President Obama Urged to Include Civil Society Leaders in U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today, along with the Council for Global Equality and a broad based group of human rights organizations, urged President Obama to include voices of civil society leaders working to protect the human rights of all Africans in the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The call came in a letter issued to the president highlighting the important role civil society can play in combatting state sanctioned discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Given how some African governments deny the rights of their LGBT citizens, and the unique role that civil society plays in defending those rights, we urge you to include civil society voices in the official meeting of African leaders during the Summit,” wrote Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino along with representatives from the broad based group of human rights organizations. “We welcome the opportunity for civil society to convene at a forum two days before the leadership meeting, but that forum is not an adequate substitute for civil society participation in the high-level dialogue with heads of state.”

On August 4-6, President Obama will convene a group of African heads of state and government focused on strengthening diplomatic ties and partnerships across the continent. The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the largest gathering of its kind held by any administration, offers a unique opportunity to spotlight human rights abuses and discriminatory laws in Africa targeting members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community as well as other vulnerable minority groups. Including civil society voices at the leadership meeting would send a powerful message to the African leaders present about the value of democratic participation and civic engagement.

Egregious intolerance and violence against LGBT people persists in several African nations where laws criminalizing homosexuality, the activities of LGBT people, or peaceful organizing in the LGBT community are in place or under consideration. Human Rights First continues to urge the United States to demonstrate leadership on the rights of LGBT people worldwide by working to stop passage of further discriminatory laws and promote the protection of LGBT rights as human rights worldwide. Human Rights First’s African Voices for Equality Map details some of the brave leaders who are standing up for equality and dignity for all people.

For more information contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at [email protected] or 212-845-5269.


Published on July 28, 2014


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