3rd October 2014 Brasilia, Brazil

Meanwhile in Geneva… (UNHRC 27th session and SOGI resolution)


While there has been much debate around LGB&T rights (a.k. lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights) in Brazil because of the coming elections and the different position of the Presidential candidates regarding this topic, a historic achievement was secured at the UN Human Rights Council. Brazil and other Latin American countries were in the forefront of history by putting forward an important resolution on LGB&T rights and the UK supported this initiative, but before I get into that it is important to quickly tell the reader what is this council about.

This inter- governmental body based in Geneva is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world. The UN Human Rights Council is composed by 47 countries, divided by region (13 seats for Asia, 13 for Africa, 8 for Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC), 7 for Western European and Others Group (WEOG) and 6 for Eastern Europe). Each member is elected by the UN General Assembly for terms of three years and no member can be elected for more than two consecutive terms. It works with country specific concerns as well as thematic issues and has three regular meetings per year (March, June and September) besides holding special sessions called by demand (e.g Iraq’s special session in early September).

This Council fosters important debates between the international community and is committed to improve people’s lives. A way that it does so isthrough its panels of discussions and resolutions which may not only assess human rights situations around the world, but also promote technical assistance, capacity building and local empowerment in affected countries amongst other things.

Ok, great, but what is this thing regarding an important LGB&T rights resolution you may ask?

Well, last week the UNHRC’s 27th session and its members approved the second- ever UN resolution related to LGB&T persons around the world. Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay led the so called SOGI resolution (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) which is basically a resolution on violence and discrimination that LGB&T people suffer world-wide.

Adopted by 25 votes in favour, 14 against and seven abstentions (the margin of victory was much greater than in 2011 where there were only 4 votes between “yes” and “no”), this resolution received support from many parts of the world and requests the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to update a report entitled “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity”. This report will help assess the current situation of SOGI around the world and identify good practices and initiatives aimed to overcome discrimination and violence against LGB&T persons worldwide. This updated report is expected to be presented at the 29th session of the Council in Geneva (June 2015). Don’t be mistaken, this is historic!

Besides the landmark SOGI resolution, the 27th session also adopted 32 texts around a broad range of subjects (both country specific and thematic). Another highlight of this session that deserves special mention here was the adoption of the Council’s 15th resolution on Syria, which stressed the demand for unrestricted humanitarian access in Syria, helping the access of technical assistance in the war torn country.

As you can see, the UNHRC is a very dynamic forum for human rights issues to be debated at a high international level and it is important that we all keep an eye on what is happening in Geneva, the centre of the world for multilateral human rights debates and the birthplace for many human rights improvements. An overview of this session’s outcomes can be found here. See you in March, hopefully with some more good news!

About beatrizsannuti

Beatriz Sannuti (or just Bia as she prefers being called) has an International Relations background and has recently joined the Embassy to work with Human Rights and Justice, having just…

Beatriz Sannuti (or just Bia as she prefers being called) has an International Relations background and has recently joined the Embassy to work with Human Rights and Justice, having just finished her Masters Degree in International Relations and Diplomacy in the Netherlands. Her previous jobs include a NGO, a think tank and the private sector and when she is not busy monitoring human rights issues in Brazil she likes to follow her favorite TV shows or watch a movie.

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