EuroPride 2022 - Human Rights Conference - UNRC Talking Points
13 September 2022
Talking points by Francoise Jacob, UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia, on the occasion of EuroPride 2022 Human Rights Conference.
Dobar dan, Madame la Premiere Ministre Ana Brnabic, Madame la vice premiere ministre de Belgique Petra de Sutter, distinguished guests & friends from around the world,
Madame Prime Minister, you came to open this event – in view of the circumstances of the past few weeks, even hours, your presence is a strong sign of your support, and it brings hope that the LGBT agenda will remain on the road map of the upcoming cabinet.
I thank everyone present this week in Belgrade, for your tenacity and intention to support Serbia on this important journey towards eliminating discrimination and achieving full social inclusion for the LGBTI community. The latest ban announced today is discriminatory, but I still hope that a solution will be found for the march to happen safely. One group of people are allowed to demonstrate and spread messages of hate, the other group of people are not allowed to go to the streets when they spread messages of love and equality, despite previous decisions of Serbia`s Constitutional Court declaring bans of Pride Parades as unconstitutional. Belgrade was selected as the first city in South Eastern Europe to hold a Europride, and we must continue to share constructive messages to LGBTQI+ communities and minorities here and in other places around the world.
I want to recognise the extraordinary commitment & resilience of Goran Miletic and his team, to keep the Europride going, with patience and focus. In that process, you, the community, and all the issues you have been fighting for, have got a lot more attention from people in Serbia and around Europe!
Now, let me share a brief global perspective:
Rules and laws related to different sexual orientations have existed for more than 2500 years, but the wide scope of laws affecting the LGBTI community has been developed mostly in the past 10 to 15 years.
In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed its first resolution recognizing LGBT rights, and shortly afterwards, the UN urged all countries which had not yet done so to enact laws protecting basic LGBT rights.TheHuman Rights Council and its member states have not been always unified on how to approach this matter.
I am an optimist; I think the ball is rolling on this issue and other Rights issues. Not fast enough, and with major hick-ups, but still, we must continue to engage with all, no matter how hard the resistance, the misunderstandings and the multiplication of arguments around traditional values – cultural, social and physical diversity are parts of humanity’s traditions, and life is about changes!
A positive trend of increased support for equality of rights for the LGBTQI+ community exists in many countries, driven in part by a generational difference in support. Today, 32 countries in the world recognise and perform same sex marriage, 4 more than last year, the latest ones this year being Chile, Switzerland, and Slovenia. Yet retrograde narratives and shifts also happen – as we see with the latest ban, as we heard here in the past few days on topics related to family, religion and education – Daily lives of LGBTQI+ people remain marked by violence, hate and discrimination. It is a reality, and the pride march is the one time when this reality is given public visibility.
A year ago in the same event, I said that Serbia had made significant progresses in the area of social inclusion, particularly in legislation around non-discrimination & gender equality, and I recognised the efforts done on re-drafting the same sex union law. I listed 4 areas where we needed to focus our efforts in the future:
Laws & policiesto ensure recognition and mainstreaming of the rights of LGBT+
services provided to the communityto ensure access to rights
behaviours & attitude, and the fights against anti-LGBT hatred, including through protection mechanisms and judicial ways,
Support to individuals of the LGBTI communitywho might feel under intense physical or emotional stress.
In 2022 however, things stalled. The Action Plan for the implementation of the anti-discrimination is yet to be developed, and I understand that there are suggestions to re-start the drafting of the law about Same Sex Union. In this election year, with political negotiations still ongoing 6 months after the elections, it was clearly not easy to accelerate changes and decisions on sensitive human rights issues, and to advance the wider Rule of Law agenda.
We now need concrete actions that relate to all domains of daily life: family, schools, university, workplace, political arena, health, sport, etc. The implementation of such action plan requires the involvement of government institutions of course, but also of local governments, NGOs, the private sector, and citizens. And we certainly count on the city of Belgrade to trailblaze on the issues for the LGBTQI+ community.
To conclude, allow me to quote Michelle Bachelet, outgoing Human Rights Commissioner: “The scapegoating and targeting of a minority group, for political purposes, feeds intolerance and discrimination, damaging all of society”.
Diverging opinions are a fact of life, and debating such divergence is mostly healthy, as freedom of expression is one of the foundations of democracy. Equality of rights for all is another of such pillar. On the other end, hate and divisive speech, restricting freedom of assembly, incitement to violence weaken these foundations, threaten social cohesion and the betterment of society.
The UN in Serbia would not want to see the important progress Serbia has achieved on human rights issues in the past 2 years to be set back at a time of multiple challenges. The last thing Serbia needs is more polarization. Today, I call for all responsible parties to find solutions to bring people together. I call for citizens and their representatives to nurture diversity, dignity and non-discrimination for all, solidarity, and nurture a culture of dialog, tolerance, and equality.
I wish everyone a good and safe Europride in Belgrade! Hvala