Friday, November 27, 2015

Amplifying Quiet Diplomacy at CHOGM: A Belize Report on TCEN

Posted, November 27th, 2015

The work of the Commonwealth Equality Network stated 18 months ago, which included circulating Collaboration and Consensus a report on mapping out the Commonwealth unique characteristics for political engagement. This included having meetings at the Royal Commonwealth Society Building, meeting parliamentary leaders individuals, assessing international reports and sharing knowledge about the structure of the Commonwealth secretariat. The process of political engagement is sometime tedious and boring, but it as clear with the leadership of Alistair Stuart and with support from Kaliedscope Trust the work at CHOGM slowly took shape with a clear vision of how engagement was to take place. Like all things, ideas of engagement  evolve from a myriad of places. The Doughty Street group, of the UK, helped to facilitate reflection and leadership to act in international spaces.

While it can be said, that the concept of a network may have started with Rosana Caldera of Equal Ground, Sri Lanka and Lance Price former Executive Director of Kaliedscope Trust, what is clear, in international spaces is that a concerted effort is underway, that complements TCEN work at CHOGM with national efforts that have included litigation in Uganda, Kenya, Belize, Guyana and the leveraging of regional and hemispheric spaces like PANCAP and the regional civil society organization, CVC who both have been pushing forward resources and harmonization of strategy to ensure that key population in general are at the forefront of political engagement and advocacy when discussing Global Fund investments. Most often, at these regional meeting, discussing takes place on the advancement of health and human rights without regard of the political capacity of small LGBT organization to engage the political environment. Whether intentional or unintentional, the culture of health investment is frame in a position that,' Minority Rights must be protected, but the will of the majority must prevail.'  A political culture that institutionalizes allows for the superficial presence  of marginalise groups at the policy table, that creates non-existent political accountability systems that allows the spending of millions on health education and paper strategies for human rights, but distinctly ignores the socio-economic and civil rights of not only marginalise groups as a whole, but LGBT people in the various regions in particular.


 In addition policy norming, have taken place at the OAS which have adopted seven LGBT resolutions, since 2007, that have led to resources to investigate discrimination and violence and allowed for political access to its Inter-American Commission and General Assembly. This was complimented by the African Commission condemning Acts of Violence against LGBT persons and the UN resolution on extrajudicial killings that have done so base on sexual orientation and gender identity. We unfortunately, are not the only ones fighting for Justice equality, as our friends at Black Lives Matter, points out, being visible, being clear and remembering the blood that have been lost is not to be taken for grant. More importantly, accepting the status quo is accepting oppression in a system that deliberately marginalise and that must must all find our voice.


Two days before CHOGM in Malta,  fifty people rallied outside the London headquarters of the Commonwealth,. Supported by Out and Proud Diamond Group, a Peter Thatchell release is noted as saying, “For 66 years, the Commonwealth Summit (CHOGM) has refused to even discuss LGBTI human rights, let alone support LGBTI equality. This CHOGM is no different. They won’t even allow LGBTI rights on the agenda.” His Out and Proud Diamond Group colleague, Abbey Kiwanuka, added:  “At least seven Commonwealth countries impose life imprisonment for homosexuality. Parts of northern Nigeria and rural Pakistan have the death penalty for LGBTI people, and Brunei plans to introduce death by stoning. This makes a mockery of the Commonwealth Charter.

 The release also defined four points that can be said to add one more layer to the discussion on visibility and political engagement. 
  1. Establish on-going consultations and partnerships with LGBTI organisations in the member states
  2. Set a timetable for Commonwealth countries to decriminalise homosexuality and legislate legal protection against anti-LGBTI discrimination and hate crime
  3. Establish on-going consultations and partnerships with LGBTI organisations in the member states
  4. Promote adherence to the Commonwealth Charter and international human rights conventions that protect the rights of all citizens, including LGBTI citizens
 As an activists, one learns to restrain ones emotions despite the experiences of violence and urgency in a state that does not acknowledge bias-motivated crimes, homophobia or legal discrimination. In fact, few commonwealth countries have basic anti-discrimination laws. Among CARICOM member states, where 11 countries criminalizes same sex intimacy, there is no such protection.

For TCEN or the  Commonwealth Equality Network, our achievement were many in its knowledge engagement effort. In our first session at CHOGM, it was entitled, LGBTI Policy Dialogue – Resilient societies safeguard the security of all people in all their diversity. Present at our first panel was Baroness Sandip Verma Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for International Development, UK who chaired the session with a look that ensured you knew it was time to wrap-up. while speakers included, Dr Helena Dalli MP Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, Malta; First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Policy Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia Dr. Dr Lachlan Strahan along with fellow Advocates, Steve, Ruth Baldacchino from Malta.

Belize pointed out that it was appalling to know that personal dignity and rights could be negotiated so easily by states and that the ability to speaks in CHOGM , must not forget the blood of the fallen that have been spilled in the pass. Few will lead, many will wait for freedom as oppressive environment and family support as a social mechanism, affect how persons express their visibility.  It has been clear that most countries in the commonwealth have never needed to deal with its legal and general fiduciary responsibilities to its L.G.B.T people and that efforts to raise the knowledge levels of leaders is an important part of the process of political engagement. The Australian representative spoke of the difficulties in negotiating language in resolutions and other documents and that its a delicate process of engagement. What was clear with activists presentations and political leaders was that progress would not happen in isolation and that Civil Society has a critical role to play in pushing the issue forward in international spaces and at home. The argument that LGBT issues is a Western imposition ignores that most states are govern by a constitution which recognizes the explicit rights of all its citizens. When one analyzes the issue of North /South divide, it can be said that the resentment is not about LGBT rights, but about the economic divide that exist between member states.

In addition to  panel one, we had a 2nd panel the following day that spoke of national challenges. This included activists from the Tonga, Kenya, Malta. Belize did its part centering around its approach to collecting information about opponents, the struggles of taking advantage of the media coverage and it use of social media to directly shape the social narrative about its challenges about public education and opposition. What was clear in that presentation was that family can be on the frontlines of social change or act as a mechanism of oppression. What was establish in the end, is that we fight for ourselves, we fight for mothers we dont know and we fight for sisters living in violence as their experience is our experience, for when they are weak, we are weaker for it as a social movement. As such, gender issues will remain deeply personal, in the fight to transform our society and advance justice for all.

 In the 2nd session was was the representative from Tonga who stole the show with her song, that left chills in in the room. This was the 3rd time I heard her sing, once was at Wilton Park, the 2nd time was at Baker and Mckenzie the 3rd time was at CHOGM. The song reminded us all how we can channel our concerns, heartbreak and hurt that allows an audience to connect to its own humanity.
Lost in this conversation was meeting an Indian gentleman in a wheel chair named Bandula Kothalacoda of TUC or the Trade Union Congress. He was kind enough to share the some of theTUC position on LGBT human rights which spoke to the following:

  • We welcome proactive legislative developments in some countries, especially, Malta, Cyprus, Australia, Fiji, South Africa, and the repeal of oppressive laws in Mozambique.
  • We condemned the attempts by a number of governments, notable in Africa (Nigeria and Uganda in particular) to boraden the scope of laws that can be used against the LGBT community.
  • We reiterate our belief that civil society in the commonwealth including unions should take the lead in mobilising support for protection of human rights of the LGBT community. We note that in some countries discrimination against LGBT workers workers has been outlawed mainly due to the pressure from trade unions backed by the ILO.
While this is not the final end of the TUC position  calls for specific reference in outlawing discrimination, harassment and violence against the LGBT community. Bandula is a humble man of great strength and was proud to have engage in conversation with him.

Additionally, we saw the PM of Malta, Joseph Muscata express supportive language on LGBT Rights as well at the out-going Secretary General, Karmalesh Sharma, who said, '..Being committed to equality and human rights for all, without discrimination on any grounds, we embrace difference, and that includes sexual identity. Discrimination and criminalisation in any form on grounds of sexual orientation is incompatible with our Commonwealth values.'


We saw the President on Malta in get into the act of ensuring that inclusion applied to all. In her speech, Her Excellency Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said, 'We must think about inclusion as a process in which we must ensure equal opportunities for all...True inclusion cannot discriminate on grounds of gender....even if some progress has been made, the fact is that women, girls and gender minorities continue to occupy a disadvantaged position throughout the world.'

Jason Jones and my self did a number of interventions to raise the questions of LGBT concern. Immediately we saw  Minister,  Dr. Micheal Farrugia of Malta for Family and Social Solidarity etc get up to give his story of how he was excluded with his partner when the pope visited while another gentleman, who was, Sonny Loeng, the Chair for the Council of the Commonwealth got up and said,' Its time the commonwealth show leadership and take a position on LGBT issues, child slave workers, Female Genital Mutilation and Human Rights'

The CHOGM was for Youth, Women, People and Business as all groups had a forum for each. the Peoples Forum was held at the Corinthia Hotel in Malta. As I write, the Heads of Ministers are meeting late into the night, as the last and most important document the Communique remains. We note, that work has been focused on getting language into the People, Youth and Women's Forum which will inform the Commonwealth Secretariat work for the next two years. Never before has their ever been a direct session at CHOGM on LGBT issues along with so much political language of support. Changing the political substance of CHOGM cannot be rushed as countries are at different levels in their political system. I am reminded that the UK took 60 years to evolve. It did take CHOGM 66 years to allow two LGBT sessions in one of its forum. The questions for the day is, Will it take another 60 years for all countries to be on the same page on LGBT human rights. In the meantime, are diplomats absolving themselves from their constitutional responsibility and the blood, violence and harassment that occur? Who protects LGBT individual, if states across the commonwealth refuses to do it? Are states complicit by indifference, omission and inaction in letting violence and discrimination simply happen? As one looks at all the leaders in ties with the queen, lets see what the next CHOGM brings in two years from now, as Malta chairs and host the CHOGM this year.

 As Civil Society we are relentless in our approach to political engagement, we learned today that Baron Patrica Scotland, won the post of Secretary General for the Commonwealth. We remain happy she won as Belize supported her efforts to vy for the post. In the Maltese Parliament, our representative, Kenita Placide of United and Strong of St. Lucia got the ask the candidates an LGBT question. We found that the Baroness, overall, performed well, in the questioning process and look forward to working with her in the future. Here is the TCEN crew as we looked on from the balcony.

For Belize, we have used this space to share our struggles, engage systems that can coordinate diplomatic resources and engage our Foreign Minister. The question of institutional change remains, can we be the first, to offer our people anti-discrimination legislation, among CARICOM member states and lead in the next meeting to be held in Belize in 2016.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Political Strategy before Misery Porn in London

22 October, 2015

Literally upon arriving at the Lodge, I had my first meeting with the a representative of GLAAD, Ross Murray who met me in a little restaurant around Vauxhall Lodge to talk about communication support in North America.  Yes, my face looked like how I felt which was tried, but we managed to get an hour long meeting in before he had to leave. This effort was coordinated by Kapil Gupta of Human Dignity Trust, an effort, I had no regrets making on time.

Belize was asked, as well, to make a short presentation at a cocktail in private home in London in 2015, regarding LGBT response in the Commonwealth  at the request of Kaleidoscope Trust. It was small, but important gathering for it set the stage for a week long engagement with the All Parliamentarian Party Group and builds on previous efforts through the Human Dignity Trust in 2014 as part of a panel.

Belize effort at raising international awareness and lessons learned have not been just about promoting misery porn, it has been about strategy, building political capacity, and sharing lessons about the various mechanism that is at our disposal. Whether social media, Universal Periodic Review or International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the OAS, conducting quiet engagements or community mobilization at the national level, the point is made that we need to be smart in action, language and in the leveraging of systems if change is to be trans formative and relevant. 

Of note, LGBT issues in commonwealth countries have not needed to be dealt with by most governments, because of social stigma and the assumed lack of protections that exists in various countries. However, we have come to learn, when speaking of Climate Change, the Sustainable Development goals or national constitutions, that LGBT citizens have rights that are implicit and explicit in many countries. Where the rights are written and does not directly say protection base on sexual orientation or gender identity, legal decisions in Kenya, Botswana, South Africa and Uganda points out that Fundamental rights apply to all citizens, that protection is implicit as well. In negotiations around Climate change, no government have argued for language that said, Climate Change only affects heterosexual citizens, present language speaks of all citizens. By default or omission, commonwealth countries have implicitly acknowledged the rights of its LGBT citizens. The point can be made as well that governments spend millions trying to protect the diversity of its environment, but the reluctance to officially invest in the diversity of its LGBT citizens, reflect a lack of understanding, that sustainable development goals apply to all.

The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) provided a platform to deliver this message to allied diplomats working in the Commonwealth and acted as a facilitator of political engagement at Canada House in London. We had an opportunity to meeting with diplomats to explore opportunities for engagement which made it clear that we needed to find non-confrontational, implicit language that  would be supported in political communication. We met with the A.P.P.G representative currently in Parliament as well to provide guidance on strategy at the regional level. TCEN's potential to become a mechanism to leverage Commonwealth Systems to gradually respond programmatically to LGBT issues on the ground remains limited only by its imagination in doing political engagement work with vision. It is not the end all or be all solution, but its certainly has the ability to leverage or complement work being done in the UK in other areas and amplify national work.

In engaging International Advocacy, this was the first time I saw, a conscious effort to promote political strategy and access rather than the use of misery porn as the center of an international approach. It must be noted that usual international media communication to the wider world uses misery porn as a model to garner international action, but fail or ignore communities on the ground need to be inspired to organize and defend themselves. Belize came to appreciate that misery porn does not inspire oppressed communities to organize, in their concerns for rights protection and enforcement, but rather, discourages or ignores communities ability to build and recognize its history of social resistance while acknowledging that victimhood as part of the overall social, civil and political environment.

Leveraging international spaces, though, depends on vision, political position to engage and an organization perception about the value of international awareness building and engagement. The work of TCEN supported by the coordinated hands of Kaleidoscope Trust, offered activists working in Commonwealth countries an opportunity to leverage their national experience into international strategic political engagement at the next CHOGM (Head of Government Meeting) in Malta in November. Coming from Nigeria, Kenya, Sri Lanka Tonga and Belize we met between the 12th to 14th October in London to examine concerns about resistance, strategy and to define processes for engagement at CHOGM. For the first time,as well, the People's Forum has included two session that focuses on  LGBT policy, one geared towards policymakers and Civil society respectively.

The meeting entailed examining the structure of the CHOGM, examining its decision making processes and mapping allies. It offered Belize a chance to share its seven years of experience at the OAS General Assembly, which included coordinated social media communication, declarations, engagement with the Inter-American Commission, national diplomatic missions and sharing best practices of political engagement back home. The presentation shared that we can always be smart in our strategies despite resistance in any institution and that political engagement is a long-term process. As part of the process, accredited organizations at the Commonwealth were asked to shared their perception of the CHOGM process.

The engagement at the commonwealth foundation was valuable as well, for it laid out the the barriers to resource mobilization, but also offered opportunities for communication with persons working on Universal Periodic Process as well as on National Human Rights Institute. We did not have alot of time, but what we learned had application to how the Foundation is engaged on national issues and on how we comnunicated with allied governments in the future.

The Commonwealth Foundation meeting was complemented with a side panel discussion at Baker and Mckenzie, in London which offered academics, lawyers and representative from various charities insight into the need to access resources to sustain national movement, national and international strategic responses with activists, bi laterally and diplomatically. Our Sri Lankan, Kenyan, Tongan and Nigerian colleagues presented on points for resources support and legal history, but Belize focus on the value of strategy. We only had seven minutes in our presentation, but it was worth every minute. The time was also used to shoot a documentary on Belize present effort in its decriminalization process, supported by Susan Thompson. At the cocktail, afterwards, Joleen gave the audience a performance that grabbed every single person attention, that was the 2nd time I heard her, the first was at Wilton Park.

On the last day of running around, I met Lord Black and his boss of the Telegraph in London, we spoke of strategy and communication with some specific actions to be done behind the scenes. The value of the conversation was too fold 1). To gage political thinking and action around LGBT concerns in the UK  2). To express thanks for Lord Black statement in Parliament earlier this year on Belize and on LGBT issues in General.

Whether in Grenada, South Africa or at  Human Rights Campaign meeting in Washington, Belize must never forget that its experience, lessons and the state constructive reaction offers others a chance to learn about strategy refinement nationally and the use of a leverage approach in political engagement. What the future brings, only time will tell!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

People Say I am Mental...Belizean Art with a message

RePosted: September 12th, September, 2015

Anthony Berbey

People say I belong in a mental institute.
I say, y’all belong in a fucking zoo.
People say I’m not mentally well.
 say y’all can go to hell.

People say I don’t fight real causes.
I say I can’t even find a word that rhymes with causes.
‘Cause it doesn’t matter what people say Whether you’re straight, bi, les, trans or gay.
‘Cause I don’t discriminate.
I’m not the one showing all the hate.
I call their hate-mongering bullshit when I see ‘em.
‘Cause their bullshit is the size of a Roman Colliseum.
While they’re getting high and playing Yahtzee.
I say you’re no better than the Nazis.
‘Cause we have stupid people in power so let’s watch ‘em crash and cower.

People say what I’m saying can’t be true.
I say y’all don’t even have half a clue.
‘Cause it doesn’t matter what people say Whether you’re straight, bi, les, trans or gay.
‘Cause I don’t discriminate.
I’m not the one showing all the hate.
I call their hate-mongering bullshit when I see ‘em.
 ‘Cause their bullshit is the size of a Roman Colliseum.

People say I’m a lunatic.
 I say y’all are drug addicts. People say I hate Jesus.
 I say since when did I say anything about Jesus.
People say I don’t believe in God anyway.
 I say what do you mean? I talk to him everyday.
 ‘Cause it doesn’t matter what people say Whether you’re straight, bi, les, trans or gay.
 ‘Cause I don’t discriminate.
I’m not the one showing all the hate.
I call their hate-mongering bullshit when I see ‘em.
‘Cause their bullshit is the size of a Roman Colliseum.

People say I make no sense.
I say your heads are dense.
People say I’m full of trash.
 I say y’all can go die in a car-crash.
People say I got no class. I say take your hate… AND SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS!

Source: Image Factory BAFFU collection...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Belizean SOLT LGBT Love, by Fr. Scott Guilinni pastor of Divine Mercy and San Pedro Catholic Churches and missions

Posted: 15th July, 2015

To my brothers and sisters with same-sex attraction:

Let us all love one another as compassionate human beings should!

As a member of the proudly diverse community of Belize I want to take this opportunity to reach out to all our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction. Whatever your sexuality or gender, I want to make clear that I love you and most importantly any God in whom you have faith, who claims to have created you in His image, loves you too. As we all know, there is a wonderful diversity in creation and surely God did not make a mistake with anyone. I understand the sufferings, confusion and loneliness that many of you experience in silence because of the hurtful words of religious extremists and I want you to know that the unconditional love provided by people who share your struggle will guide you through..Strengthened by those that serve instead of judge and those that promote inclusivity, thousands of men and women with same-sex attraction have experienced freedom and love. The established churches have struggled with radical factions within their ranks for some time, who prefer to create a God in their own image to justify their judgment and bigotry. Please know that if you are one of the thousands of gay, lesbian or transgender people who has been hurt, excluded or bullied, it does get better. Online support and resources for you can be found at
Unfortunately, as we all know too well, good information does not always make the headlines and the members and leaders of churches often fall short from the fullness of their chosen gospel. They sometimes even are bullied themselves by extremists and fundamentalists within and outside of their ranks, forcing them to isolate and exclude members of their own community rather than focus on service and humility as they know they should. Experience shows that human weakness, sin and selfishness can arise from anyone’s heart. As we all know, the Ten Commandments say nothing at all about who people can and cannot love; though you are urged not to covet your neighbor’s ass. The power of your chosen God’s grace and mercy in the face of human weakness only strengthens the unbroken teaching that your particular church is guided by and generally it focuses on being a kind person and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. In truth, in our weakness we are strong and we are tempted to think, sometimes obsessively, about the sexual activities of others. The spirit of truth continues to blow and it is this truth, which is that we are all equal on this earth, and that will set you free. A church, as a self proclaimed pillar and foundation of truth for those who rely upon it, is there to accompany you in experiencing the joy of the freedom of a child of your God! Do not be afraid and do not be misled to believe that freedom is only for some but not for others! You do not have to settle for labels that other countries put on you, no matter how hard their religious fundamentalists (some of whom, such as Scott Lively, are currently being prosecuted for ‘crimes against humanity’) throw money around trying to convince you to be unkind to your family, loved ones and neighbors. You do not need to settle for less. You are created for more! Your dignity does not come from your desires but it is rooted in your being created in your God’s image and likeness and as stated previously, no one could suggest that their God makes mistakes. Know your dignity as a child of your own personal God or of no god at all!

You do not have to live your life hidden in shame just because some religious bullies try to force you to. As a child of your personal God, do not be fooled to believe a foreign ideology that exploits cultural tensions as many human traffickers have done before on this island such as pedophiles among priests and missionaries; nor should you accept that participating in drag queen events are necessary for you to know your dignity; because as we all know, those are just great fun. (The well organized and enthusiastically attended event at a community complex demonstrates clearly that we, as a strong and unified community, love and celebrate all of our members. If freedom of expression is curtailed, how will be able to encourage the next generation of artists, musicians and leaders?) There is another way than living a promiscuous lifestyle to come to acceptance and freedom, which is something many religious people have yet to learn even though they attend church on Sundays and try to buy their forgiveness.

The wisdom found in the families of San Pedro is a source of hope and peace for you as brothers and sisters. Beware of empty promises of fulfillment from money making religious organizations that are not looking out for your benefit or respecting you as persons. Opportunists have always used the beauty of San Pedro island for their own benefit, demanding for tithes, but doing little to help the most vulnerable members of our community. A wise grandmother will support you in your weakness and correct you in your faults; however, she will never stop loving you and will only wish that you are truly happy and find true love in your life.

Churches teach that as a person you have an inestimable dignity as a child of your chosen God ; you also have just as much without one. The inclinations you have to judge those who are different to yourselves do not define your identity since you are more than your inclinations and feelings. One of the ways you can become a better person is to deny yourself the urge to think you are better and to judge others, but rather to focus on making yourself a kinder and more loving person. Some churches support you and pray for you in your noble pursuit of holiness and love, while others will condemn and judge you for it. They might even expect you to silently suffer detraction and slander from their children with patience. To do so, would not be love. To say that love is a sin is always a lie that leads to selfishness even if it is done in private. But, if you must say it, it’s definitely best done only in private. Do not impose it upon others.

For a family to remain together it must have the kind of love that is able to sacrifice for the other. Selfishness always leads to division and we should all work to bring unity. In our days, unity is not easy for anyone but it is worth the sacrifice. By persevering in a life of virtue and self control you can stop yourself from insulting, hurting or patronizing those who are different to yourself. You can have the grace to love and to appreciate love among others. You can be fulfilled and be accepted by your family and community. Some churches hope to accompany you on this pilgrimage of faith and love, while others do not.

Love always wins. With Holy water behind on the Island of San Pedro

A friend in humanity who understands,

Caution: This is satire, and not meant to be taken seriously, except for the priest who thinks holy water on the street is useful
Chat Conversation End

Friday, June 19, 2015

LGBTTI Coalition work,Nationalistic Pride, Protests and Fundamentalistsin in DC

19th June, 2015

The coalition has met since 2007 in Panama, Medellin, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, Paraguay and Washington DC in 2015. Belize have been to all OAS General Assembly through the LGBTTTI coalition. Learning about thematic hearings, the Inter-American Court and Commission, resolutions process and its value. No where in the world, has any international institution adopted seven resolutions on Human Rights:Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

This year was different as our trans colleagues were denied visa to attend the meeting to attend the OAS meeting. The coalition was upset about it and issued a release in response. We engaged the LGBT Unit to speak about reporting process and followed up in regards to it internal programs on another day. We strategised about how to respond to the fundamentalists along with coordination process.

Belize has appeared in Washington three times, one for coalition meetings and twice for thematic hearings concerning Belize and Guyana. We have made reports directly to their L.G.B.T Unit and have gotten precautionary measures for one person in Belize.

It is clear, the success of the coalition has led to the arrival of the fundamentalists, in Guatemala, Paraguay and Washington DC this year. The clash was classic, in DC. In the middle of all this, our new (ASG) Assistant Secretary General in waiting, Nestor Mendez must navigate as Caribbean diplomats and Latin American Diplomats and activists push and pull the system towards the right side of history.

      In addition, Ambassador Mendez,  arrives at a time when the OAS is experiencing financial owes, where the OAS system has repeatedly looked at LGBTTTI issues at the country level through thematic hearings and Belize being challenged in its Belize Guatemala dispute.
    First, I beam with national pride to see one of our own making it to the post of ASG at the Organization of American States. As I have come to learn it was no easy feat. A feat, a small country  achieved nevertheless.It proves we can do anything in the international community, once a clear vision to act, is articulated, and action is taken to give life to the vision. While the new ASG Nestor Mendez, is in waiting, he has now has become a model of what is possible for any Belizean, no matter what political isle a person may belong. 

Still, while the ASG in waiting, is doing his thing at the OAS, we have Belizean, Erika Castellanos, focal point of T.I.A Belize, who added her mark in the OAS process. More precisely, we see a cultural first, the posing of a transgender Belizean with not only our Foreign Minister, but with the ASG in waiting at the OAS. A mile stone, for we do not know if the Foreign Minister or the ASG in waiting ever met a transgendered Belizean. She also met Belizean Emil Waight of SICA who knew her well through engagement work in HIV.

In Addition, she met with the US representative to the OAS to discuss, colleagues visa troubles and expressed signed to engage the new Secretary General in the informal dialogue section of the meeting. In the middle of it all, delegates exploded into thunderous applause as the Argentinean representative defended proactive protections for LGBTTTI people's across the hemisphere and shared their leading initiatives inviting member states to adopt them to ensure the human rights for all. Erika was present in supporting the statement and joined the LGBTTTI coalition in its applause. Canada, in contrast, spoke for less than a minute, saying nothing of note and Paraguay made a total anti progressive statement in which her main message was in favor of the protection of the right to life of the unborn child and spoke of the historical relationship of the church and state.

While Erika was expressing her solidarity with the coalition, the fundamentalists where out in droves. I met personally Helene Coley-Nicholson. A google search found a report done in July, 2014, that gives insight into her mind set and professional background.The interview reported the following,  

'Helene Coley Nicholson, a member of the Jamaica CAUSE Secretariat, the group finds the agenda of  the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex, LGBTI community, to be a cause for concern. Nicholson further stated that Jamaica CAUSE stood to oppose said agenda which, according to her, seeks to foster a society where all sexual expression is free and those in opposition are punished.'

Mrs. Nicholson was the President of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, in 2013, worked at the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation. She pursed a  law degree at the University of London and later entered the Norman Manley Law School. Coley-Nicholson landed a job as the legal officer for CVM Communications Group and while there was also the co-host of Drive Time Live. In 2004,s he opened her own law practice. Coley-Nicholson became a Christian in first form at Ardenne High School, and was very active in the Inter-School Christian Fellowship and Jamaica Youth for Christ. 
While Phillipa Davies of Jamaica  in an editorial of November, 2014.  '..But isn't forcing unwanted laws and behavior on the majority of a population an act of oppression? Where is the justice in that move, Minister Golding?..' about discussions by Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding about efforts under way to review, laws pertaining to sexual conduct. Both can be seen below.

Their presence is important to note, as the fundamentalists had their own press conference outside the OAS building with Helene Coley Nicholson who spoke of the Jamaican Coalition for Healthy Living and Lawyers Christian Fellowship supporting the fundamental rights of all human being, but rejecting  contentious political phrases to write ( in the working groups) , that are not compatible with faith nor moral law are not universal, fundamental or defensible see speech There was an Argentinean woman in the group, upon review by one person, he said, 'OMG! I am amazed by the way in which the Argentine woman can speak so much nonsense in such a carefree way. She is both ignorant and malicious in the worst way possible.' The response can be note in her comments that can be scene here,  another person, highlighted on facebook, the following,'A 72 year-old fundamentalist civil society representative from Argentina at the OAS claimed that a resolution on human rights for the convention for older persons should not contain any reference to sexual rights because SHE does not need them. To her, it was common sense that old people are here because of "normal sex" so why spell out these rights? And this summarizes the problem with fundamentalists. Because THEY don't need protection, then CLEARLY no one else needs protection.'

We saw the fundamentalists in the group for Human Rights, Democracy, development and security. Trying to take over the note taking and moderation. We saw how actual discussions in the working group was co-opted by the fundamentalists concerns especially in the working group for human rights.


        The result of that co-opting resulted in  Civil society recommendations prepared on the previous day on Democracy, Human Rights, Multidimensional Security and Integral Development, under the framework of the central topic of the Assembly: "Present and Future of the OAS!" being ignored. The coalition issued a release stating,"Spokespeople only had to read  the texts agreed by the thematic work groups. However, in a shameful episode, the spokesman of the Human Rights work group performed an arbitrary reading, censoring the points he disagreed with and adding paragraphs that had not been discussed. He also decided to use this time to personally attack the candidate for the Inter-American Court Eugenio Zaffaroni, violating previous collective agreements favoring  his own ideological and professional interests.
      The interventions of government representatives who defended advances in L.G.B.T rights and in the fight against discrimination in the region, again faced the rage of anti-rights activists, who yelled to interrupt the representatives.We denounce these methods of ideological violence and misrepresentation of reality that do not belong to a civil society working space, but to the exercise of power of military dictatorships. The LGBTTTI Coalition will remain vigilant to ensure that such behavior is not repeated. "
We saw the unwritten rules of democracy were alive when, we learn the position of the the new Secretary General, who said "we want no voice nor any rights of anyone in this room to be silenced". He added that "as a general rule we will promote the logic of non-discrimination, our motto is 'More rights for more people'" and that "any form of discrimination, every right that is not respected, affects the Americas, " while allies and coalitions members applauded, anti-rights groups in the room reacted aggressively and disrespectfully, shouting and booing the Secretary General.

The first civil society member to take the floor in the dialogue was gay activist Yonatan Matheus, a member of Venezuela Diversa, who highlighted "The importance of the OAS member states fulfillment of their obligation to guarantee the rights of LGBTTTI people in the region, without interference of partisan ideological and confessional positions that oppose  social inclusion and full exercise of rights of this and other vulnerable groups in the Americas".
Iren Rotela, Paraguayan trans activist emphasized the need to implement the right to equality and affirmative action to ensure non-discrimination against groups and historically excluded populations.
In the second part of the day.

The coalition did not stop at the release for it shouted down the shameless human rights speaker, can be seen with allies turning their backs when the speaker spoke, and countering positions in other areas of the OAS meetings on other days. We saw fundamentalists trying to undermine the Convention for Older persons and worked to counter their process.


Caribbean Activists where no slouch either as they held up signs, took notes and tweeted about the event in any space they could. Zenita Nicholson of Guyana's SaSOD, did her thing with her sign and in trying to engage the secretary general, while Maurice did his thing with Jamaica and Belize. There was another fellow who had a sign for Trinidad, it was interesting to see the combinations at work.  

We made due with the space as we were told that the space would be a confined area. So we coordinated imagery were every we could fine a socket, or where we could sit and twitter, facebook and email.

On the side, time was taken out to to share our experience with the Futures group, and international NGO that worked closely on USAID projects in Central America. We spoke to their Caribbean team on work on the ground regarding what opportunities may exists. I made it clear that my story was not just about victimhood, but it a story of resistance and explained what I meant. I had invited other activists, but they could not make it on short notice. Maurice Tomlinson, spoke of his work in the region around police security and LGBTI issues. I must mentioned Ryan who has crazy energy, a good heart and whom I met accidentally at a latin club during pride week. He even allowed me to embarrassed him with the introduction to the Kiki. I have no idea, the concept, but I sold him out. Until the next general assembly.



Phillipa Davies