In March 2016, human rights defenders from Hungary, Samoa, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand and Trinidad & Tobago, came to Geneva for a week of advocacy around the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The week was organised by ILGA in cooperation with COC Netherlands and ARC International and took place around UPR-Info’s “UPR Pre-sessions”.
Three times a year, the governments of the world meet at the UN in Geneva to review the human rights record of a new small group of countries, systematically working through all the countries of the world over a five year period and making recommendations to them.
ILGA therefore also organizes these “UPR Advocacy Weeks” three times a year to coincide with the crucial period in the run-up to that review. During this period, NGOs come to Geneva to meet with countries from around the world and share in detail the human rights situation on the ground and what recommendations they would like these countries to make to their own governments.
During these advocacy weeks, the ILGA team - this time together with partners COC Netherlands and ARC International - assists human rights defenders in the preparation of oral statements and summaries to be delivered during the pre-sessions, gives advice on how to strategically conduct advocacy, and facilitates meetings with diplomatic missions.
The UPR advocacy week kicked off with a training session: the human rights defenders received advice as they prepared for their meetings with diplomatic missions, finalized the summary of recommendations they would like made, fine-tuned their statements for the “UPR Pre-sessions” and had one-on-one talks with ILGA staff, other NGOs and UN staff.
Soon after that, they began engaging with diplomatic missions, meeting the government representatives and informing them about SOGIESC-related issues in their countries.
This week has been great because it was a learning experience on how the UPR process goes in the practice. I didn’t know what to expect. It was great because I got the chance to talk to friendly diplomats: unfortunately that is not the same experience I have with my own government. (Krisztina Kolos Orbán, Hungary)
It was an intense time with up to eight meetings every day. By the end of the week each human rights defender had met with around 20 different governments!
The human rights defenders also participated in the “UPR Pre-sessions” of their country, making presentations to government representatives together with other defenders from their countries also advocating in Geneva for other human rights concerns.
It was an intense week so, yes, dancing was one of the accepted ways to keep some sanity throughout the process!
ILGA has helped me because there were such well organized, especially with all the documentation they provided to us. They always highlighted the key issues to approach to the diplomats, especially by knowing which recommendation we should ask to each government. Great communication with the diplomats, in just 3 days I meet with at least 20 governments! (Nada Chaiyajit, Thailand)
For human rights defenders, this UPR advocacy week has not only been a time to engage with diplomatic missions and to advance the human rights of LGBTI people in their countries, but also an opportunity for exchange of views with each other and to therefore learn from how things are done in other regions.
This week was great because I realized that human rights struggle is not isolated. You are a member of a community and all you have to do is turn up and do your work, tell your story. (Ymania Brown, Samoa)
These are the human rights defenders who have been involved in this UPR advocacy week:
Krisztina Kolos Orbán (Transvanilla Hungary, Hungary)
Bea Sandor (Hungarian LGBT Alliance, Hungary)
John Kashiha (CHESA Tanzania, Tanzania)
Oliver Ndalu (YWIG Tanzania, Tanzania)
Ymania Brown (Samoa Fa’afafine Association, Samoa)
Kenneth Van Emden (Suriname Men United, Suriname)
Lucien Govaard (Platform Suriname, Suriname)
Nada Chaiyajit (Togetherness for Equality and Action, Thailand)
Colin Robinson (Caiso T & T, Trinidad & Tobago)
Their commitment and their enthusiasm has been admirable, and it has been a pleasure to welcome them to Geneva and to help them advocate the human rights of LGBTI persons in their country on an international level. (Diana Carolina Prado Mosquera, ILGA UN Programme Officer)
The work continues of course. Now they are back home and continuing to meet with embassies, still encouraging governments to make recommendations. Their countries will be reviewed at the UN in early May. We will all be watching to see what recommendations are made. Then begins the crucial task of using them to help bring about change that matters. ILGA’s support continues throughout this process.
This week has been great because being in Geneva, fighting for your cause and having the opportunity to talk to diplomats makes the experience exciting! We are here because we are committed to a cause. (Lucien Govaard, Suriname)
Human rights defenders enjoying a night out
Until next time!