Joint Communiqué of the Equal Rights Coalition Global Conference 2018

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

August 7th, 2018

We, ministers and representatives of the member countries of the Equal Rights Coalition, have come together in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on August 5-7, 2018, and pledged to work together to build a world where the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all are respected and where no one is left behind, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. We recognise with regret that – on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - LGBTI persons continue to face human rights abuses and violations around the world.

These human rights abuses and violations – which we condemn unequivocally – include discrimination, violence and arbitrary arrests, on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.

Since our founding in Montevideo, Uruguay, in July 2016, we have worked together to take action – through public pronouncements and diplomatic intervention – when we have witnessed lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons facing abuses and violations of their human rights.  At the same time, we have welcomed the positive steps made by governments, legislatures, and courts around the world in combating discrimination and strengthening protections for the human rights of LGBTI persons.

If no one is to be left behind, there is work that remains to be done – including in our own countries.  Progress can best be achieved through education, dialogue, awareness raising, advocacy efforts, cooperation, and recognition of our universal, indivisible, and interdependent human rights.  We will continue to encourage innovative and effective policy and assistance approaches tailored to the needs and experiences of diverse communities and to work closely with civil society organizations and all relevant stakeholders in our efforts.

Since our founding, we have welcomed into our Coalition ten new member countries:  Albania, Australia, Cabo Verde, Cyprus, Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Lithuania, Luxembourg, and Malta. 

We recognize that our meeting takes place on the traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.  We have been welcomed here, along with our partners from civil society, from multilateral organizations, and from other stakeholder groups, whose contributions form an integral part of the work of the Coalition. 

Our discussions in Vancouver build on our shared principles and on our collective efforts to date.  We commit to respect and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which lie at the heart of the international rules-based order.  We recognise that the rights and freedoms enshrined in international human rights law apply equally to all individuals, including LGBTI persons, without distinction of any kind. We have renewed the pledges we made when we signed the Founding Principles first put forward in Montevideo.

We have all pledged to work toward and support successful sustainable development. We recognise that LGBTI persons must be meaningfully engaged in inclusive development efforts and must benefit from these efforts in a non-discriminatory manner.

We share the conviction that inclusive and human-rights-based policy and development approaches that respect diversity help to build more resilient, prosperous, and successful societies.  Our discussions served to strengthen that conviction. We heard from two-spirit and other LGBTI Indigenous persons about their lived experience.  We examined the importance of linguistic and cultural factors in building communities and enhancing collaboration between individuals and organizations, including those using the French and Spanish languages.  We redoubled our efforts to address the distinct needs and experiences of intersex persons, of transgender and gender-diverse persons, and of lesbian and bisexual women.  We recognise that LGBTI persons may face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including on the basis of their ethnicity, religion, age, or ability, among other grounds.

We are committed to making real progress for LGBTI persons -- including youth -- that leaves no one behind.  We have therefore worked with partners to identify practical elements of a way forward.  We explored innovative roles for the private sector and highlighted the central importance of data and measuring progress in supporting inclusive development and advocacy for the human rights of LGBTI persons.  We evaluated contemporary strategies for advancing movement-building, intersectionality, and human rights in HIV/AIDS programming.  We looked at the power of multi-sector responses to hate crimes, violence, and other human rights violations and abuses targeting LGBTI persons.  We discussed the specific challenges of young LGBTI persons in accessing good quality and relevant education and health services, and the importance of listening to and supporting LGBTI youth.  We also discussed the crucial roles of education and faith in inclusive development and LGBTI advocacy, and the need for strengthened engagement with teachers and faith leaders at the community level.

Our Coalition has worked since its founding to put in place an action-oriented program of work and multi-sectoral teams to make our goals a reality.  Our discussions in Vancouver with civil society partners, multilateral organizations, and other stakeholders have enriched the Coalition’s vision for our future work.

Based on our deliberations at the Global Conference, we make the following commitments:

  • We commit to advancing the work of the ERC by further strengthening its collaboration with its key partners, including civil society, international organisations, multilateral agencies, academia, the private sector and all others working to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBTI persons;
  • We commit to advocating for equal respect, protection, and promotion of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBTI persons, including in cases where they are at acute risk;
  • We commit to ensuring our strategies for advancing sustainable development are informed by the experiences of LGBTI persons through consultation with LGBTI civil society organizations, including in our planning and reporting;
  • We commit to increasing the overall quantity and quality of assistance dedicated to protecting and promoting the human rights and inclusive development needs of LGBTI individuals, communities and organizations;
  • We commit to strengthen relations with the private sector and to work together to foster in all sectors of society, including the workplace, the human rights of LGBTI persons;
  • We commit to sharing best practices among governments, legislators, and civil society organizations to promote the universal de-criminalisation of LGBTI status or conduct and the strengthening of protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics;
  • We commit to working together to advocate appropriate protections for intersex persons and encourage states to implement policies and procedures, as appropriate, to ensure that medical practices are consistent with international human rights obligations;
  • We commit to encouraging States, within the framework of their domestic legal systems and consistent with their international human rights obligations, to continue to strengthen institutions and public policies focused on preventing, investigating, and punishing human rights abuses and violations against LGBTI persons, and to ensure that victims enjoy access to justice and appropriate remedies;
  • We commit to working to increase the space for civil society, both domestically and internationally, in recognition of the important actions civil society organisations and human rights defenders undertake in support of LGBTI persons, often at great personal risk; and
  • We commit to encouraging States to strengthen information gathering on the number, diversity, and unique needs of LGBTI individuals and communities, with special attention on official documentation of and reporting of human rights abuses and violations based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, including through collaboration with civil society to develop and implement rights-based and evidence-based policies.

Conscious of the urgent need for our efforts to yield results, we pledge to review progress on these commitments and on our program of work in our periodic meetings during the next two years, culminating in our next global conference in 2020.

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