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Right Here Right Now High Level Event: safeguarding LGBTI rights following Inter-American Court’s advice

“Dialogue is not possible when we criminalise human rights.” This was the message of Victor Madrigal, the UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) and main speaker at Right Here Right Now’s High Level Event on human rights of LGBTI people. The event, organised by Hivos in collaboration with all Right Here Right Now partners and the Costa Rican Ministry of Health, was aimed at finding best ways to benefit from a recent Inter-American Court of Human Rights advisory opinion.

In January 2018 the court, that is part of the Organisation of American States, released an advisory opinion that said the rights of couples, consisting of one man and one woman, should also be given to same-sex couples. Furthermore, self-identification, such as name changes, should be recognised by governments without impediments. This ruling can serve as an instrument to ensure all couples are treated without discrimination and that human rights are safeguarded. A historic moment for all the court’s member states and a crucial moment in the fight against stigmatisation and discrimination of LGBTI people.

UN Independent Expert on SOGIE with the Right Here Right now team

Importance of concerted advocacy

In light of these developments, our global strategic partnership Right Here Right Now held a High Level Event to analyse the advisory opinion, on its content and from a perspective of both regional and global advocacy. Emphasising the importance of concerted advocacy, Victor Madrigal said: “The spaces are not shrinking, they are being shrunk.” Alice Shackleford, the UN Resident Coordinator in Costa Rica, added: “We are here because inequality is inefficient and it costs.”

“Law does not guarantee societal acceptance of LGBTI people,” said Alexander Kofman, Deputy Head of Mission at the Dutch Embassy in Central America. “We, government and Civil Society Organisations, have an essential role to play in the change of culture.”

Other speakers at the event included Ana Elena Chacón, former Vice-President of Costa Rica, Alejandra Acuña Navarro, Costa Rican Deputy Minister of Health, Luis Eduardo Salazar, Presidential Commissioner on LGBTI Population in Costa Rica and Myrtille Danse, Director of the Latin American office of Hivos.

“Umuntu, ngumuntu, ngabantu”

Tendaishe Changamire, National Coordinator of Right Here Right Now in Zimbabwe, started her speech with a traditional African philosophy with originates from the Zulu language. “Umuntu, ngumuntu, ngabantu. I understand, that says, you are who you are through other people. It says, I exist because you exist. It’s a traditional African philosophy that nurtures wholeness, oneness, compassion, and humanity. I, personally, interpret it to be a concept of common humanity, willingness to be vulnerable, and to be open to share with and learn from others - a concerted effort to live."

Voice of youth

The afternoon was filled with civil society consultations that fed into the closing observations by Victor Madrigal. Right Here Right Now’s contribution was clearly heard as he concluded that the voice of youth has to be the guiding principle for action and that obstacles faced by youth based on the principles of non-discrimination and age should be addressed.

The High Level Event was the final part of a week-long gathering of the Right Here Right Now strategic partnership in Costa Rica as part of their mid-term evaluation and was attended by the 11 national coordinators, global programme team members and the partnership's global steering committee.