(Castries, October 6, 2022) The absence of Caribbean State delegations at the civil society dialogue of the Organisation of American States (OAS), is raising concern among activists who have travelled thousands of miles to engage in this major gathering of decision makers. While we recognise the commitments of delegations to attend various meetings, the timing of the Anglo-Caribbean absence was quite notable, in light of shrinking spaces for activists.
The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE), as an umbrella body representing LGBTQ+ human rights organisations, notes in particular the actions on the part of the Government of Saint Lucia. ECADE acknowledges the openness of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in meeting with the United Nations Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (IE SOGI), Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz and Commissioner Roberta Clarke, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights’ (IACHR) Rapporteur on LGBTI persons, in September. However, in refusing to recognise “women, in all their diversity”; the government of Saint Lucia fails to commit unequivocally to protect all citizens.
The OAS promotes democracy, human rights, economic development and education in the Americas and fosters academic and cultural exchange. Member States utilise the space to address these issues on a multilateral basis and there can be significant political action resulting from deliberations and negotiations. The voice of civil society ensures citizens have a say in the process. However, by not even giving an audience to civil society during the few hours of dialogue, Caribbean governments appear to ignore grass roots activists and send the message that they are unconcerned with advocacy on behalf of people at the margins of society.
ECADE is one of few Caribbean non-government organisations able to access the space and bring attention to concerns in binding resolutions that may be signed by States. Also present are human rights defenders of women and girls at risk, climate justice and people of African-descent. For all these activists making an intentional effort to be present at the main space at the OAS to freely address their state, it was ddisheartening to see the empty seats of their delegates.
With the theme “Together Against Inequality and Discrimination”; the 2022 OAS General Assembly provides the opportunity for government to declare their respect for the human rights of all people. With the LGBTTTI Coalition at the OAS, ECADE calls on eastern Caribbean states to sign and ratify the American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance and the American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance.
ECADE continues to advocate for people marginalised due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. We call on States to take active steps to remove barriers to equality and non-discrimination and increase protections for our most vulnerable without further delay.