Record-keeping on LGBT rights in all countries
Since 2008 the United Nations (UN) has had a very systematic and very structured program for checking human rights in every single country in the UN. All 193 countries are checked every 4 years. The program is the Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR's), and one of the major topics under scrutiny is human rights for LGBT people.
In 2012, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was able to present the World with an appalling statistic on LGBT rights:
39% of all 193 UN countries (76 countries) used their laws to punish people for engaging in consensual same-sex relationships! Five of the countries apply the death penalty.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that all of a government's promises about rights for LGBT people and all the systematic infringements are made public. Some of these are now displayed on the Internet by the UN. Follow this link: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/Documentation.aspx
The Universal Periodic Reviews - NGO's are key players
In periodic cycles of 4 years, the UN program of Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) checks the status of human rights in each UN member state. UPR for each country is based on 4 sources of information:
1. what the government itself says,
2. what the UN already has on record,
3. what independent human rights experts and other member states say, and especially
4. what NGO's and other national human rights organizations, or stakeholders, say.
The participation of any group working on LGBT human rights is important for the quality and credibility of the UPRs. " we give practical directions on how to participate for your country. can make its voice heard,
How the Reviews work
Since their start in 2008, the UPRs have been the main instrument of the UN's Human Rights Council, itself established in 2006. cycle of 4 years and are universal in that every one of the 193 UN countries must be reviewed, and the government of the country reviewed must participate actively. The UPR process is enormous, reviewing in all 42 countries a year. According to a very tight schedule, a group of 3 UN member states (the so-called troika) coordinates the review process for each country. The 3 troika countries are chosen by a draw of lots. The great amount of work behind each review is carried out . The reviews are now in their secondby the Working Group of the UPR; the Working Group are the 47 member states of the UN Human Rights Council.
The UPR's have their own website: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx
In addition, the non-profit organisation, itself an NGO, UPR-Info has created a whole organisation to aid NGO's in understanding and in functioning in the process of the UPR's: http://www.upr-info.org/-NGOs-.html
Much very practical information is to be found at that site.
All viewpoints freely available
Information to be reviewed by the Working Group is collected from the 4 sources listed above. The government of the country under review submits a report with its own view of the state of human rights within its boundaries. The UN itself has its own information on record on the country under review, as prepared by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Independent experts, NGO's, and other civil society actors also submit reports with their views of the state of human rights. Finally, other UN member states submit a joint list of their recommendations for better human rights in the country in question.
All this information, for each country, in reports of roughly 15-25 pages, is freely available on the Internet in English, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, French, Spanish, and Russian: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/Documentation.aspx
During the review process, there is a short face-to-face meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, between the troika, the government concerned, NGO's, other civil society actors, and other relevant UN countries. At these meetings, however, NGO's only have an observer status and may not make oral presentations. After the meeting the Working Group draws its own conclusions in an outcome report. The government in question must either "accept" or "note" the UN recommendations. "Reject" is not a possibility. At the next cycle of the review, 4 years later, a meticulous status is made of living up to the recommendations.
Alliances to make your voice heard
It is to be noted that, for the UPR of their country, individual NGO's and other groups from the civil society generally make joint submissions. For instance, for the UPR of South Africa, in March 2012, in all 10 NGO's working on LGBT rights coordinated their criticism, thus lending more weight to their information. The large, international Human Rights Watch found it sufficient to submit its own criticism. In addition, it is important to note that information that is submitted will be condensed by the UPR Working Group, presumably to save space. Even with joint NGO and civil society submissions on South Africa in March 2012, a total of 19 stakeholder groups had submitted information.
The UN has appropriated special funds to aid NGO's and other stakeholders in the UPR process. For instance, paying what it costs to take part in the UPR face-to-face meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, would be impossible for most African NGO's. Information on funding possibilities can be found here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRFundParticipation.aspx
The UN notes that applications for funding will be more successful the more national and not just local an organization is.