During the PACE winter session in January the PACE Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination resolved to establish a General Rapporteur for issues related to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. At the committee meeting on 20 March Mr Håkon Haugli, Member of the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) and member of the Storting delegation to PACE, was elected as the first LGBT rapporteur.
After Mr Haugli’s unanimous election, Committee Chair, Ms Tina Acketoft of the Swedish Parliament stated that the entire Committee would stand behind Mr Haugli as rapporteur, and that this support would be especially important as the challenges in the field of LGBT issues are great throughout Europe.
“This is about basic human rights, not special rights,” says Haugli. “Neither freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, the right to family life, nor freedom from violence and discrimination is a given for LGBT people in Europe. We see that rights which have been granted are being challenged, and that developments in some areas are moving in the wrong direction.
The increased commitment to LGBT issues in the Council of Europe is a reflection of the challenges this group is facing. Compared to the rest of the world LGBT people have achieved a lot in Europe. At the same time the path ahead is long. With its 47 member states, PACE is the only forum in which parliamentarians from all over Europe can meet. They can make a difference internationally, but especially in their own countries,” says Haugli.
The Parliamentary Assembly has adopted several resolutions and recommendations regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The follow-up of these will be one of Haugli’s main tasks as rapporteur. He will also follow the general development on these issues, serving as a link between the Parliamentary Assembly and national parliaments, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner and Committee of Ministers, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and international institutions such as the European Parliament and UN institutions.
Norway has prioritized working for equality and combating discrimination through the Council of Europe. The financing of a national expert in this field is one example. The work on anti-discrimination is a priority for the Council of Europe, and the Human Rights Commissioner, Mr Thomas Hammarberg has made a great contribution towards the LGBT community.