This week, Argentina and the UK are to host a virtual conference of the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC), an intergovernmental body of 42 Member States dedicated to the protection of the rights of LGBTI people across the globe.
The conference, taking place today and tomorrow, is an opportunity to launch a new comprehensive strategy and five-year implementation plan which aims to increase international cooperation for the cause.
All 42 participant countries of the ERC — co-chaired by Argentina and the UK since 2019 — are expected to take part as well as representatives from civil society organisations and international bodies such as the United Nations and the World Bank.
Today’s opening session includes the participation of Wendy Morton (Vice-Chancellor of the UK) and Pablo Tettamanti (Vice-Chancellor of Argentina). On Wednesday Morton is also set to gather with Victoria Donda, head of Argentina’s National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI in its Spanish acronym), in order to announce the next steps of the ERC strategy.
The ERC was founded in 2016 at the Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference in Montevideo, and its work remains crucial in the field given that 69 countries continue to criminalise homosexuality.
The virtual gathering will be a major milestone in the lead up to the international event ‘Safe To be Me: A Global Equality Conference’ which will be hosted next June in the UK, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the first official Pride marches in London.
“As co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition, we are working with 41 partner countries to tackle discriminatory laws and prejudice globally,” said the UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, adding that “the UK champions LGBT rights because we believe freedom and tolerance are a source of strength in communities at home and abroad.”
But in the run-up to this weeks conference, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) was obliged to publicly apologise for the historic ban of LGBT individuals from working in the British Diplomatic Service.
The department’s Permanent Under-Secretary, Sir Philip Barton, reported: “The ban was in effect because there was a perception that LGBT people were more susceptible than their heterosexual counterparts to blackmail and therefore posed a security risk.”
"I want to publicly apologise for the ban and the impact it had on our LGBT staff and their loved ones, both here in the UK and abroad," he added.