Friday, February 13, 2015

European Parliament: Include LGBT non-discrimination clause in future agreement with African, Caribbean & Pacific States


Yesterday, the European Parliament adopted a report in which it calls for inclusion of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in a future agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states.


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
In accordance with the terms of the Cotonou Agreement, the Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) met four times, in 2012 and 2013.
The 23th session was held in Denmark from 28 to 30 May and the 24th session in Paramaribo (Suriname) from 27 to 29 November 2012. The 25th session was held in Brussels from 17 to 19 June and the 26th session in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) from 25 to 27 November 2013.
Andris Piebalgs, the Member of the Commission with responsibility for development, addressed the Assembly and Members held the customary Question Time with him. The successive Presidents-in-office of the ACP and EU Councils attended the sessions.
During 2012 sessions, nine resolutions and a declaration was adopted. During 2013 sessions, nine resolutions were adopted. Regional meetings in 2012 were held in Lusaka (Zambia) and Apia (Samoa). Regional meetings in 2013 were held in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) and in Abuja (Nigeria).
23rd session in Horsens (Denmark)
The 23rd session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly adopted three resolutions prepared by the standing committees:
–       the political impact of the Libyan conflict on neighbouring ACP and EU States
–       price volatility, the functioning of global markets for agricultural products and their impact on food security in ACP countries
–       the social and environmental impact of mining in the ACP countries,
as well as an urgent resolution on the situation in Nigeria with regard to security.
The Assembly also adopted a Declaration on the reform of European fisheries policy and its impact on ACP countries.
The Co-Presidents issued three declarations: the situation in Mali; the political situation in Madagascar; the situation in Sudan and South Sudan.
24th session in Paramaribo (Suriname)
The 24th session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly adopted three resolutions prepared by the standing committees:
–         responding to the political and humanitarian crisis in Somalia: the challenges for the European Union and the ACP group;
–         ICT-based entrepreneurship and its impact on development in the ACP countries;
–         the importance of access to energy for sustainable economic development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,
as well as two urgent resolutions on:
–       the situation in Mali and
–       the situation of instability and insecurity in the Great Lakes Region and, in particular, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Co-Presidents issued four declarations: the situation in Mali and in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Millennium Development Goals; beyond the Cotonou Partnership Agreement; and the poaching of African elephants.
25th session in Brussels (Belgium)
The 25th session of the JPA was held in Brussels (Belgium), because Ireland, holding the rotating Presidency of the EU Council, declined to organise it in Ireland despite insistence of ACP and EU Members of the Assembly, hence breaking an old tradition and violating the spirit of the Cotonou Agreement and the JPA Rules of Procedure.
The Assembly adopted three resolutions prepared by the standing committees:
–         the threats posed again by military coups to democracy and political stability in the ACP countries and the role of the international community;
–         the Economic Partnership Agreements – next steps; and
–         human resources for health in ACP countries.
as well as two urgent resolutions on the situation in the Republic of Guinea and in the Central African Republic, amendments to the JPA Rules of Procedure and a code of conduct for members of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly participating in election observation missions.
The Co-Presidents issued two declarations on Eritrea and Madagascar
26th session in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)
The 26th session of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly was held in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia).
The Assembly adopted three resolutions prepared by the standing committees:
–         the respect for the rule of law and the role of an impartial and independent judiciary;
–         South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation: opportunities and challenges for the ACP countries; and
–         the social and environmental impact of pastoralism in ACP countries.
as well as an urgent resolution on the security in the Great Lakes region.
The Co-Presidents issued four declarations on the tragedy of Lampedusa, the crisis in the Central African Republic, the Republic of Madagascar and the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference.
Standing committees: Committee on Political Affairs, Committee on Economic Development, Finance and Trade and Committee on Social Affairs and the Environment
The three standing committees met four times, both in 2012 and 2013: in conjunction with the four sessions (in Horsens, Paramaribo, Brussels and Addis Ababa) and twice a year (in Brussels) during the inter-sessions. The main role of the Standing Committees is to draw up reports on the issues of mutual concerns, political, economic and social developments that culminate in resolutions adopted at the plenary sessions (a maximum of six reports per year).
Another important role of the Committee on Economic Development, Finance and Trade is to enable members to monitor the use of an instrument of fundamental importance to the ACP-EU relationship, development cooperation under the European Development Fund (EDF), which helps to redress a democratic deficit as parliamentary scrutiny over the EDF has in the past been notably lacking in ACP countries.
Moreover, the Committees follow up on the implementation of the resolutions by the European Commission which provides for a parliamentary scrutiny and in-depth dialogue on the actions taken.
Due to very low attendance by the members of the European Parliament, ACP members called to reschedule Committee meetings, so that they would not clash with other European Parliamentary business when held in Brussels. The meetings of the inter-sessions were shifted from Wednesday-Thursday to Thursday-Friday, which slightly alleviated the pressure on the interpretation services, but did not lead to an increased attendance of EP Members.
Fact-finding missions
The Bureau of the ACP-EU JPA held a fact-finding mission to the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in Ispra (Italy) in March 2012 and a mission to Fiji in July 2012 to assess the progress made by the authorities to return the country to constitutional order and parliamentary democracy.
The Bureau of the JPA organised three fact-finding missions in 2013.
The mission to Mali provided an insight on the fragile political situation and an assessment of the preparedness of the Malian authorities to hold elections.
The mission to Liberia contributed to the political dialogue at the parliamentary level as foreseen in Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement and as suggested by HR/VP Ashton. Discussions with the authorities, Members of Parliament as well as representatives of civil society and international organisations raised issues on good governance, including parliamentary scrutiny on budgetary support and the organisation of the legislature.
The mission to Haiti was a follow-up of the mission of 2010, whose purpose was to verify the status of the reconstruction and political developments, in a country confronted with a political stalemate.
Election observation missions
The Bureau of the JPA also organised two election observation missions, one to the presidential elections of Mali in July 2013 and another to the Parliamentary elections and the second round of the Presidential elections in Madagascar in December 2013.
On 19 June 2013 the Assembly adopted a Code of Conduct for Members of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly participating in election observation missions.
Future developments
Through the quality of its work, the Assembly has succeeded in establishing itself as a key player in ACP-EU relations and cooperation. It has proactively continued to monitor political, economic and social developments in the ACP countries, with a view to promote development goals and the respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including respect for fundamental social rights, democracy based on the rule of law and transparent and accountable governance that are an integral part of sustainable development.
The Assembly has played, and continues to play, a key role in monitoring the negotiations and implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) in order to ensure that the outcome of the negotiations respect development and economic objectives as stated in the Cotonou (2000) mandate. In this context, particular emphasis is also devoted to regional and sub-regional integration and cooperation.
APC-EU cooperation is underpinned by a legally binding system and the existence of joint institutions. It is important for the JPA to continue to monitor developments extremely closely in order to ensure that its voice will be heard when considering options and alternatives to be put in place after the expiry of the Cotonou Agreement in 2020. Without prejudice to any possible outcome of the ACP-EU post-2020 negotiations, the JPA parliamentary dimension should not be diluted, but it should continue to play its important role in the post-2020 framework.

According to the EP, sanctions should follow for those states failing to respect human rights clauses.

The Parliament also expresses its deep concern over anti-LGBTI laws, as found in the Gambia and Nigeriaand as nullified by the Constitutional Court in Uganda.

Currently, diplomatic, trade and aid relationships between the EU and ACP states are governed by the Cotonou Agreement. The Agreement includes a dialogue on “political issues of mutual concern or of general significance” in joint talks, including “discrimination of any kind” (Art. 8.4), yet fails to mention sexual orientation and gender identity specifically.

The report was adopted with a large majority of 575 in favour, while 64 voted against.

Ian Duncan MEP, Vice-President of the Intergroup on LGBTI Rights and Member of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA), reacted: “In this report the European Parliament has made its position very clear: We do not accept the state-sponsored homophobia as we find it in an increasing number of ACP countries.”

“Over half of the ACP states criminalise homosexuality. It is time to effectively use our relationship with the ACP states to stop this wave of homophobia.”

Isabella Adinolfi MEP, Vice-President of the Intergroup on LGBTI Rights and part of the ACP-EU JPA, continued: “When we are faced with the horrific violence people suffer for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex, it is time to reinforce the principle that human rights clauses are universal and non-negotiable.”

“The right to non-discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, can not be compromised in the ACP-EU partnership. It is time to fully acknowledge that.”

Read more from the intergroup site:

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