Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Belize experience at OAS General Assembly 2014 Part 1: Raising Political Awareness and Drama.

June 2nd, 2014



     I cant say this year, was no drama, but it was certainly interesting. The meeting for the LGBTTI Coalition started on May 30th and will not end till June 6th in Asuncion Paraguay. It seems the success of the coalition since 2008 to 2012 of getting the creation of an L.G.B.T Unit operational, action done on a hemispheric review of LGBTTI violence among other initiatives encouraged the entrance of the far-right. We first heard of their presence in Bolivia, direct engagement started in Antigua Guatemala in 2013 and now in Asuncion Paraguay.

  Actions taken among Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Suriname, and Trinidad &Tobago around OAS work. Belize reported that its had one thematic hearing at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, which resulted in press coverage both good and bad. We got  a meeting with the OAS ambassador which lasted about  3 hours; spoken to the Foreign Minister among other actionable political engagements in Belize.
      Special, guest Dr.  Ambassador Alfonso Quiñónez, Secretary for External Relations of the Organization of American States spoke on suggestions regarding speakers and themes along with the history of the beginning of Civil Society involvement at the General Assemblies dating back to 1999 when member states established guidelines. He spoke of article 6 supporting the need to improve the democratic process of the OAS in the charter and the four pillars of the OAS Democracy, Human Rights, Security, Development  which are inter-related. The issue of Discrimination and Intolerance is not new for the OAS, and proceeded to share the history of resolutions supporting the LGBTTI populations that goes back to 2008, which was OAS resolution 2508 for the first time.
     
     Mr. Edgar Carrasco, Regional Advisor on Human Rights and Gender Equity of the Latin American Regional Office of UNAID spoke  about the expanding work around Drugs as it impacts health and talked about a UNAIDS and OAS agreement to strengthen relationship around a drug commission. He explained that they had supported a  manual on HIV/AIDS for TransWomen and the Hemispheric Study on L.G.B.T Violence. The full report should be ready by the end of the year after which it will be socialised.



     

      Ms. María Tallarico, Latin American and Caribbean Regional Practice Team Leader HIV/AIDS UNDP, spoke of starting in 2008 at UNDP, but before, that was working at UNAIDS. She explained that there is gender politics at the UN, but with the help of the group UNGLOBE, which is a body of LGBT UN workers being supportive, things should evolve. This year they have visibility where they had a video of how they work in the UN Systems and supported the Born Free and Equal campaign as well. Discussions open around human rights action between UNAIDS and UNDP. 

     Marcela Romero of REDLACTRANS said, “If there is no human right, there is no prevention”. We need to talk about poverty and the intersection of stigma and discrimination affecting trans individuals. Another person said, " We need to ask what their relationship with Civil society and trans women who are incarcerated. Questions from Belize concerning improving parliamentarian knowledge of the impact of gender and sexuality issues on legislation. The general response was that the politics was complicated and that a space has to be found to address these issues.
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        Later  in the day, on June 1st, discussions took place about the legal value of footnotes along with work of the  commission. It was pointed out to us that the Jurisdictional Commission Report on March 11th, particularly on sexual orientation spoke of sex and other status offers specific levels of protection. Best practices identified was that more Trans women are involved in parts of the Brazilian and Argentinean police force and that  Chile elected its 1st openly gay parliamentarian.

     In light of these developments activists across Latin America and four Caribbean countries, St. Lucia, Suriname, Guyana and Beliz,the Coalition listen intently to Dr. Dante Negro- who works for the Department of International rights to explain the value of the OAS to the LAC region along with the jurisdictional value of footnotes in resolutions. He explained that the Organizations of American States was created in 1948, originally with 35 members, exception being Cuba. He further explains that the OAS works through institutional organs that is guided by article 53 of the charter. These organs include


 1) General Assembly
 2). Permanent Council
 3).Inter-American Jurisdictional Committee
 4). Inter-American Commission of Human Rights
 5). The Secretary General
 6). Special conferences
 7).Special organs

              The Inter-American Court did not exist when the OAS was created. The Charter was adjusted in 1993 which explains why the court is independent and added that decision at the General Assembly is formed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Decisions are taken by majority with big and small countries having one vote each, but decisions are generally adopted by consensus in practice.   Resolutions are not treaties, but can be treated as political commitment in developing policy norms.
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·               He noted, that  the L.G.B.T resolution adopted by consensus in Guatemala with its many footnotes, mostly from Caribbean countries, cannot contravene what is adopted by consensus legally. They should not be on the text of the resolution and that countries have to request the re-issued of a footnote which are different from reservations which  are more complicated than a footnote. Nevertheless, it does not prevent, for example, the US from ratifying a Convention.
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   Dr. Fanny Gómez‐Lugo, Human Rights Specialist for the Rapporteur for the Rights of the LGBTTTI Persons to the Inter‐American Commission of Human Rights followed Dr. Negro. She reported that Inter-American Commission felt in 2011, it was necessary to create an LGBTTI Unit, that there are 3 or 4 thematic hearings possible on LGBTTI issues at every Commission session. Generally the request for thematic hearings is on average 25.


        Last year it was decided that there was need to have a rapporteurship on LGBTTTI. This person is Tracy Robinson.  In 2012, the Commission  issued 20 press releases about human rigts violations. She reported during the first year, the Commission, has had many expert/meetings to give visibility. and have received a total of 60 petitions at the Commission on cases of Human Rights Violation.   We have cases in work, education, health, parenting, violence, the situation of criminalization in the Caribbean, lack of identity of trans people etc. She shared that violence against Lesbian women are not reported and that is a concern. The Commission she said had "a big concern " about family attacks against young people by families and when the Hemispheric report is done, there will be recommendations directed to all countries including CARICOM member states. The report will be socialized to raise awareness. She explained as well that  Public hearings are the most immediate tools and can be on different issues and specific cases. It can be country hearings.,hearings are demanded from Civil Society, Ex-officio hearing on the rights of intersex people.  In June there was an expert meeting with UNAIDS on the Right to Health for L.G.B.T people. 

     While this is the shorten version of May 30th, 31st, June 1 and 2nd. It does not concluded there as the day ended with a meeting with the Campaign to try and strategise on how to respond to the fundamentalists. This was the size of the crowd below:


Part two of this report, will talk a deeper look at the fundmentalists effort to undermine the OAS space for rights protection.





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