In October 2017, ILGA, in cooperation with COC Netherlands, welcomed human rights defenders from Ghana, Pakistan, Peru, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Switzerland and Ukraine to the United Nations in Geneva for a week of advocacy around the Universal Periodic Review. 
It was the largest UPR Advocacy Week organised so far, gathering together thirteen human rights defenders from seven countries. These advocacy weeks – which ILGA has been organizing for several years – provide human rights defenders and organisations worldwide with crucial and empowering advocacy opportunities at the international level.
Over just five days, the defenders met with governments from every region of the world – from Argentina to Canada, from Japan to New Zealand, from South Africa to Sweden – to share their expertise on SOGIESC issues in their own countries and to suggest recommendations to be made at the upcoming UPR.
Before the week of intense advocacy, the defenders took part in an interactive training session ran by ILGA’s UN Programme. How do we most effectively engage with diplomatic missions? How do we suggest the best types of recommendations? How do we follow-up our advocacy efforts? ILGA and COC staff shared advice and insights to answer these all-important questions. And they also got to practice their advocacy with a volunteer diplomat! For the defenders, this training was a vital stage of the process:
The first day’s preparation session was amazing! … ILGA really gave us a very clear practice session on how to [conduct advocacy at the UN]” Minwoo Jung, Rainbow Action Against Sexuality Minority Discrimination (Republic of Korea)
“It’s been a very big learning experience. … I’m learning how to deal with diplomats, members from other organisations, and my own government on the international scene.” Robert Akoto Amoafo, Solace Brothers Foundation (Ghana)
“ILGA staff helped me a lot. Especially the training session on day one.” Inseop Lee, Rainbow Action Against Sexuality Minority Discrimination (Republic of Korea)
“We did a very intensive training. I learned how the system works, how to be an activist in the UN, how to advocate in an efficient way, how to talk to diplomats, and how to have more confidence in the message I am delivering.” Meloe Gennai, Transgender Network Switzerland (Switzerland)
After the training session, the defenders enjoyed a tour of UN Palais des Nations. The team posed for a photograph under the rainbow ceiling of Room XX, the beating heart of human rights advocacy at the UN.
The defenders were now ready to meet with the diplomats. They highlighted the specific challenges and needs of LGBTI persons in their home countries with almost 30 governments from all over the globe. More importantly, they proposed priority recommendations to be made on SOGIESC issues at the UPR. This essential dialogue raises awareness and ensures that LGBTI voices are heard and mainstreamed during the UPR process.
Human rights defenders...
... have been meeting with diplomats
... all along the UPR Advocacy Week...
...highlighting the specific challenges and needs of LGBTI persons in their home countries
ILGA supported the defenders at each stage of the UPR – from providing feedback and guidance on their submissions, to sharing advocacy tips, to arranging and facilitating meetings with diplomatic missions. This support empowers the defenders to apply their expertise on SOGIESC issues in the most effective ways.
“Without ILGA, we wouldn’t be here! … If ILGA wasn’t there to arrange all the meetings with permanent missions we wouldn’t be able to have the opportunities to highlight what our issues are … and also develop the skills on how to talk to representatives from each country.” Philip Kim, Rainbow Action Against Sexuality Minority Discrimination (Republic of Korea)
“Much-needed technical support for [our submission] was provided, which was highly appreciated considering this was our first one.” Qasim Iqbal, NAZ Pakistan (Pakistan)
When we got to Geneva, the [UPR Advoacy Week] was awesome! I loved everything about it!” Huseina Meyaki, Centre For Popular Education and Human Rights (Ghana)
“ILGA helped us prepare the speeches which we made with different diplomats and also arranged the meetings with those diplomats for us.” Andrii Zarytskyi, LGBT Association ‘LIGA’ (Ukraine)
... and more...
... and more meetings with diplomats
The week was one of much reflection, and offered human rights defenders an opportunity to build their capacities as human rights advocates. The team learned not only through the process, but through each other – learning of different ways to approach issues in other places, and also discovering how much is shared by LGBTI people around the world.
“I feel that I have improved on a professional and personal level, getting to know people coming from diverse and different contexts, but also with similar issues that we have in Peru. … For me really, ILGA has been very important in this process.” Karen Anaya, PROMSEX (Peru)
“ILGA has actually helped me grow as an advocate over the week.” Sryial Nilanka, Equal Ground (Sri Lanka)
After this, what next?
First-off, the countries actually get reviewed in mid-November 2017. ILGA monitors what recommendations actually get made. But then the real work starts…
“Whilst the UPR Advocacy Week may have come to a close, the important work of the defenders is ongoing and continues far beyond the remits of Geneva. They now have the task of advocating for the acceptance and implementation of SOGIESC recommendations made to their country at the UPR.” Diana Carolina Prado Mosquera, UN Programme and Advocacy Officer, ILGA
ILGA endeavours to empower the defenders with the necessary skills and tools to take on this essential follow-up process and all their future advocacy efforts.
“It’s a skill I can use in the long run. So, I am really grateful for ILGA for organising the Advocacy Week.” Philip Kim, Rainbow Action Against Sexuality Minority Discrimination (Republic of Korea)
“I have learned a lot in these 5 days. … I’m going to put this back into my work. I hope that in five years when Ghana is back for review we are going to do more than this!” Abubakar Sadiq Yussif, Solace Brothers Foundation (Ghana)
“ILGA gave me tips on how to meet delegates and how to concentrate on our issue about LGBTI. This lesson is very helpful for this week and will also be helpful for our advocacy in my country later.” Hanhee Park, Rainbow Action Against Sexuality Minority Discrimination (Republic of Korea)
These are the defenders who took part in the UPR Advocacy Week:
Abubakar Sadiq Yussif – Solace Brothers Foundation (Ghana) Andrii Zarytskyi – LGBT Association ‘LIGA’ (Ukraine) Hanhee Park – Rainbow Action Against Sexuality Minority Discrimination, Republic of Korea Huseina Meyaki – Centre For Popular Education and Human Rights (Ghana) Inseop Lee – Rainbow Action Against Sexuality Minority Discrimination (Republic of Korea) Karen Anaya – PROMSEX (Peru) Kwaku Adomako – Solace Brothers Foundation (Ghana) Meloe Gennai – Transgender Network Switzerland (Switzerland) Minwoo Jung – Rainbow Action Against Sexuality Minority Discrimination (Republic of Korea) Philip Kim – Rainbow Action Against Sexuality Minority Discrimination (Republic of Korea) Qasim Iqbal – NAZ Pakistan (Pakistan) Robert Akoto Amoafo – Solace Brothers Foundation (Ghana) Sriyal Nilanka – Equal Ground (Sri Lanka)
 Three times a year, the governments of the world meet at the United Nations in Geneva to review the human rights record of a countries and make recommendations to them: the Universal Periodic Review, or UPR.
ILGA organizes “UPR Advocacy Weeks” to coincide with the crucial period in the run-up to these reviews. During these days, NGOs meet with the Geneva representatives of governments from around the world, to share 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 – together with partner COC Netherlands – assists human rights defenders in the preparation of oral statements and summaries to be delivered during the pre-sessions, facilitates meetings with diplomatic missions and gives advice on how to strategically conduct advocacy in Geneva and back home.
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