What's In Blue

Posted Sun 19 Mar 2023

Arria-formula Meeting on Integrating the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons into the Work of the Security Council

Tomorrow afternoon (20 March), Security Council members will hold an Arria-formula meeting on “Integrating the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons into the Council’s Mandate for Maintaining International Peace and Security”. The meeting is being organised by the US and is co-sponsored by Albania, Brazil, France, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, and the UK, together with non-Council members Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, and Greece. The UN LGBTI Core Group—a cross-regional group comprised of 42 UN member states, the EU, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Human Rights Watch and Outright International—is also co-sponsoring the event. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (US) will chair the meeting and US Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) Persons Jessica Stern will participate as part of the US delegation.

The expected briefers are the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), Victor Madrigal-Borloz, and two civil society representatives from Afghanistan and Colombia.

All UN member states as well as observers and NGOs accredited to the UN are invited to attend. The meeting, which will be held in the ECOSOC chamber, will be broadcast live on UNTV at 3 pm EST.

This will be the first open informal meeting of Council members on LGBTI issues. In August 2015, Chile and the US organised a closed Arria-formula meeting on the targeting of LGBT persons in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). At that meeting, Council members heard first-hand accounts from civil society representatives from Iraq and Syria and were briefed by former Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and Jessica Stern, then Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, now known as Outright International. While all permanent Council members were present at the meeting, then Council members Angola and Chad did not attend.

The US has circulated a concept note ahead of tomorrow’s meeting. It says that the meeting’s objective is to identify steps that the Council can take to better incorporate the human rights of LGBTI persons in carrying out its mandate to maintain international peace and security. The concept note invites Council members and UN member states to propose ways in which the Council, the UN Secretariat, and other UN bodies can better protect LGBTI rights in conflict situations, incorporate LGBTI perspectives in peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and establish mechanisms to protect members of the LGBTI community and create more resilient societies.

Madrigal-Borloz is likely to brief Council members on his work and make recommendations on how the Council can better incorporate the rights of LGBT and gender-diverse persons in its mandate. His most recent report to the General Assembly, issued in July 2022, reviewed relevant legal and normative frameworks, analysed forms of conflict-related violence based on SOGI and stressed the importance of the participation of LGBT and gender-diverse persons in transitional and peacebuilding processes.

One of the conclusions articulated in Madrigal-Borloz’s report is that “the implementation of inclusive definitions of gender is indispensable in order to make visible, analyse and address the consequences of conflict-related violence for all persons who depart from hegemonic assumptions related to gender and sexuality”. According to the report, Madrigal-Borloz “considers the gender dimensions of the international agenda on peace and security to be incomplete if they do not address the situation of LGBT and gender-diverse persons during the outbreak, escalation, recurrence or continuation of conflict” and recommends that the Security Council respond to calls “to back politically the expansion of the women and peace and security agenda, with the purpose of including an intersectional approach that will in turn contribute to more comprehensive implementation and global monitoring of the agenda”. Tomorrow, Madrigal-Borloz may reiterate some of these messages.

Regarding Afghanistan, a 15 February report by Outright International says that, compared to the initial period after the August 2021 Taliban takeover, currently “Taliban officials appear to have made targeting LGBTIQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer] people a greater priority, collecting intelligence on LGBTIQ activists and community members, hunting them down, and subjecting them to violence and humiliation”. The report, which is based on interviews with 22 LGBTIQ persons living in Afghanistan, says that “[w]hile the evidence of violence against LGBTIQ people in Afghanistan by the de facto Taliban authorities is indisputable, the international response has so far been inadequate”. Tomorrow, the civil society representative from Afghanistan, Artemis Akbary, the founder and director of the NGO Afghan LGBT Organization, may call for a stronger response from the international community to violations of the rights of LGBTI people in Afghanistan and may recommend that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report on these violations. He is also likely to highlight the challenges faced by Afghan LGBTI asylum seekers.

Drawing on the example of the 2016 agreement between the government of Colombia and the former rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP), María Susana Peralta Ramón—a lawyer and scholar who leads the peace and transitional justice team at the NGO Colombia Diversa—is expected to share lessons learned for both positive practices in the inclusion of LGBTQ issues in peace processes and areas that could be improved. Among other matters, she may reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition established by the 2016 accord in providing justice to LGBTQ persons. In this regard, Peralta might highlight the limitations of traditional criminal law prosecutions in fully capturing the role of gender norms and prejudices in the perpetration of crimes against LGBTQ persons during the conflict in Colombia, and may suggest strategies to overcome these limitations. She may identify as a positive development the July 2022 announcement that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (SJP)—the judicial component of the comprehensive system—will open a macro-case on sexual violence, reproductive violence and other crimes motivated by prejudice, hate and discrimination on gender, sex, SOGI grounds. However, she is likely to underscore that, over eight months after the announcement, a date for the opening of the macro-case is yet to be set, and call on the SJP to do so swiftly.

The concept note for tomorrow’s meeting includes several questions to help guide the discussion, including:

  • How can we increase awareness within UN field missions on the need to better integrate respect for human rights of LGBTI persons into peacekeeping and peace building?
  • What can the Security Council do to increase protection for LGBTI persons who have unique needs and vulnerabilities in situations of armed conflict and fragile societies?
  • How can we strengthen and build upon existing Security Council workstreams–such as UN Security Council resolution 2475 on the protection of persons with disabilities in conflict, Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), and Youth, Peace and Security (YPS)–to include LGBTI persons?
  • How can we practically expand the Woman, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda to promote cross-cutting intersectional identities, including those related to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression?

According to a statement by a senior US Administration official, during tomorrow’s meeting the US “will commit to ask questions of UN officials regarding human rights violations of LGBTI persons”, to raise “any reports or abuses or other concerns unique to the LGBTI community” in its Council statements, and to propose relevant language in Council resolutions “when appropriate” and “where there are egregious violations”.

Tomorrow, several participants are likely to welcome the holding of the meeting and may propose ways to integrate the human rights of LGBTI persons into the Council’s work. These members are expected to condemn attacks, violence, and discrimination against LGBTI persons during armed conflict and may call for their full, equal, and meaningful participation in conflict resolution, transitions to peace, and wider decision-making processes. Some may highlight the importance of adopting a more systematic approach to documenting attacks against LGBTI persons.

Other members might take a less favourable approach. While Council members agreed on a press statement condemning the 12 June 2016 attack in Orlando, Florida, “targeting persons as a result of their sexual orientation”, language referring to LGBTI persons has been contentious in past Council negotiations on WPS-related products. At the 7 March open debate on WPS, Russia reiterated its position that the Security Council should not duplicate the work of other UN bodies, such as the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Human Rights Council (HRC), and said that “[t]he family is of particular value, and protecting it is a top priority”.

Voting records at the HRC and the General Assembly may provide an indication of Council dynamics on SOGI. For instance, China, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) supported an amendment to remove a reference to “sexual orientation or gender identity” and replace it with “sex” in the General Assembly resolution on “Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions” adopted in November 2022. Mozambique abstained, while Gabon and Ghana did not vote. All other Council members opposed the proposed amendment, which was rejected.

Of the Security Council members who were members of the HRC in July 2022, China, Gabon, and the UAE voted against the resolution that most recently renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on SOGI, while Brazil, France, Japan, the UK, and the US voted in favour.


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