United Nations Day is October 24th

October 16 – 24, 2009

In September 2000, building upon a decade of major United Nations conferences and summits, world leaders came together at United Nations Headquarters in New York to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets – with a deadline of 2015 – that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals. 2007 marks the midpoint in measuring progress toward achieving these goals by 2015 and you can view the 2007 Report at http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/mdg2007.pdf

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by reducing by half the number of people living on less than $1 a day and reducing by half the number of people who suffer from hunger;

Achieve universal primary education by ensuring that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling;
Promote gender equality and empower women by eliminating gender disparities at all levels of education;
Reduce child mortality by reducing by two-thirds the mortality rate of children under five;
Improve maternal health by reducing by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio and achieving universal access to reproductive health;
Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases by halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, achieving universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all who need it, and halting and beginning to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases;
Ensure environmental sustainability by integrating principles of sustainable development, reducing by half the number of people living without sustainable access to clean drinking water, and improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers; and
Develop a global partnership for development by developing further an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory, and includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction— nationally and internationally.

UN – A watershed for gay rights

For the first time in its history, the UN General Assembly will consider a declaration urging the decriminalisation of homosexuality worldwide.
The UN must pass this week’s historic declaration calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality worldwide – Peter Tatchell.
A declaration calling for the global decriminalisation of homosexuality is scheduled to be put before the United Nations General Assembly this Wednesday, which is Human Rights Day and the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It will be the first time in its history that the UN General Assembly has ever considered the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) human rights.

Although not be binding on the member states, the declaration will have immense symbolic value, given the six decades in which homophobic persecution has been ignored by the UN.

If you want to understand why this decriminalisation declaration is so important and necessary, ponder this:

Even today, not a single international human rights convention explicitly acknowledges the human rights of LGBT people. The right to physically love the person of one’s choice is nowhere enshrined in any global humanitarian law. No convention recognises sexual rights as human rights. None offer explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yet 86 countries (nearly half the nations on Earth) still have a total ban on male homosexuality and a smaller number also ban sex between women. The penalties in these countries range from a few years jail to life imprisonment. In at least seven countries or regions of countries (all under Islamist jurisdiction), the sentence is death: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania and parts of Nigeria and Pakistan.

See the global survey of homophobia, published by the International Gay and Lesbian Association: http://www.ilga.org/news_results.asp?LanguageID=1&FileCategoryID=9&FileID=1165&ZoneID=7andhttp://www.ilga.org/statehomophobia/ILGA_State_Sponsored_Homophobia_2008.pdf

Many of the countries that continue to criminalise same-sex relationships are in Africa and Asia. Their anti-gay laws were, in fact, imposed by the European powers during the period of colonialism. With the backing of Christian churches and missionaries, the imperial states exported their homophobia to the rest of the world. In many of the conquered lands, little such prejudice had previously existed and, in some cases, same-sex relations were variously tolerated, accepted and even venerated. This importation of western homophobia happened in countries like Ghana, Jamaica, Nigeria and Uganda, which now absurdly decry homosexuality as a “white man’s disease” and “unAfrican”, while vehemently denying and suppressing all knowledge of their own pre-colonial era indigenous homosexualities.

Unsurprisingly, the Vatican and the Organisation of Islamic States are leading the fight against the UN declaration. The opposition of the Pope is truly sickening, depraved and shameless.

Of course, the Vatican has form. In 2004, it teamed up with Islamist dictatorships in the UN Commission on Human Rights to thwart a resolution sponsored by Brazil that opposed homophobic violence and discrimination. The Holy See is so viciously homophobic that it opposed the UN condemnation of the murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people:

http://www.ilga.org/news_results.asp?LanguageID=1&FileCategory=44&ZoneID=7&FileID=31

Last week, the Papal envoy to the UN, Monsignor Celestino Migliore, explained the “logic” of this opposition when he announced the Vatican’s rejection of this week’s decriminalisation declaration. The Monsignor argued that the UN declaration would unfairly “pillory” countries where homosexuality is illegal; forcing them to establish “new categories (gay people) protected from discrimination.” Such laws would “create new and implacable acts of discrimination….States where same-sex unions are not recognized as ‘marriages,’ for example, would be subject to international pressure,” according to The Times newspaper in London:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5268745.ece

In other words, protecting LGBT people against discrimination is an act of discrimination against those who discriminate. Since the Vatican is against discrimination, it opposes discrimination against countries that discriminate. This is the mediaeval mindset of the Pope and his placemen.

Never mind, there are already plenty of countries committed to supporting the UN decriminalisation declaration.

It will be tabled in the General Assembly on Wednesday by France with the backing of all 27 member states of the European Union; plus non-EU European nations such as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Ukraine, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, Armenia and Macedonia. Russia and Turkey are not signing.

The call for the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships also has the support of the Latin American states of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay – but not, notably, Columbia, Guyana or Venezuela.

Only three African nations – Gabon, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau – are endorsing the declaration so far. South Africa has not signed up. No Caribbean nation has offered its support – not even Cuba.

Although New Zealand and Australia are committed to the declaration, the United States is not. But Canada is a sponsor.

No country in the Middle East, apart from Israel, endorses the declaration, and in Asia only Japan has agreed to approve it. China and India are silent on where they stand.

The initiative for the UN universal decriminalisation declaration came from the inspiring French black activist and gay rights campaigner, Louis-Georges Tin, the founder of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). He lobbied the French government, which agreed to take the lead in getting the declaration tabled at the UN. Member organisations of the global IDAHO network then petitioned their individual governments to support it.

http://www.idahomophobia.org/

What is truly remarkable is that IDAHO is just a loose, unfunded global grassroots LGBT activist network, with no office, no staff and no leaders. It has pulled off something that none of the well paid LGBT professionals, working for often lavishly financed LGBT non-governmental organisations, have managed to come even close to achieving.

A reminder as to why this UN declaration matters occurred last Friday, a sad anniversary. On 5 December 2007, Makvan Mouloodzadeh, a 21-year-old Iranian man, was hanged in Kermanshah Central Prison, after an unfair trial.

http://www.iglhrc.org/site/iglhrc/section.php?id=5&detail=797

A member of Iran’s persecuted Kurdish minority, he was executed on charges of raping other boys when he was 13. In other words, he committed these alleged acts when he was minor. According to Iranian law, a boy under 15 is a minor and cannot be executed. At Makvan’s mockery of a trial, the alleged rape victims retracted their previous statements, saying they had made their allegations under duress. Makvan pleaded not guilty, telling the court that his confession was made under torture. He was hanged anyway, without a shred of credible evidence that he had even had sex with the boys, let alone raped them. The lies, defamation and homophobia of the debauched Iranian legal system was exposed when hundreds of villagers attended Makvan’s funeral. People don’t mourn rapists.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=dlZzexeNSLg This execution was bared-faced homophobic judicial murder, according to Arsham Parsi, Executive Director, of the underground Iranian Queer Railroad, which helps Iranian LGBTs fleeing arrest, torture and execution.

http://www.irqr.net/

Makvan’s fate is just one example of the thousands of state-sponsored acts of homophobic persecution that happen worldwide ever year. It shows why Wednesday’s UN declaration is so important – and so long overdue.

Human Rights Day 2008

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) turns 60 on 10 December 2008. On Human Rights Day 2007, the United Nations Secretary General launched a year-long UN system-wide advocacy campaign to mark this important milestone. The initiative celebrates the Declaration and the promise that has made this document so enduring: “Dignity and justice for all of us”.

The campaign aims to increase knowledge and awareness of human rights among the largest number of rights holders so that they can claim and enjoy their rights. Many governments, civil society, educational, cultural and human rights institutions have taken the opportunity during 2008 to reaffirm their commitment to the values and principles of the UDHR and to disseminate information about the Declaration.
As part of the commemorative year, the High Commissioner for Human Rights proposes that the week of 6 – 12 October 2008 be designated as “Dignity and Justice for Detainees Week”. OHCHR calls on all partners to pay special attention to the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights of persons deprived of their liberty in prisons and other places of detention.
A number of public information documents, including a special logo, more than 360 translations of the UDHR, photographs and background information as well as a list of ideas for activities, are at your disposal to help you commemorate this anniversary. All documents are downloadable and printable for your convenience. They may be helpful in any event you may be preparing.
Visit this page frequently for updates.
Please bear in mind that we here JFLAG also will celebrate our tenth anniversary on the same date.
Peace

UN’s 2010 AIDS goal may not be reached

By Phoebe Ferris-Rotman
The United Nations’ goal of achieving “universal access” to anti-HIV drugs and care by 2010 is unlikely to be reached.
Speaking on the sidelines of the International AIDS Conference, Global Fund chief Michel Kazatchkine and UNAIDS head Peter Piot said that China and other fast-advancing economies could shoulder more of their own burdens in the future, freeing up resources for poorer countries.
“When we look at global targets, none of us believes that it will be 100 percent everywhere,” Mr. Kazatchkine told a group of reporters.
“But if you look at individual countries, and if you look at the percent that have achieved universal coverage or [will] be close to universal coverage, there may be much more than you may think of.”
The 2010 target, enshrined in a June 2006 UN General Assembly resolution and supported by the Group of Eight (G8) industrial nations, is emerging as a touchy political issue.
Three million poor people now have been able to grasp the drug lifeline, thanks to a big increase in the past two years, but this is still two-thirds short of the total in need and time is running out to meet the deadline.
As a result, activists have closely scrutinised the July G8 summit statement and last week’s UNAIDS report on the state of the pandemic.
Some see a weakening verbal commitment to 2010 and a dangerous slippage to 2015, which is also the goal date for the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal on reversing the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Mr. Piot, UNAIDS’ executive director, said, however, that the 2010 commitment has not changed.
“2010 is 18 months from now,” he noted. “What we’ve seen is that in a number of countries, they’ve already reached their universal access targets, others not.”
Some countries could achieve universal access in 2011 or 2012, in line with their national programmes, Mr. Piot’s spokesman explained.
33 million people around the world are infected with HIV, 90 percent of whom live in developing countries.
By some estimates, universal access will cost $54 billion (£27bn) per year in 2015 – and the bill will endure for decades, as the treatment is for the rest of one’s life.
Mr. Kazatchkine said he looked to the G8 countries, which account for 90 percent of contributions to the Global Fund, to meet their commitments.

UN: Open AIDS Meeting to All

UN: Open AIDS Meeting to All
General Assembly Should Reverse Ban on Human Rights and Sexual
Health Groups
(New York, June 5, 2008) -The United Nations General Assembly should reverse its
decision to exclude three human rights and sexual health non-governmental organizations
from its June 10 high-level meeting on HIV and AIDS, a coalition of human rights
groups and international AIDS organizations said today.

Assembly members Egypt, Zimbabwe and Jamaica blocked the participation of the
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)
and the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG).

According to a resolution passed last year, the President of the General Assembly was
responsible for compiling a list of relevant civil society organizations, which Member
States reviewed and approved. The three organizations were initially included on the
General Assembly President’s list but denied accreditation after the General Assembly
accepted their respective governments’ objection to their participation.

“This meeting is about expanding access to HIV prevention and treatment,” said Joe
Amon, HIV/AIDS Program Director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s hypocritical of UN
member states to block organizations from attending who are working to ensure that
access truly is universal.”

The UN meeting is intended to review global progress made in the fight against AIDS.
General Assembly meetings in 2001 and 2006 resulted in commitments by all member
states to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic by 2010 and to achieve “universal access” to
HIV prevention, care and treatment. Greater involvement of civil society has been
identified by the UN as a critical strategy to combat AIDS. In a resolution tabled late in
2007, civil society was specifically encouraged to be involved in this year’s meeting.
“J-FLAG is extremely disappointed by this move,” said Jason McFarlane, Programme
Manager of J-FLAG. “The Jamaican government itself has acknowledged that
homophobia is fuelling our HIV epidemic. Silencing J-FLAG – Jamaica’s only LGBT
organization – undermines Jamaica’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.”

This is not the first time that key human rights groups have been excluded from the UN
high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS. The South African government caused an uproar in
2006 by excluding the internationally acclaimed and outspokenly critical group
Treatment Action Campaign, which has challenged South African Health Minister
Manto Tshabalala-Msimang for statements questioning the efficacy of anti-retroviral
medicines and promoting garlic, beetroot, olive oil and lemon.

“If the United Nations is to allow member states to exclude organizations, they should
insist that the process be transparent,” said Hossam Bahgat, Director of Egyptian
Initiative for Personal Rights. “We applied for accreditation to attend the meeting along
with dozens of other NGOs that we work with daily. All of these groups were approved
while we were – without explanation – excluded.”

Human rights groups and international AIDS organizations—including Human Rights
Watch (HRW), the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO), and
the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), joined the three excluded NGOs in
appealing to the UN General Assembly to ensure that the rhetoric of “universal access” is
matched with participation and inclusion, and to each individual government to withdraw
their objections and allow representatives to attend the meeting.

“We are all in this fight together,” said Samuel Matsikure, Programmes Manager for
GALZ. “To succeed in the fight against AIDS we must come together. We can not allow
governments to divide and exclude certain NGOs.”
For more information:
Joe Amon
Rebecca Schleifer
Soha Abdelaty, EIPR + (202) 2794 3606- 2796 2682; Mobile: +2012-3107147

Gay groups gain observer status at UN

One of Europe’s best-known gay rights organisations has been recommended for consultative status at the United Nations.

COC Netherlands, along with Spanish Federacion Estatal de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales, will be considered by ECOSOC at its meeting in July in New York.
ECOSOC, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, assists the General Assembly.
Both groups had been denied a recommendation at a January meeting of the NGO Committee, a UN body of 19 member states from all regions whose responsibility includes evaluating NGO applications for consultative status.

In 2005, International Lesbian and Gay Association began its ECOSOC campaign, an initiative aimed at allowing gay, bisexual, lesbian and trans human rights defenders to address the UN “in their own name.”

In 2006 and 2007, after lengthy consideration by the ECOSOC, consultative status was granted to five LGBT organisations:
ILGA-Europe, the Danish, Swedish and German national LGBT federations (LBL, LSVD and RFSL) and the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Quebec, CGLQ.
This development has already allowed ILGA members to address the floor of the Human Rights Council (HRC) plenary, which prompted the High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to state her support for LGBT rights in that international forum.
The US-based International Wages Due Lesbians and Australian-based Coalition of Activist Lesbians have had consultative status at the UN for some years.

Prior applications from LGBT NGOs were rejected by the NGO Committee, and later approved by ECOSOC.
The positive recommendation for COC Netherlands came as a result of a vote called for by the UK in the last hour of the NGO Committee session last week.
States voted as follows:
Columbia, Dominica, Israel, Peru, Romania, UK and the USA In favour of granting the consultative status.
Against granting the status were China, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Sudan. Five nations abstained: Angola, Burundi, Guinea, India, Turkey. Cuba as not present.
“Burundi is the country that made the difference,” COC said in a statement.
“They abstained this time instead of voting against (as they did for instance at the January 2008 session of the NGO Committee when the application of the Spanish LGBT Federation was rejected).

“The NGO Committee works by consensus, so the motions for a vote are rare.”
During this second session in 2008 held between May 29 and June 6, the NGO Committee also considered a new application from Lestime, a lesbian women’s group from Geneva, Switzerland, and the deferred application from the Brazilian LGBT Federation (ABGLT).
Both NGOs received more questions from and were deferred without a vote to the NGO Committee session in January 2009.

The questions posed by some NGO Committee members to the applicant NGOs revolved around sexual crimes, particularly paedophilia and relations with people under the age of consent.
Two new questions appeared in this session’s comments from Egypt, Qatar, and Pakistan. One is whether the LGBT NGOs recognised genders beyond male and female.

Qatar’s questions in particular showed confusion between gender and sexual orientation.
The other (rethorical) question was which international human rights treaties explicitly refer to sexual orientation/LGBT people.
The Yogyakarta Principles also made their way into the NGO Committee’s session. Egypt asked COC to express their position in regards to the Yogyakarta Principles, which they introduced as a “Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but only for homosexuals.”

In the explanation of the vote, the UK reiterated a principle they have been stressing across all NGO Committee sessions, “we may disagree with an NGO, but it does not mean that we should exclude them.” Romania added: “this is a break through for this committee, especially as regards the values and principles we are defending in this distinguished forum.”

Homophobic governments block gays from UN AIDS conference

Homophobic governments block gays from UN AIDS conference
By Tony Grew • June 5, 2008 – 16:59

General Assembly meetings in 2001 and 2006 resulted in commitments by all member states to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic,
Lesbian and gay and sexual health groups from Jamaica, Zimbabwe and Egypt have been excluded from a major international conference on HIV/AIDS organised by the United Nations General Assembly.

The UN meeting is intended to review progress in the fight against AIDS.
Representatives of the governments of those three countries, all of which are openly homophobic, complained about the presence of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), and the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG).
They were all initially included on the President of the General Assembly’s list of human rights groups and international AIDS organisations taking part in next week’s high-level meeting.
However, after complaints from Egypt, Zimbabwe, and Jamaica they were denied accreditation.
The General Assembly accepted their respective governments’ objection.
“J-FLAG is extremely disappointed by this move,” said Jason McFarlane, programme manager of J-FLAG.
“The Jamaican government itself has acknowledged that homophobia is fuelling our HIV epidemic.
“Silencing J-FLAG Jamaica’s, only LGBT organisation, undermines Jamaica’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.”
General Assembly meetings in 2001 and 2006 resulted in commitments by all member states to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic by 2010 and to achieve “universal access” to HIV prevention, care, and treatment.
“This meeting is about expanding access to HIV prevention and treatment,” said Joe Amon, HIV/AIDS programme director at Human Rights Watch.
“It’s hypocritical and counterproductive for UN member states to block organisations from attending who are working to ensure that HIV information and services are truly available to all.”