President Obama reversed President George W. Bush’s decision to boycott the UN Human Rights Council, and the State Department said the 27th session last week “underscored the importance of robust U.S. engagement at the Council, where the United States continues to work with countries from all regions to address urgent human rights concerns.”
“U.S. leadership helped to keep the Council at the forefront of international efforts to promote and protect human rights, including by underscoring the critical role of civil society,” the department said in a fact sheet detailing “key outcomes” at the session:
LGBT: The Council adopted the second-ever UN resolution on violence and discrimination facing LGBT persons world-wide. Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay led the resolution, with the United States co-sponsoring and lobbying heavily. Countries from every geographic region joined its supporters. The resolution will lead to further UN reporting on this critical human rights issue.
Civil Society Space: The United States proudly supported the HRC’s second resolution urging states to create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment for civil society. The Ireland-led resolution underscored the importance for civil society to be able to seek, receive, and use resources and affirmed freedom of expression
Syria: The HRC’s 15th resolution on Syria focused on torture and the situation in Syrian prisons, and reiterated the international community’s demand for unfettered humanitarian access in Syria.
Yemen, CAR, DRC, and Sudan: The United States co-sponsored resolutions on Yemen, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, highlighting our shared commitment to protecting human rights through assistance and enhanced dialogue. The Council extended the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sudan, through a resolution that criticized ongoing violations and abuses of human rights in Sudan.
Journalists, FGM, and Political Participation: The HRC’s Safety of Journalists resolution condemned recent violence against journalists and urged states to provide protection and prevent such actions. The Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) resolution acknowledged progress toward the elimination of FGM but underlined ongoing concerns. The Equal Participation in Political and Public Affairs resolution urged all states to eliminate barriers to the full participation of all citizens in political and public affairs.
The LGBT resolution was singled out in a statement by Secretary of State John Kerry, who said the “historic” passage “marks yet another important chapter in UN efforts to stand united against the human rights abuses that LGBT individuals face around the world.”
The vote was 25 in favor and 14 against, with seven abstentions.
Countries voting against the measure, which “takes note with appreciation of the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights entitled ‘Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity'” and commissions a major report on challenges facing gays worldwide, were Algeria, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Indonesia, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Pakistan said “the wider connotations of sexual orientation could be detrimental” and “Muslims strongly believed that their religious and cultural values should be respected.”
“The United States will continue to promote human rights around the world for all people,” Kerry said. “Who you love, and who you are, must not be an excuse or cover for discrimination or abuse, period.”