As an organization that promotes human rights on a global scale, collaborative partnership is integral to the work of The Advocates. One way The Advocates partners with other nongovernmental organizations is through producing joint submissions to the United Nations on violence against women, use of the death penalty, and LGBTI rights, among other topics. The Advocates also collaborates with multiple diaspora communities in the United States. For example, The Advocates partnered with the Oromo diaspora to create a report that documented experiences of community members that have faced human rights violations throughout three political regimes in Ethiopia.
The Advocates encourages other communities and organizations interested in collaborating to connect with us at any time. The Advocates recently created some materials to make it easier for organizations that want to collaborate to initially reach out.
The Collaboration Request Form aims to increase effective outreach and make the process of asking to partner with The Advocates more accessible. Organizations and communities that want to learn more about opportunities to work jointly with The Advocates are welcome to fill out the form. The form asks organizations to provide information about the timing of the proposed collaboration, goals and needed resources, and specific issue-area(s) of focus for the partnership.
In addition, The Advocates is currently creating a series of brochures and will share these materials at conferences, committee meetings, and other events that representatives of prospective partner organizations may attend. These documents provide information about the mission and work of The Advocates, and concrete steps to become involved. These brochures identify opportunities to connect and provide a direct link to the Collaboration Request Form.
Together, the Collaboration Request Form and the brochures create more opportunities for consistent, structured, and accessible outreach to other organizations, communities, and individuals who are committed to the mission of protecting human rights. In turn, The Advocates can more efficiently organize responses and follow-ups with interested organizations.
The Advocates’ model is collaborative and inclusive. The Advocates provides many different opportunities for partnership. For collaborative projects, partner organizations identify their own priorities, and The Advocates provides them with technical assistance and capacity building to support their work. The Advocates supports organizations by providing customized trainings and workshops (both in-person and web-based), assisting with fact-finding and reporting on a variety of human rights issue-areas, and offering pro-bono legal assistance to support capacity-building for partner organizations.
Through working on the Collaboration Request Form during my internship this spring, I learned that building effective partnerships is a long-term process and providing consistent opportunities for collaboration is essential for human rights work. I hope my work will lay the foundation for many new organizations to partner with The Advocates.
Interested in finding out more information about partnering with The Advocates for Human Rights? Click here.
By Rachel Stromsta, a Macalester student majoring in Political Science and Human Rights & Humanitarism and a 2019 intern with The Advocates for Human Rights’ International Justice Program.
Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, or IDAHOT. Today at The Advocates we take stock of our progress over the past year to advance LGBTI rights and what lies ahead.
One highlight of the past year was working with Alternative Côte d’Ivoire https://www.facebook.com/alternativeci.infosbranches, an Ivoirian non-governmental organization committed to the fight for the rights of sexual minorities and to combatting HIV/AIDS. We first connected with Alternative CI after they prepared a stakeholder report for the 3rd Universal Periodic Review of Cote d’Ivoire. They were eager to learn what they should do with the report.
Lobbying at the United Nations
Starting in November 2018, we collaborated with Alternative CI to condense their report into a “one-pager” to use for lobbing, identified dozens of countries to target for our lobbying efforts, and provided them with advice about approaching embassies in Abidjan to seek their support.
In March, Philippe from Alternative CI was able to join us and our team of volunteers in Geneva to continue that advocacy. He participated in our half-day training and then hit the ground running, reaching out to delegates to the UN Human Rights Council and participating in meetings to share what is happening on the ground in the country.
As Alternative CI highlighted in its stakeholder report, even though LGBT status or conduct is not criminalized, people face discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This violence and discrimination comes from private parties as well as officials, including police officers and health care workers.
Philippe joined our partners from United Oromo Voices and Human Rights in Democracy Center (Albania) to present in a parallel event during the Council session. Several government representatives attended the event to learn more about the types of recommendations Alternative Côte d’Ivoire would like them to make during the UPR’s interactive dialogue.
Hard work pays off
Just last week, we had the chance to witness the fruits of Philippe’s hard work. The Council held its interactive dialogue with representatives of the government of Côte d’Ivoire on Tuesday, May 7. During the interactive dialogue, 101 countries offered a total of 251 recommendations to Côte d’Ivoire. Nine countries we lobbied—Argentina, Australia, Chile, the Czech Republic, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United States—made recommendations specifically addressing LGBTI rights. It was a huge victory. By way of comparison, during Côte d’Ivoire’s 2nd UPR in 2014, just 3 countries raised the issue of LGBTI rights.
Tripling the number of recommendations turned up the heat on the government. During the interactive dialogue, the Ivoirian government felt compelled to respond. The head of the delegation stated, “Our position is unchanged since our previous UPR, and therefore no measures have been taken or are intended to be taken regarding LGBT individuals. But our legislation does not make sexual orientation subject to punishment.” It was a big step, however, for the government even to speak those words at the Human Rights Council. In 2014, the government delegation was completely silent on the issue.
Ivoirian Government responds
As part of the UPR process, all of the recommendations from the interactive dialogue are transcribed and compiled into an official document called the Report of the Working Group https://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/uploads/cote_divoire_upr_2019_report_of_working_group.pdf. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights publishes those recommendations two days after the interactive dialogue, and then the government has approximately 4 months to respond to each recommendation. For each recommendation, governments have two options: accept or “note” (reject).
Many governments take the full four months to read the recommendations carefully and decide what to do. But some governments, including Côte d’Ivoire, act quickly and respond to most of the recommendations before OHCHR publishes the Report of the Working Group.
Côte d’Ivoire said it needed more time to consider just 24 of the 251 recommendations. It accepted 219 recommendations and summarily “noted” just 24. But all of the 9 recommendations on LGBTI rights were among the noted recommendations.
That the government should decide so quickly to reject all of those hard-fought recommendations stung. But then we looked more closely at the recommendations and saw the absurdity of the government’s position. The government rejected Iceland’s recommendation to “ensure that law enforcement officers comply with laws protecting the rights of LGBTI individuals.” Did the government of Côte d’Ivoire really not want to promise that police officers would follow existing law? And it rejected the United States’ recommendation to “investigate allegations of violence and serious levels of discrimination targeting LGBTI persons.” Did the government really think authorities should bury their heads in the sand if they receive a report alleging anti-LGBTI violence?
It became clear that the Ivoirian government didn’t even read the nine recommendations. It simply rejected any recommendation that referenced sexual orientation, gender identity, or the acronym LGBTI. Even Cameroon—a country that criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct and actively prosecutes people on suspicion they are LGBT– had accepted a recommendation from Belgium to “investigate police violence that took place on persons because of their actual or perceived gender identity.”
A silver lining?
Looking over the recommendations more carefully, we discovered a few openings. Côte d’Ivoire accepted a recommendation from Jordan to “provide training to all actors in promoting and protecting human rights,” and a similar recommendation from Mexico to “implement human rights training programs for personnel of institutions involved in security and justice in the country.”
We had lobbied for training for police officers and health care workers on LGBTI rights. Perhaps Alternative CI can get involved in these trainings and ensure that they include some lessons on LGBTI rights.
Moving forward on IDAHOT
On this IDAHOT, we are looking forward to a future in Côte d’Ivoire and throughout the world where governments take seriously their obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of LGBTI persons. We’re looking forward to collaborating with Alternative Cote d’Ivoire on an alternative report on the rights of lesbians, bisexual women and trans women for the upcoming review of Côte d’Ivoire by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. And we will persist in pressing the Ivoirian government to uphold its obligations under international human rights treaties to protect people from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We’re in it for the long haul, and with hard-working partners like Alternative Côte d’Ivoire, we know that we will see results.
Head, heart, hands, health…and human rights? The Advocates for Human Rights recently piloted a new initiative with the 4-H program that allowed students to explore how human rights related to their lives, communities, and passions. Working with the Central Region 4-H Human Rights Project, The Advocates developed two webinars designed to introduce students to international human rights standards and how human rights can be applied to solve issues in their own communities. Students then undertook projects about the human rights issue of their choice with guidance and coaching from volunteer experts in human rights.
Finally, the big day arrived and the students arrived at The Advocates for a day of career exploration and perhaps more importantly, project presentation and judging. Two Advocates staff served as judges, encouraging the 4-H presenters to describe how the knowledge or skills they used in their project might apply in other areas of their lives, and how they could use their work to change systems that perpetuate human rights abuses.
The topics ranged widely. One young man, fueled by his observations of the schools he attended, examined how bullying violates a range of human rights, from the right to personal safety, freedom of expression, the right to health, and the right to education. He advocated for schools to have clear policies and sufficient resources dedicated to combat bullying.
A young woman explored her reaction to the current definition of the international right to life, which does not prohibit abortion. She offered a passionate argument that the moment of conception is when a person becomes human and should therefore be entitled to all their human rights, including life. She plans to continue to work on the issue and hopes to change international human rights law.
Two students collaborated on a sculpture and news compendium highlighting the struggles and triumphs of the movement for LGBTQ rights worldwide. Inspired by their own struggles and success at establishing a Gay-Straight Alliance at their school, they spoke about continuing threats to the lives and wellbeing of LGBTQ individuals but also emphasized the tremendous courage and accomplishments of activists fighting for equality.
In all stages of the project, 4-H students enthusiastically welcomed a chance to engage with human rights and learn more about how human rights play out in their lives. The next generation of human rights defenders is ready to work!