ILGA is delighted that Thai international law professor, Vitit Muntarbhorn, was today appointed the first UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
The appointment, made as a package today together with four other human rights expert positions, went through by consensus of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the 47 government member world body charged with overseeing human rights around the globe.
“We see Professor Muntarbhorn as having the expertise and skills needed for this challenging and exciting role. Not only has he worked with national human rights commissions, the Thai Ministry of Justice and NGOs on this issue, but he has commanded respect in the UN system on many other issues,” said André du Plessis, UN Programme and Advocacy Manager from ILGA.
Mr Muntarbhorn, international law professor at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, is currently member of the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, and has served on many United Nations bodies over the years.
Professor Muntarbhorn was Co-Chairperson of the drafting committee of the Yogyakarta Principles in 2006 and has worked with many actors over the years on human rights issues, including on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“For us, it is particularly fitting that he should be appointed to this position in the tenth anniversary year of the Yogyakarta Principles which he helped co-chair in 2006. As ILGA holds its 28th World Conference in Thailand later this year, it seems very appropriate that we should be commemorating this in his home country as he now takes up this new office,” said Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, co-Secretaries General of ILGA.
Muntarbhorn – appointed for an initial but renewable three year period – is now tasked with assessing the implementation of existing international human rights law in this area, raising awareness of violence and discrimination suffered by LGBT persons, engaging in dialogue and cooperating with States to implement measures, and providing advice and technical assistance where needed.
ILGA is particularly pleased that Mr. Muntarbhorn’s is tasked with addressing the multiple, intersecting and aggravated forms of violence and discrimination faced by persons in respect of their sexual orientation and gender identity – an approach that matter deeply to our communities.
“We are really looking forward to working with Professor Muntarbhorn over the coming years. Never has there been a more urgent need to safeguard the human rights of LGBTI persons around the world. Attacked, discriminated against, targeted and invisibilized, our communities need an ally like Professor Muntarbhorn to ensure that ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,’ as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states, is a reality and not only a dream,” said Renato Sabbadini, Executive Director of ILGA.
Having worked for several years on LGBTI issues at the UN, in April this year ILGA publicly led a call for the UN to establish this new position. It was finally created by the 47-member government body in June this year after being brought to the floor by seven Latin American countries. After a heated debate, the mandate was established by a vote of 23 in favour and 18 against, with six abstentions.
After it was established, the UN opened-up applications to fill the position, with a total 21 people from all regions applying. A group of ambassadors shortlisted and interviewed candidates before proposing Mr. Muntarbhorn as the person best-suited for the position.
ILGA is grateful to all those who showed support for the human rights of LGBTI persons by applying to be the Independent Expert. The list of candidates showed that there were many who were eminently qualified and capable to carry-out the demands of the position, and we look forward to also continuing to work with them all.