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Civil society welcomes the appointment of Graeme Reid as the third UN Independent Expert on SOGI, celebrates the achievements of Victor Madrigal-Borloz in the role

The President of the UN Human Rights Council has appointed Graeme Reid as the incoming holder of the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

The appointment was made today at the United Nations Human Rights Council, after his nomination was proposed last month by the President of the 47 government member body charged with overseeing human rights around the globe. Graeme Reid will take on the role on 1 November 2023.

An anthropologist and researcher from South Africa, Reid – who currently serves as the Director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch – is the third person to ever be appointed to hold the United Nations mandate dedicated to addressing specific human rights violations against LGBT and gender-diverse persons, following Vitit Muntarbhorn from Thailand (2016-2017) and Victor Madrigal-Borloz from Costa Rica (2017-2023).

Civil society organisations worldwide welcomed the decision: “Billions of people continue to live in societies with laws and societal attitudes that put LGBTI persons in danger,” said ILGA World, ISHR, ILGA Asia, Outright International, GIN SSOGIE,  Race & Equality, GATE, and Human Rights Campaign. “With his extensive experience in advocacy and academic spaces alike, and his keen dedication to listening to the voices of grassroots human rights defenders, we trust Reid will be able to further build bridges and remind States of their obligations towards people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities across the globe. As civil society, we look forward to constructive engagement with the new mandate holder.”

The appointment comes at the end of a months-long application process. 23 candidates went through shortlisting, with interviews and final appointment then overseen by Member States of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Earlier this month, organisations worldwide had expressed their regret on the lack of women and non-binary persons in the short-list of candidates recommended by the Consultative Group, as highlighted during the recent session of the Human Rights Council. “Ensuring participation and representation of women is crucial to reflect the diverse realities of women’s lives,” organisations pointed out.

In June 2022, the Human Rights Council successfully renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The renewal recognized and reaffirmed the vital importance of the maintenance of this mandate, as LGBT communities around the world continue to be subject to violence and discrimination on the basis of their SOGI.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the outgoing mandate holder, continues in the role until the end of the month. “Today we also want to celebrate everything that has been achieved over the last six years,” civil society organisations concluded. “Thanks to Víctor Madrigal-Borloz and his work, the world has heard more about the impact of criminalisation of same-sex relations between consenting adults, the need to legally recognise a person’s gender, the barriers to social inclusion and the importance of collecting data related to LGBT lives, the harm caused by so-called ‘conversion therapy’, and more. Madrigal-Borloz has also cast a light on good practices to prevent discrimination, and conducted visits to Georgia, Mozambique, Tunisia, Ukraine, the United States and the United Kingdom, building bridges between civil society, and political and religious authorities. At a time in which anti-rights forces are more vocal by the minute, and are increasingly targeting our communities as a part of a larger attack against gender equality, it is critical that the mandate’s work continues and is supported by States and civil society alike.”

“ILGA World and its membership have always supported the UN mandate for an Independent Expert on SOGI, and this goes way back to the days in which we campaigned with fellow human rights organisations for its establishment”, said Julia Ehrt, Executive director at ILGA World. “Over the years, we have provided countless inputs informing the groundbreaking reports of the mandate, continued working alongside States to build support for its work – up to the creation of a Group of Friends of the IESOGI mandate – and provided spaces for the Independent Expert to meet grassroots human rights defenders during our World and regional Conferences. The existence of this mandate is fundamental for the communities across the world that we proudly represent, and we will look forward to continue supporting its work.”