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Let’s work together to send a clear message that killings, violence, rape and criminal sanctions directed against those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex are not acceptable – ever.
What can I do?
Please take action today to urge your government to support the resolution. Only Members of the Council (listed below) may vote, although non-Member States can still “cosponsor” the resolution to demonstrate their support.
Send your Foreign Ministry a copy of the attached Backgrounder we have prepared to help provide governments with more information. We are also attaching an overview of human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, drawn from reports to this session of the Council.
- If you think your country might be supportive, it is important to confirm that they will vote in favour, and/or co-sponsor the resolution. Encourage them to approach other States who may be supportive.
- If your State is neutral, or has abstained on sexual orientation or gender identity issues in the past, urge them to vote in favour too. If they make it clear they will not support the resolution, encourage them to reconsider, or at least abstain so as not to block attention to these important human rights concerns.
- If you know your government will be unsupportive or hostile to the resolution, please encourage them to abstain, rather than voting against and thus preventing dialogue on issues of violence and discrimination.
Who should I approach? How did my government vote on these issues in the past?
Only Human Rights Council Members will be able to vote on the resolution. There are currently 46 voting Members of the Human Rights Council. It is their votes which will determine whether the resolution is adopted or rejected. Below is an overview of priority Member States to approach in each region.
The 8 Council Member States in the Latin America/Caribbean region have supported previous SOGI initiatives, and are expected to vote in favour:
- Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Uruguay
(It would be useful to confirm this with Cuba, and encourage all States from the region to approach other Council Members who may be supportive)
The 7 Council Member States in the Western Group have supported previous SOGI initiatives, and are expected to vote in favour:
- Belgium, France, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA
(It would be useful to encourage these States to approach other Council Members who may be supportive)
- Angola, Gabon and Mauritius have supported previous sexual orientation and gender identity initiatives and should be encouraged to support the resolution.
- Amongst other African States, the fact that South Africa is leading the resolution may help persuade some Council Members, such as Ghana, Senegal and Zambia, to abstain or not vote, rather than opposing the initiative.
- Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Mauritania, Nigeria and Uganda have opposed SOGI initiatives in the past. Although they are not expected to support the initiative, some may consider not opposing South Africa’s leadership in this area.
- Japan, Thailand and South Korea have supported previous sexual orientation and gender identity initiatives. It is important that they be encouraged to support the resolution.
- Kyrgyzstan and the Maldives have abstained on SOGI initiatives in the past, and may be encouraged to support (or at least not oppose) the resolution.
- Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have opposed SOGI initiatives in the past.
- Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have supported previous SOGI initiatives at the UN.
- Ukraine has also supported previous SOGI initiatives and should be encouraged to do so again.
- Moldova supported the inclusion of “sexual orientation” in a recent resolution on extrajudicial killings, but has not supported other SOGI initiatives at the UN, and should be urged to support the resolution.
- Russia has opposed previous SOGI initiatives at the UN, but should be urged to support CoE standards, or at least abstain, rather than opposing the resolution.
What if my country is not a Member of the Human Rights Council? How can they support the resolution?
If your State is not a voting Member of the Human Rights Council, they may still cosponsor the resolution. “Cosponsorship” means they may endorse the resolution to demonstrate their support, even though they cannot vote. The more cross-regional cosponsors the resolution has, the more it will encourage voting Members to also demonstrate their support. This is particularly important in underrepresented regions, such as Africa and Asia.
For example, within Africa, the following non-Member States have supported SOGI initiatives in the past, and may be encouraged to cosponsor the resolution:
- Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone
- Within Asia and the Pacific Islands, the following non-Member States have supported SOGI initiatives in the past, and may be encouraged to cosponsor the resolution:
- Fiji, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Nauru, Nepal, Palau, Samoa, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.
Non-Member States from all regions who may be supportive also have an important role to play in approaching voting Member States with whom they have good relations, to encourage them to support the resolution.
How do I contact my government?
- The most important contact is your government’s Foreign Ministry in your capital. Contact details for the Foreign Ministry of each country can be found at: http://www.ediplomat.com/dc/foreign_ministries.htm
- It is also useful to copy any message to your country’s Ambassador in Geneva. Contact details for the Geneva missions of each State can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/t2cwt
What do I tell them?
- Thank them for any past support they have demonstrated for sexual orientation and gender identity issues, or for principles of human rights more generally, and emphasize that this is a very straightforward resolution recognising that all human beings are entitled to be protected from serious human rights violations like killings, violence, criminal sanctions and torture, and requesting further information and transparent dialogue on these issues.
- Underline that the resolution creates no new rights, but simply seeks the application of existing international standards to those who face human rights violations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Encourage them to support the resolution, and ask for a specific response to your request. You may also wish to request a meeting to discuss the matter further.
- You know your own country best. Feel free tailor this information to the context of your country or region, while maintaining a constructive approach.
Questions or further information?
- Please keep us informed of your country’s response. A coalition of NGOs is closely monitoring this initiative, and may be reached at: [email protected]
Please act today! Currently, the vote on the resolution is too close to call, and our actions over the next 72 hours could make the difference between this crucial resolution passing or failing.
1. Current text of the resolution (pdf)
2. One-page Backgrounder (pdf)
3. Overview of human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity (pdf)