Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


April 26, 2019 - Washington, DC

When I took over the leadership of the OAS in 2015, I made the central theme of my mandate “More rights for more people.” My aim during my tenure as Secretary General is to “bring the Organization closer to the new realities in the Hemisphere and contribute to ensuring more democracy, security and prosperity for ALL citizens of the region.”

• I am extremely honored to receive this award. Thank you for recognizing the advances that we at the OAS General Secretariat are making in promoting the rights of LGBTIQ persons in the Americas.

 LGBTIQ in Latin American and the Caribbean:

• Although the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are at different stages in the consolidation of LGBTIQ rights, the region is considered to be more advanced than many regions of the world, such as the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

• Despite this progress, LGBTIQ persons in Latin America continue to face challenges. Weak rule of law, the prevalence of male chauvinistic values, attitudes and beliefs, and the influence of religious institutions at times make ultra-progressive legislation sometimes practically useless.

• The basis of a just society is in the recognition of rights as our societies understand it. There is an ethical minimum established in the matter of rights in the international community that is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , as well as in our American Convention.

• We are bound by conscience not to look the other way. We are bound by conscience to tell the facts as they are, and to have the instruments that allow us to concretely articulate the procedures to achieve equality of LGBTQ community rights.

• You do not want us to help you fight discrimination; you want me to fight discrimination. That is why we are here. In each of the steps contained in our proposal, we bet on the most frontal fight against discrimination and human rights violations of the LGBTIQ community in general.

• In the same way, I believe that countries must comply with and enforce the international commitments they have assumed, in the Inter-American Convention against Discrimination.

• LGBTIQ persons continue to experience discrimination such as physical and mental abuse; lack of legal recourse, and inadequate access to medical attention and jobs.

• LGTBIQ people are still killed in great numbers for their sexual orientation.

• With regard to access to employment, LGBTIQ people, especially transgender women, are often unable to access jobs in the formal sector and resort to informal work, including sex work, which is not only illegal and stigmatized but also makes the individual in question particularly vulnerable to violence and murder.

• There is a lack of reliable data of the population size of LGBTIQ persons except in very few instances despite the inundation of stories of the humiliation, discrimination and exclusion experienced by LGBTIQ persons. In order to fully comprehend their reality, and properly address their needs, we must have better data on LGBTIQ persons in the region.

• In November 2017, the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the OAS through the Department of Social Inclusion and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights launched a project to generate data on the LGBTIQ community in Latin America and the Caribbean.

• With this data, I am certain that the Organization can make clear and specific inroads to improve the situation of LGBTIQ persons and include them in the development of the countries of the Americas.

 Additional Activities by the OAS to advance LGBTIQ rights:

• The American Declaration on Human Rights of 1948 that states should “respect the rights and freedoms of the Declaration” and ensure that “all persons subject to their jurisdiction” enjoy “the free and full exercise of those rights and freedoms, without any discrimination for reasons of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic status, birth, or any other social condition.”

• In 2013, the OAS clearly expressed its condemnation of all forms of discrimination and intolerance, with a specific reference to discrimination against LGBTIQ persons in the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.

• This Convention is the first and only binding international legal instrument that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, identity and gender expression.

• The OAS General Assembly has adopted a series of resolutions addressing inclusivity, condemning discrimination and acts of violence against LGBTIQ communities, and encouraging member states to adopt public policies against discrimination against people due to their sexual orientation.

• In 2011, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights established a Unit to focus on LGBTIQ rights, which in February 2014 became the Rapporteurship on the Rights of LGBTI Persons with the mandate “to monitor the human rights situation of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and intersex persons in the region.”

• In June 2016, a Core Group for the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (LGBTI) of the Organization of American States (OAS), was formed by the States of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, United States, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay.

• Founding members committed to support the implementation of mandates contained in OAS resolutions on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity and Expression,” build upon and share progress across the region, and support regional and OAS efforts to ensure that all human beings live free from violence and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

• The positive ruling by the Inter American Court of Human Rights on Costa Rica’s inquiry on property rights for same-sex couples and whether it should allow transgender people to change their name on identity documents is notable.

• These rulings of the court apply to countries that have accepted the Court’s jurisdiction and ratified the American Convention on Human Rights. Some of the signatories already recognize same-sex marriages, while others recognize civil unions of the same sex. But others do not recognize any of them and are expected to change their laws.

• Our conscience dictates that we cannot look the other way, and that we tell the facts as they are.

• I once again would like to express my sincere thanks for this recognition bestowed on me and the OAS for our efforts in fighting for the rights of LGBTIQ citizens of the Americas. The entire journey has been a learning experience and we still have a long way to go; however, with this award, I am more energized and charged to continue fighting for the rights of LGBTIQ persons and all other vulnerable groups.

Thank you