Working globally for LGBT rights

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2017 National Delegate Conference
28 February 2017

Conference celebrates our union’s rich history of international work and recognises that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) group has incorporated this into its own work. UNISON continues to raise LGBT issues in the different international forums in which we work and raise trade unionism in all LGBT forums in which we engage.

Conference notes that the 53 Commonwealth states comprise a quarter of United Nations member states and a third of humanity. The Commonwealth defines itself as a free and equal association of nations committed to the core principles of democracy, human rights, equality, non-discrimination, opportunity for all, liberty of the individual and human dignity. Yet 40 Commonwealth member states retain laws criminalising same-sex relations, which are largely a legacy of British colonialism. Trans people also face widespread violence and abuse, though this is less well documented.

Conference recognises, however, that there are signs of progress being made on the rights of LGBT people around the Commonwealth, and welcomes:

1)The establishment of the Commonwealth Equality Network, the first civil society group to advocate on behalf of LGBT people within the Commonwealth institutions and Commonwealth Civil Society, with 35 member organisations from 30 Commonwealth countries;

2)The higher profile of LGBT human rights at the last Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in 2015, with two sessions on LGBT issues included in the People’s Forum – the civil society meeting that runs alongside the formal CHOGM.

Conference notes that the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, has committed to promoting dialogue on LGBT issues during her tenure. The next CHOGM is in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2018.

Conference further notes the inquiry by the All Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) on Global LGBT Rights 2016 into “The UK’s stance on international breaches of LGBT rights” found “a pressing need” for the development and implementation of a coherent, co-ordinated cross-departmental government strategy for promoting equality for LGBT people around the world, and that departmental commitments to support the rights of LGBT people need to receive meaningful investment and political support to ensure effective implementation.

Conference welcomes the recommendations in the inquiry report for the development of a governmental cross-departmental strategy and the establishment of a stakeholder steering group to help guide its development and implementation.

Conference also welcomes the recognition in the report that “we need to ensure that the stances taken in the UK, whether by the government, politicians, civil society or businesses are effective, and also that interventions are not counter-productive” and that “it is vital for stakeholders in parliament, government, the private sector and civil society to take their lead from local LGBT communities”.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to work with the National LGBT Committee to:

a)Work with other appropriate organisations to seek the inclusion of LGBT rights issues as a substantive item on the agenda of the 2018 CHOGM;

b)Seek discussions with the APPG about the role of trade unions and the work of UNISON to promote LGBT equality internationally, and representation in the stakeholder group;

c)Press for implementation of the APPG’s recommendations on development of a cross-departmental government strategy and allocation of the resources needed to ensure effective implementation.