September 28, 2017 at 12:47 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
UN human rights office unveils pro-LGBTI business standards

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The United Nations’ human rights office on Sept. 26, 2017, officially unveiled a series of standards for businesses to become more LGBTI-friendly. (Photo by sanjitbakshi; courtesy Flickr)

The U.N. human rights office on Tuesday announced a series of standards for businesses to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

One of the five standards states businesses “should develop policies, exercise due diligence and remediate adverse impacts to ensure they respect human rights of LGBTI people.”

“Businesses should also establish mechanisms to monitor and communicate about their compliance with human rights standards,” it reads.

Another standard says businesses “should ensure that there is no discrimination in their recruitment, employment, working conditions, benefits, respect for privacy or treatment of harassment.” The third standard urges businesses to “provide a positive, affirmative environment so that LGBTI employees can work with dignity and without stigma.”

The fourth standard advises businesses not to “discriminate against LGBTI suppliers, distributors or customers and should use their leverage to prevent discrimination and related abuses by their business partners.” The fifth and final standard urges businesses to work to stop human rights abuses in the countries in which they operate.

“In doing so, they should consult with local communities to identify steps they might take — including public advocacy, collective action, social dialogue, support for LGBTI organizations, and challenging abusive government actions,” it reads.

The U.N. Office for Human Rights formally unveiled the standards at Microsoft’s New York headquarters. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein delivered the keynote address.

“The U.N. was created by states and discussions tend to be dominated by governments,” said al-Hussein. “We know from experience that social change requires the active involvement of all parts of society including critically business. decisions companies take . . . can have a real and far-reaching impact on the human rights of millions of people.”

John Galligan of Microsoft, Accenture Products CEO Sander van’t Noordende and Geena Rocero, a transgender model and activist from the Philippines, also spoke at the event. OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern is among the LGBT and intersex advocates who were in attendance.

“Discrimination against any group slows us all down,” said al-Hussein, who is from Jordan. “Eliminating discrimination is the key to unlocking talent, productivity and development.”

U.S. diplomat does not speak at UN LGBT event

The unveiling of the standards coincides with the U.N. General Assembly, which opened on Sept. 19.

Al-Hussein, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Costa Rican Vice President Ana Helena Chacón, Deputy Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo and Spanish Secretary of State for International Cooperation in Ibero-America and the Caribbean Fernando García-Casas are among those who spoke at a U.N. LGBT Core Group event in New York on Sept. 20 that Stern moderated.

Kelly Currie, the U.S. representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, attended the event but did not speak. Former Vice President Biden spoke at last year’s U.N. LGBT Core Group event in which Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and other world leaders participated.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley in April said the U.S. remains “disturbed” by the ongoing crackdown against gay men and lesbians in Chechnya. Caitlyn Jenner in July met with Haley at her office in New York.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the U.N. told the Washington Blade that Haley and Jenner “discussed LGBTI rights, especially their concerns about violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons.” Jenner met with then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power in 2015.

Stern and Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb are among the LGBT and intersex rights advocates in the U.S. and around the world who criticized President Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19. Al-Hussein in August told reporters that Trump’s statements against trans people, Muslims and other minority groups are “grossly irresponsible.”

Al-Hussein made the comments shortly after Trump directed the Pentagon to implement a ban on trans servicemembers that he announced in July. The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has also expressed concern over the administration’s response to last month’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left Heather Heyer dead and more than a dozen others injured.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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