In preparation for the 47th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) on “Strengthening Dialogue and Concertation for Prosperity,” to be held this year in Cancun, Mexico June 19-21, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights led a four-day training for Afro-descendant and LGBTI civil society leaders from across the Western Hemisphere in San Jose, Costa Rica May 2-4. The training was focused on human rights protection mechanisms and advocacy strategies before the General Assembly of the OAS.
The participants, who came from a dozen different countries in Latin American and the Caribbean, were given an overview of the structure and function of the OAS. Institute staff and several invited presenters spoke about different avenues for civil society engagement, including through the General Assembly and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Use of IACHR thematic hearings, as well as the Rapporteurships on the Rights of Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination, and on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Persons, was highlighted.
Another topic discussed was the importance of ratification of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance, currently only ratified by Costa Rica; and the Inter-American Convention against all forms of Discrimination and Intolerance. Once a second OAS Member State ratifies the first convention, it will enter into force. Participants discussed the importance of this convention for their anti-discrimination work, both regionally and nationally, as States Party will have to also ensure that domestic legislation adheres to the Convention’s provisions.
Catherine Pognat, Section Chief – Relations with Civil Society at the OAS, spoke to training participants during her sessions about the upcoming General Assembly, the importance of civil society participation, and the different possibilities for such participation in June. She emphasized the registration process in order to attend the General Assembly and the need to work in coalitions to make the voice of civil society heard.
Finally, the training attendees had the opportunity to work together to develop a strategy to participate in the General Assembly, highlighting non-discrimination, which will be presented during the General Assembly. Intersectional issues for Afro-descendants and the LGBTI community were discussed, as well as general human rights issues of regional importance. By the end of the training, the participants were excited and prepared to attend the General Assembly and advocate there on behalf of their organizations.
The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights will also hold an Inter-American Forum against Discrimination on June 16-17 in Cancun, Mexico with the participation of Margarette May Macaulay, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-descendants and against Racial Discrimination, where the participants of the Costa Rica training will be able to share the strategy they developed.